Archive for the 'Shakespeare' Category


Gothic London

London in the summer time

Call me now, use the satellite

– Red Hot Chilli Peppers, ‘Emit Remmus’

Rather than flood this site with a mass of touristy pictures of London, I’ve decided to give this post a theme : Gothic London. London, to me, exemplifies Walpole’s notion of the fusing of ‘ancient’ and ‘modern’. Unlike cities such as Perth and Singapore, where I’ve spent lots of time in, London is a city that has such a rich history, possibly one of the richest in the world. And so it pleases me to present a ‘Gothic Tour’ of London, a host of things to see that might tickle the fancy of a person interested in Gothic stuff.


Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church

St Pancras Church, Euston Road










Nestled in the heart of London, off Euston Road, is the St Pancras Crypt Gallery. An actual art gallery in a church. It is a short walk away from the Kings Cross/St Pancras station along Euston Road, on the way west to Paddington. You go around the side of the building and this is what it looks like from the outside. Exhibitions are held there from time to time. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed when I visited it, due to it being Bank Holiday Weekend. For information about exhibitions, check out the Gallery’s website here.


Cafe in the Crypt, St Martins in the Fields 
St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ, United Kingdom













Nestled in the heart of Trafalgar Square, it’s easy to miss the cafe while walking past. It is directly opposite the entrance to the Portrait Gallery. Walking down a spiral staircase, you are transported into a different world…….











Here, you can chill out in the confines of a restored church crypt and have a coffee, cake, and bask in the cafe’s gloomth.













Inscriptions like these adorn the floors. Amazing. For more information, here is the cafe’s website.


Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom











The Museum has a host of stuff from medieval stuff to samples of Gothic architecture. Some exhibits I found particularly interesting:













Sample of a Gothic arch. This is EVERYWHERE. Exhibit A – arches in Westminster Abbey:













But I digress. More interesting exhibits in the V and A:














The Ars Moriendi (Sixteenth century) – manual describing how people can have a ‘good death’.














A Memento Mori head. You can’t see much from this picture because this exhibit is made of glass, but it is of a woman with a skull superimposed at the back of her head. To get a better idea, imagine Professor Quirrell/Voldermort’s grotesque double head – that is what this glass skull looks like.














Sculpture of Death (Seventeenth Century). This one is interesting in that Death here wields a bow and arrow, and is dressed in shabby rags rather than the clichéd robe-wearing, scythe image of Death.


Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk, London, Greater London SE1 9DT, United Kingdom


This attraction deserves special mention because of the production that I caught – arguably one of his most ‘Gothic’ plays, Macbeth. The standing tickets were a steal at 5 pounds, and the production was one of the best I have ever seen. I caught an evening show at 7.30 pm, an apt time of day for the experience of the play’s dark subject matter.














My picture is rather blurred, but this is Billy Boyd – who played Pippin in Lord of the Rings! I couldn’t recognise him at first with the excessive facial hair and makeup, but when he recited his lines his identity was unmistakable. His performance brought a slightly comedic turn to Banquo which I had never considered before. One scene that struck me was at the beginning of the play, right after the witches deliver their prophecies and vanish. Banquo and Macbeth then totter off stage, laughing the prophecy off as if it were a joke. It is a constant reminder to me about how live productions can introduce elements of characterisation that go beyond the lines written in a script.


So all in all, quite a bit to see in London by way of Gothic stuff. What one can see and experience is directly proportional to the amount of time one can spend – I’m sure I would have found more things to see if I had more time on my hands!


Shakespeare and Emotions: Day 1

The conference began with an interesting collaboratory on teaching Shakespeare. I opted to stick around for Eileen A Joy‘s talk, which I will probably devote an entire post later on to.

We were then treated to vignettes from several productions of early modern drama on the New Fortune stage.









Professor Jane Davidson introducing the performers, with Prof Steve Chinna in the background.

We started off with excerpts from Middleton’s The Changeling, which was directed by Steve and performed in the Dolphin Theatre last year.








She that in life and love refuses me,
In death and shame my partner she shall be.

– Deflores

I was reminded of Jackson Hart’s performance as Deflores. He would make a great Iago!
We then got a glimpse of bits from Shakespeare WA’s performance of the Tempest. Didn’t get to catch it earlier in the year but it was an interesting take on the postcolonial aspect of the text. For this particular performance, two Aboriginal performers were cast as Caliban and Ariel respectively, and bits of the play involved traditional Aboriginal music. And Stephano, the drunk, was cast as a woman instead of a man.

But it was Trevor Ryan’s recitation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 44 in Noongar that really captivated me:

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought, 
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay. 
No matter then although my foot did stand 
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee; 
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land 
As soon as think the place where he would be. 
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought, 
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone, 
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time’s leisure with my moan, 
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.

Trevor Ryan initially delivered this reading in the UK, and he talked about how the sonnet’s reference to earth and land has special significance to him as a person with an Aboriginal background. Brilliant stuff.

Later in the evening, I was having dinner with a friend whilst discussing academic matters and Shakespeare, when a thought struck me. For all intents and purposes, one could describe Shakespeare as an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY OFFENDER. Shakespeare takes the piss out of monarchs and fools, men and women, princes and paupers alike. Oh and let’s not forget that he’s not above bringing himself into the picture, the little bastard:

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;                    (Sonnet 135:1-2)

So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will.               (Sonnet 135:11-14)

Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will, will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.                   (Sonnet 136:2-6)

Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me for my name is ‘Will.’       (Sonnet 136:13-14)


He refers to himself as “Will”. And this has caused a point of contention between me and my supervisor. She insists on calling him Will. I prefer Bill. Yes, it is probably coming across as a very Americanized shortening of a first name, but I think with Bill, or Billy, it sounds more…..masculine?

“Gangsta Bill”

But back to the point about postcolonialism and The Tempest. Yes, Prospero might be an analogue for colonial power, but who really owns the island? Prospero? Caliban? Sycorax? If we are to go that far back, then Sycorax, too can be considered to be an outsider – she was not from the island! Could it be Ariel? Food for thought…


Shakespeare and Memes

Read an interesting article in Shakespeare Studies about Memes and Shakespeare (I kid you not) recently. I mean to discuss this in greater detail, but how about we enjoy some memes for now….

The Badass Winter’s Tale Bear

Sexually Oblivious Miranda

There’s also Your Worst Bro Iago and Lil’Less Than Gangsta Macbeth, but they aren’t as good, imo.

For more. visit Shakespeare Memes


CHE Adelaide Biennial Research Meeting

It’s a sweltering day in Perth today and I am finally getting to blog about  Adelaide. What I wouldn’t give for a mint chocolate shake from Bracegirdles at this point! What is Bracegirdles? Read on………

One aspect of my doctoral research is an analysis of how “Gothic” emotions are represented in poetry of the Renaissance. This coincides with the ARC Centre for the History of the Emotions’ research efforts. Across the course of two days, researchers from various research nodes across the country were in Adelaide for a symposium/meeting/collaboratory.

The research meeting took place in the beachside town of Glenelg, South Australia. It’s like Cottesloe but with a decent cafe/restaurant/shopping strip minutes away from the seaside. Situated only 20 minutes away from the airport, it’s the perfect place for a writing retreat:









Some views of Glenelg. I should really get a better phone camera!










A view from the jetty. I started my mornings with a stroll down the beach with a coffee in hand.

I arrived a day early, and wandered around the cafe/shopping strip. Found a lovely cafe called Bracegirdles along the strip:










They specialise in chocolate, and I had a great mint chocolate shake in that cafe:













It was so good that I decided to savour its minty goodness over a book. On impulse, I grabbed a classic from Dymocks and plonked myself down for the next hour reading Grimm’s tales whilst enjoying the shake. Grimm’s was actually a really good read. It seems almost serendipitous that I came across the short story The Man Who Set Out To Learn What Fear Was given that my presentation at this research meeting was on Gothic emotions. The short story is an excellent anti-Gothic tale about a man whose stupidity renders him impervious to all sorts of Gothic terrors – from sleeping with dead bodies to confronting the walking dead. It is a great story that challenges the notion of fear in the Gothic tradition.

But I digress.

Across the space of two days, researchers from the various nodes gave 5 minute presentations on their research, and discussion sessions were organised for workshopping overarching challenges and concerns of the CHE’s research efforts. I had the opportunity to mingle with some of the most prominent medieval and early modern scholars. Including Peter Holbrook (Shakespeare’s Individualism), who I referenced in writing a paper the week before….. Check out the photostream here. Covering the period of 1100-1800, the Centre has a good number of researchers working on various different fields, from emotions represented in literature, to the study of emotions in historical accounts. Here’s a brief snapshot of some interesting projects:

Ursula Potter (University of Sydney) is working on the connections between green sickness and Puritan doctrine in early modern adolescents. This project has particular contemporary resonance – Ursula is exploring connections between these cases and 20th century aneorexia nervosa cases.

Do demons have emotions? Juanita Ruys’s project involves an investigation of the representation of demons’ emotions in the High Middles Ages. Find out more here!

Charlotte Millar’s project entails a 17th century approach that is not dissimilar to Juanita’s demonic emotions project. Hers is an analysis o the emotional dynamics of witches and their devils; she has an interest in 17th century witchcraft pamphlets.

The CHE’s education officers also gave little 5 minute spiels about the work they are involved in communicating the importance of learning about emotions to primary and secondary school students.

As researchers, we often work with esoteric topics, and specialised fields. So much so that one has to constantly ask yourself the question : who gives a rat’s ass? This is the beauty of education – it strips away the academic jargon and the sense of scholarly over-entitlement that researchers often have, to force researchers into asking and answering some very simple questions. How might I communicate my research to a broader audience? What am I working on? What is the relevance of what I am working on to a “bigger picture”?

Undertaking the Postgraduate Teaching Internship and teaching at the tertiary level this year has broadened my view of education. One is often asked the question of quantifying work in the humanities. If anything, I believe that education has an important part to play in “quantifying” and justifying humanities research. Ask yourself the question; if I were to introduce my topic to a high school student, would he/she understand what it is my research is about? Engagement with a broader audience is equally as important as racking up journal entries,books, and edited volumes.


Shakespeare’s Curse

“Don’t even think about it, punk”

Happy Halloween!

Inscribed on Shakespeare’s gravestone is the following:

Good frend for Jesus sake forebeare,/ To digg the dust encloased heare;/ Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,/ And curst be he that moves my bones

I’ve just completed a draft for an edited collection on burial sites in Renaissance poetry, and given the occassion it seems appropriate to meditate for a moment on some Gothic epigrams.

My personal favourite is the oft quoted line from Lovecraft:

That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die. 

And here is an interesting one from Walpole himself:

This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel

This one from Poe doesn’t really qualify as an epigram, but I think it is cool anyway:

That the play is the tragedy “Man,” And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

Happy Halloween once again, and remember:

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn


“Timeless” Shakespeare

Read an interesting article on Shakespeare last week. This of course, was telling me something I already knew. But it is interesting to see how misunderstood Shakespeare still is in this day and age, even amongst schoolteachers who, really should know better than to call his work “timeless”.

Unless “timeless” is preceded with the necessary caveats, of course.

Yes, at this point of time he is revered as one of the most outstanding dramatists/poets of all time. He might be a household name now, but he certainly did not mean for that to be the case. This image says it all:

Why would the man move from the country to the city? How would the man have paid his rent? Shakespeare has been described as an author who possessed an uncanny flair for tapping into the subtle nuances of the human condition, but why was that so? He had to – it was a sure-fire way of reaching out to audiences so as to fill up as many seats as he could in the theatres!

To really know how the Bard meant for his work to be received, we only have to look at the publication history of his plays. The only reason why his plays survive today is due to the efforts of two of his colleagues, Heminges and Condell. These two gentlemen took it upon themselves to compile his work, and if not for their efforts, Shakespeare would never have been regarded as the cultural icon we know him as today.

This tells us something.

The fact that Shakespeare did not bother to take his plays to a publisher suggests one thing to us: that he really did not care about them enough to regard them as literary works! The plays were printed and circulated, but never by a major publisher.

Shakespeare wrote to entertain! Not to sell books (at least as far as his plays are concerned)! Thus, the contemporary equivalent of studying Shakespeare’s plays would be studying the oeuvre of a film director such as Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino. Like these directors, Shakespeare wrote for the purposes of entertainment.

And he did really well.

'horror': Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’.

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