Sunday Retrospective ~ February 3rd 2019

A better week all round really. The second week of my course that was devoted to Macbeth had much more of an emphasis on the theatre of 1606 and the politics that might have influenced the subject matter that Shakespeare included in the play.   I am fascinated by the writer’s work in context and so delving into James I reaction to the Gunpowder Plot and his views on kingship (he believed not simply in the Divine Right of Kings but that God had decreed that kings were gods themselves) has been much more my thing.  Nevertheless, I shan’t be sorry to leave the play behind and start tomorrow on Twelfth Night, which is one of my favourite texts. Where my own teaching is concerned, we finished with King Lear this week but not before one of my group had been off and done some research into Nahum Tate, the chap who rewrote the play in 1681. Having discovered that he was also a hymn writer this lady had set out to pin down just which hymns he was responsible for.  I think it is highly appropriate, if not a little ironic, that his most famous opus is that most plagiarised of works, While shepherds wash their socks by night.  Serves him right!

Not content with surrounded myself with Shakespeare academically,  my leisure reading has also been Shakespeare based this past few days. The choice for tomorrow afternoon‘s book group is Margaret Atwood‘s novel Hagseed, which is of course based on The Tempest. You will remember that I wasn’t looking forward to this at all. I don’t like the idea of turning Shakespeare’s plays into novels and sacrilegious as it may seem to many of you, I’m not really a fan of Atwood’s work.  Well, I’m ready to hold my hands up and say I was wrong. I enjoyed every last moment of this book and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. I’m not going to say any more about it now, I’ll wait until after the discussion and then do a mid week post.  Something that I have found very interesting is the way in which reviews of the book divide. Those from the more general press are on the whole very favourable, but those published in academic journals,  considerably less so. That’s something I want to raise with the group when we meet and I’m tempted now to suggest that my other book group, which is a much more academia-based, put it onto their schedule.

My other reading this week has been Elly Griffith’s The Stone Circle, the latest instalment in her Ruth Galloway series.  I was disappointed in the last of these, The Dark Angel, which I felt got the balance between the crimes involved and the relationship between Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson, wrong. This is much better and again I will write about it after publication, which is later this week.


15 thoughts on “Sunday Retrospective ~ February 3rd 2019

  1. I’m so glad that you enjoyed Hagseed and I’ll look forward to your expanded thoughts on it! I was skeptical of it, too, because I much prefer Margaret Atwood in her more realistic mode and thought that The Tempest would put her too much in the fantasy realm, where her work is less interesting to me. But then she went a different way entirely and came up with something much more interesting and entertaining than I could have imagined.


  2. The context in which Shakespeare wrote the plays is fascinating indeed. I have a feeling that James 1 had a fascination with witchcraft so I wonder if that had an influence on Macbeth


    1. James had written a treatise against witchcraft while he was in Scotland, but his attitude relaxed somewhat once he came to England and there is even an instance where he took up the case of a young woman who had been falsely accused. So, he was certainly interestedin the subject but quite what his position would have been at this point is in question.


  3. I love your comment form – is it new, or have I just not noticed it before?
    I am trying to remember if I’ve read any of Margaret Atwood’s books besides The Handmaid’s Tale – which rather put me off her books.


    1. I changed the theme, Lisa. I read The Handmaid’s Take when it first came out and wasn’t that enamoured. I have subsequently read others by her when they have cropped up on Book Group schedules but this is the first one I have really enjoyed.


  4. I borrowed Hagseed from the library on a whim as I have similar feelings about retellings (have read some disappointing ‘versions’ of Austen’s novels) and Margaret A, whose work I admire but sometimes feel isn’t quite as amazing as all that. But I too enjoyed this; though I was not a wholehearted believer, I thought it was fun and inventive.


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