Saturday, April 30, 2005

Sunshine, sunshine, happy day

Revising is so much more fun when the sun is out, and I can sit on the balcony in a straw hat and sunglasses.

Two of my papers collided today in Helen Cooper's inaugural lecture: she discussed the ways in which the Chaucerian concept of tragedy (as articulated by the monk) remains at the heart of Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedy. The _Mirror for Magistrates_ retrod the path of Lydgate's _Fall of Princes_, and was incredibly popular right through the sixteenth century.

Helen also pointed to Shakespeare's relationship with Chaucer and other Medieval poets including Gower, which became more clear in his maturity [cf prologues to _Two Noble Kinsmen_ and to _Pericles_]. The continuity from Mystery Cycles to Elizabethan and Jacobean drama was a theme of the talk that particularly interested me: it implicitly supports my view that it is important to study the verbal texture of the cycle plays. The relationship that Helen plots between cycle and Shakespeare suggests that we cannot draw a line which says that plays written before this year are not worth reading for their language, and those which come after are a rich stock which helped make English the language it is today.

All this writing about language is partly a transference exercise: my 'essix retainers' arrived from the orthodontist today. I have to wear them full time for 2 weeks and it's not terribly easy to talk with them in...

Thursday, April 28, 2005


This week I'm writing on time and tragedy. My starting point will be _The Winter's Tale_: the sixteen year interlude enforces a comedic ending on what has been (so far) a wholly tragic play. This then raises the question of whether verb tenses can make tragedy comedy...
I have various hospital anecdotes which are guaranteed to make people laugh: picture the man picking invisible flowers from the air in the hospital chapel, with one leg raised in an inverted arabesque. Or the girl, furtively looking round, checking the agency nurse is not watching, then slipping a slice of peanut butter on toast down her knickers so she doesn't have to eat it. In the present tense, in the room with those people, my acute awareness of the desperation of the man and girls' respective mental states make these experiences anything but funny. Several years away from the situation, I can tell these anecdotes as funny stories. So could Paulina tell the story of Leontes' irrational jealousy as a funny tale because time has passed and it is no longer threatening and frightening? There are obvious caveats: the little boy who dies and will not be 'resurrected' as Hermione is; Paulina's own lost husband. Although as anecdotes go, 'exit, pursued by a bear' sounds quite funny to me.
I don't know whether any of these thoughts will make it into my essay. I'll probably stick to comparisons with King Lear, and look at the difference in Oedipus from Tyrannus to Colonnus.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Blogging seems fun. So I'm going to write one. You might think this is an elaborate procrastination exercise: my finals are just four weeks' away. I couldn't possibly comment.

It's the first day of term. Actually, since this is Cambridge, that statement isn't fully accurate. Yesterday was the first day of full term; lectures start tomorrow. I had a supervision today so it feels like term to me.

My dissertations were handed in yesterday, so I get to spend the next four weeks in a fug of Chaucer, Tragedy and Practical Criticism. Excellent :-)