Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wright/Obama: "A Christian version of Sir John Falstaff and Prince Hal"

[Creative Commons image by tsevis]

In this week's "Campaign Trail" podcast from The New Yorker, political correspondents/essayists Hendrik Hertzberg and Ryan Lizza liken the recent kerfuffle over Sen. Barack Obama's retired, contentious former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. to that of a "Christian version" of Henry V.

Hertzberg says:"It's kind of a Christian version of Sir John Falstaff and Prince Hal. The pain that Prince Hal goes through is what Obama is going to have to go through to break this tie."

Elsewhere, the Terre Haute News in Indiana on Saturday weighed in on the analogies to Henry V found in today's headlines:

Shakespeare happens to be pertinent on the matter. The lovable, mischievous, quixotic, boastful, blustering, pretentious, cowardly, hypocritical, deceitful, gluttonous, devilish, joyous, pompous, witty, goodhearted, loquacious, hard-drinking buffoonish and obese sybarite, Falstaff (surely one of the greatest creations in all of literature!) is a fast friend, a bosom buddy of the young Prince Hal, heir to the throne of England and destined to be lionized as Henry V, a great warrior and king of a great nation. Faced with the awesome demands of duty to his country, he brazenly and abruptly breaks ALL ties and allegiances to the old tub of exuberant, joy-generating lard, the beloved and decadent companion of his carousing days of miscreant youth.

But, the writer says, "Obama is no Prince Hal" because at the time the piece was written, Obama hadn't yet cut his ties with the incendiary pastor.

Wherever one stands on the Wright-gate scandal for Obama, scenes from an old history play do seem to be enacted before our eyes on the public stage today.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

When in Romanesca...

[Creative Commons image by evillibby]

Edward de Vere was a lyricist before he turned his literary muse to bigger challenges. Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter may have turned in better pop songs over their whole careers, but de Vere -- whose lyrics date mostly from his teenage years and early 20s -- did spin some lyrical silver and gold in his day.

Yesterday, blogger and musician Anchor Mejans posted an adaptation of de Vere's poem "Reason and Affection" for vocals and harpsichord. It's a style of Elizabethan song called the Romanesca. (Alternate link here; lyrics here.)

Mejans writes, "My adaptation does away with many of the standard trills and presents the song as if sung by a local guy in the tavern and in a more relaxed and contemporary vocal style. Song-writing over the centuries still extols the virtues of Love, as does this oldie."

So if you like '60s-style music, give it a listen.

That's 1560s, of course.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Remembering Moses: "Only actors" know Shakespeare

Following actor Charlton Heston's recent death, The Weekly Standard reprints a letter to the editor that Heston wrote in 1997 about an Oxfordian book that had just been published (Joseph Sobran's Alias Shakespeare). Heston agreed with the Standard's reviewer that Sobran was so, so very wrong.

"Sobran misreads Shakespeare as academics do: He treats him as a writer," the rifleman-actor wrote. He goes on to say that Shakespeare had to have been a "poet-player" because "only actors really understand" how Shakespeare works. And, as luck would have it, Heston was an actor. So Shakespeare was Shakespeare. Now go away.

Heston's resurrected missive has been much blogged about over the past few days. The general consensus being: Huzzah, Chuck! You tell 'em!


For those slightly more inclined toward, say, logic, there's this blog post from best-selling author Michael Prescott, who dissects the Heston letter and the book review Heston references:

We have, then, a playwright and poet who aligns himself with the aristocracy; who shows all the signs of learning and foreign travel to be expected of an aristocrat; who has the temerity to attack the most powerful men in England, and the ability to get away with it; and whose plays repeatedly feature characters and incidents strongly reminiscent of the life of Edward de Vere -- known in his day as a leading poet, though one who (like other nobleman) did not publish under his own name.

Lock 'n' load, baby.