Friday, 2 March 2007

Bad Education

Saw History Boys last night in the West End, which was fantatstic, though with the nose-bleed seats I wasn't able to see the emotions (confused, terrified, and deep deep longing) pass across Irwin's face when Dakin made a move on him, a moment that I loved in the movie. But unlike when I watched the movie, I was particularly struck this time by the concept of poetry that was employed in 'History Boys'. The idea that most of us are yet too young to actually understand the poetry but that we should memorize it anyway, because someday we will be sitting there, struck by grief, by love, by melancholy, and we will have the words at hand to express it. I have never been wonderful at memorization: piano pieces have long vanished from the disk of memory, and only one or two lines remain from the two Shakespeare scenes I've ever memorized (Romeo and Juliet death scene: actually blank; Macbeth: "Is this a knife I see before me...?"). But it appears a good plan at least to make an effort toward this effect. I remember the first time I read a work of fiction and realized that the author was expressing the exact same sentiment (in this case regarding loneliness and the futility of longing) that I was experiencing at that time (yet another sentiment expressed in History Boys, which is why the play is so damn good).

But to begin with, I give myself Richard III's opening lines, which I first heard at the end of the Chicago Shakespeare Company's production of the Henry Plays ('Rose Rage' was the title). This phenomenal actor played Richard, and it was a most chilling moment when he turned to the audience, spoke the line "Now is the winter of our discontent", snapped his fingers, and the lights went down.

(from: Richard III, Act I, Scene I)

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums chang'd to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visag'd war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front,
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I -- that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass --
I-that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph --
I -- that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them --
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the King
In deadly hate the one against the other;
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false, and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up --
About a prophecy which says that G
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul. Here Clarence comes.

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