Becoming Shakespeare by Jack Lynch. Book about how Shakespeare became an all-encompassing cultural icon, going from his death to the present day.
This definely makes a change from attempts to get more out of the over-mined territory of Shakespeare's life and times. I learned quite a lot of new things. For a couple of centuries most productions of Shakespeare heavily altered his text: most people over this period saw King Lear with a happy ending. Lynch emphasises that both audiences and critics were generally happy with this: the idea that the text is sacred but the staging should be original is something that started relatively recently. Critics often praised the improvements made.
Lynch doesn't say so but this might be one reason for Shakespeare's enduring popularity: like the Ship of Theseus or Trigger's Broom he's been built anew in every age.
Another reason for his popularity is the closing of the theatres in the Civil War and Protectorate. When the theatres were reopened there was no body of current plays, so they naturally sought back and found a convenient body of work from a previous generations great playwright. (I suspect the Restoration also wanted something a bit lighter than the over-the-top grimness of late Jacobean tragedy). Shakespeare was also championed by critics and intellectuals like Dr Johnson.
In the conclusion, Lynch also makes a case that it was actually the popularity of Shakepeare that changed literary standards to fit. Earlier critics complained about Shakespeare's irregular prose and lack of the "Aristotelian Unities", though they praised the depth of his characters. It could be partly because of that that modern critics have decided that deep characterisation is the fundamental literary skill, and unities and regularity are less important.
Overall, a fascinating book if you're interested in Shakespeare.
What I'm Reading 2
Empire of Time by Daniel Godfrey. Sequel to "New Pompeii" where a corporation develops technology to grab people and objects from the past, and takes the inhabitants of Pompeii to a modern replica since they can take doomed people without affecting the timeline.
This volume is weaker than the first. The tight concept gets changed a bit, which is probably necessary to get more than a book out of it, but it weakens the appeal a bit. The plot is both frenetic and slow, with a lot of stuff happening but not much actual consequence.
Even so it does develop the story and ideas further, and some of the characters like the female gladiator are appealing. I think I'll keep going and see if he can pull it back, but New Pompeii might have worked better in an era of standalone novels instead of series.
What I'm Reading 3
Matchbox Theatre by Michael Frayn. Small volume of 30 short dialogues by the well known playwright. They're a bit uneven. Some like the call centre and the tomb are a bit obvious. I liked the ones playing on the theatre better, like a deliciously terrible example of corporate sponsorship and a David Attenborough voiceover on the lives of the scene shifters.
Overall, pretty entertaining and easy to dip into.
Still doing the running, but I seem to have hit a bit of a plateau in terms of times, I'm not getting much faster. Got a running watch which I hope will help me keep the pace and heartrate up. Some people at work do lunchtime runs: I did one but they're much faster than me. One guy reckons because it's hilly round there it would help. Food might help but I usually have to run first thing in the morning so there isn't much time.
Turns out work offers 4 days compassionate leave for a parent's death, which I'm taking next week. My mother's one of those people who has to be busy, I think she might crash after the funeral when there's nothing more to arrange and the visitors have drifted off, so I'm staying on with the toddler for a few days afterwards. It still hasn't really hit me yet but I can feel it looming overhead waiting to fall.
Politics. Report into Russian troll factory.
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