Saturday, August 16, 2008

TLS August 15 2008

from Gabriel Josipovici's review of "The Poetry of Silence," an exhibition of Vilhelm's Hammershøi's paintings in the Royal Academy:

His rare comments on his art suggest someone who has thought long and hard about his craft, is totally confident about his aims and ambitions, though unwilling to probe too deeply into his motivations. "Why do I use just a few, muted colours? . . . It seems perfectly natural to me, but I can't say why . . . . I'm utterly convinced that a painting has the best effect in terms of its colour the fewer colours there are." And: "What makes me choose the motif are . . . the lines, what I like to call the architectural content of an image. And then there's the light, of course. Obviously that's also very important, but I think it's the lines that have the greatest significance for me."

"Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30" (1901)

. . . Hammershøi'sm pictures establish a rhythm, and the cutting off of a panel or bookcase by the edge of the picture only confirms that the rhythm extends beyond the picture and can become accessible to us if we sit quietly enough, listen intently enough.


from Lois Potter's review of Simon Palfrey and Tiffany Stern's Shakespeare in Parts:

The Elizabethan actor worked from a script consisting only of his own lines plus cues of merely one or two words. He learned his part on his own, though he might get help from the author or a senior member of the company; there was no director.

It has usually been assumed that the rehearsal process was long enough to make Shakespeare's actors familiar with their play. However, in her Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan (2000), Tifanny Stern examined the meanings of "rehearsal" in the early modern period and concluded that the company may well have had no more than one group rehearsal. Hence, many actors must have gone on stage at the first performance word-perfect but unclear as to who was addressing them, whome they were supposed to address, how long they were going to wait between cues, and whether a short line was prose or part of a shared blank verse line. The final scene of a play, which frequently brings the entire cast on stage, must then have been almost as much of a surprise for them as for their audience.


from Jonathan Bate's "Commentary" titled "The Other Master W. H.":

Since Shakespeare's Sonnets was dedicated to Master W. H., and Master was the designated title for a Gent, not an Earl, it is at least worth considering the possibility that the lovely boy was not William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, but his second cousin once removed, Master William Herbert of Glamorgan, Groom of the Privy Chamber Extraordinary of Prince Henry at exactly the time when William Shakespeare was Groom of the Chamber of the Prince's father.

Armed with the above potted biography of the man who signed himself W. H. Gent., it would be very easy to fit Shakespeare's Sonnets to the story. The acting company visits Oxford for a performance. We know they played Hamlet there early in the new century. Shakespeare is strangely attracted to a beautiful seventeen-year-old Welsh undergraduate. Three years later, they meet again as everyone jostles for position and favour in the new court. They share an affection for things Welsh, loyalty to the memory of the Earl of Essex, and pleasure at the rehabilitation of his followers such as the Earl of Southampton. They also share a desire to impress the new King by writing poems or plays that approve of his policy of uniting Britain into a single nation. The budding courtier-poet attracts and charms the forty-year-old dramatist, who is feeling his age and losing his hair . . . . Then the lovely lad betrays the older man. He goes to bed with the older man's mistress and, more damagingly, shows favour to a rival poet-dramatist, who is closer to him in the orbit of Prince Henry: George Chapman. Bitterness and disillusionment follow. And so on.

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