No doubt you are familiar with the rage of King Lear after two of his daughters ave betrayed him. That is almost nothing compared to the rage of Timon, who has given all his wealth to his friends, but is deserted by them when he himself is broke. These are the opening lines of Act IV:
Let me look back upon thee. O thou wall, That girdlest in those wolves, dive in the earth, And fence not Athens! Matrons, turn incontinent! Obedience fail in children! slaves and fools, Pluck the grave wrinkled senate from the bench, And minister in their steads! to general filths Convert o’ the instant, green virginity, Do ’t in your parents’ eyes! bankrupts, hold fast; Rather than render back, out with your knives, And cut your trusters’ throats! bound servants, steal! Large-handed robbers your grave masters are, And pill by law. Maid, to thy master’s bed; Thy mistress is o’ the brothel! Son of sixteen, pluck the lined crutch from thy old limping sire, With it beat out his brains! Piety, and fear, Religion to the gods, peace, justice, truth, Domestic awe, night-rest, and neighbourhood, Instruction, manners, mysteries, and trades, Degrees, observances, customs, and laws, Decline to your confounding contraries, And let confusion live! Plagues, incident to men, Your potent and infectious fevers heap On Athens, ripe for stroke! Thou cold sciatica, Cripple our senators, that their limbs may halt As lamely as their manners. Lust and liberty Creep in the minds and marrows of our youth, That ’gainst the stream of virtue they may strive, And drown themselves in riot! Itches, blains, Sow all the Athenian bosoms; and their crop Be general leprosy! Breath infect breath, at their society, as their friendship, may merely poison! Nothing I’ll bear from thee, But nakedness, thou detestable town! Take thou that too, with multiplying bans! Timon will to the woods; where he shall find The unkindest beast more kinder than mankind. The gods confound—hear me, you good gods all— The Athenians both within and out that wall! And grant, as Timon grows, his hate may grow To the whole race of mankind, high and low! Amen.
Even Shakespeare’s minor plays can pack a punch. Timon of Athens is worth a read, especially when you are feeling unkindly toward your fellow man.
Ever since that grim day in November 1916 as I twisted and turned in a hotel room in Quito, Ecuador, I have come to the conclusion that something is not right with the universe. I am reminded of Casca’s words in Act I Scene iii of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar:
A common slave—you know him well by sight—
Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
Like twenty torches join’d, and yet his hand,
Not sensible of fire, remain’d unscorch’d.
Besides—I ha’ not since put up my sword–
Against the Capitol I met a lion,
Who glared upon me, and went surly by,
Without annoying me: and there were drawn
Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women,
Transformed with their fear; who swore they saw
Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.
And yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noon-day upon the market-place,
Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies
Do so conjointly meet, let not men say
’These are their reasons; they are natural;’
For, I believe, they are portentous things
Unto the climate that they point upon.
What I am referring to is the news that an asteroid might strike the earth the day before the November 3 “fraudulent” election that will confirm Donald J. Trump in his role as dictator for life.
According to CNN, the asteroid is just a shade over 6 feet—the size of our presidential pretender. I cannot help but think that it will land in such a way as to set fire to our great leader’s impressive bouffant hair-do, and possibly burn him to a cinder in his size 12 shoes. If that happened, it would surely show that there is some justice in the universe.
Maurice Evans as Macbeth and Judith Anderson as Lady Macbeth
There was a time when there were only a few television channels, and one could see wonderful material that presupposed a literate audience. In honor of Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23, the Paley Center for Media put on screenings of six of Shakespeare’s plays on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend. It was my good fortune to see two of the plays.
The better of the two was a Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Macbeth fist aired on November 20, 1960. It was directed by George Schaefer and starred Maurice Evans as Macbeth, Judith Anderson as Lady Macbeth, Michael Hordern as Banquo, and Ian Bannen as Macduff. It was shot in technicolor on location in Scotland.
Richard Chamberlain as Hamlet and Ciaran Madden as Ophelia
Also produced for the Hallmark Hall of Fame was a 1970 Hamlet directed by Peter Wood and starring Richard Chamberlain as Hamlet, Michael Redgrave as Polonius, Margaret Leighton as Gertrude, and Richard Johnson as Claudius. John Gielgud had a walk-on role as the Ghost.
Both productions were highly professional. So professional that I was stunned seeing the two great tragedies one after the other. I thought to myself, “What would it take to have something like this on cable television today?” I would say close to zilch. Perhaps if Ophelia were in the nude and we saw a slo-mo close-up of Banquo being knifed in the head, but otherwise, no.
I think we may have to assume that the audience for these two great 1960 and 1970 productions no longer exists, or else they don’t allow patients in nursing homes to watch anything quite so exciting. Not when Lawrence Welk and Matlock reruns are available.
It’s strange that I have to drive to the Paley Center in Beverly Hills to see what television can do. As for my own television, I’d rather read a good book.
Portrait of Richard III Hanging in he National Portrait Gallery
In Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is laid up in the hospital for a stretch, during which time he decides to investigate whether Richard III was really the villain painted by Shakespeare in his play of the same name. After examining the evidence, Grant decides in favor of the monarch killed at Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. His successor, Henry VII, had Sir Thomas More write a biography blackening his name.
The portrait above also figured in Grant’s reasoning. Although it was painted over a century after Richard’s death, the subject’s face is not that of a vile murderer as described by Queen Margaret (widow of Henry VI) in the play:
From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
A hellhound that doth hunt us all to death:
That dog, that had his teeth before his eyes,
To worry lambs and lap their gentle blood,
That foul defacer of God’s handiwork,
That excellent grand tyrant of the earth
That reigns in gallèd eyes of weeping souls,
Thy womb let loose to chase us to our graves.
These lines are addressed to the old Duchess of York, Richard’s mother.
I was interested to hear that the body of Richard has finally been located, under the asphalt of a parking lot in Leicester. If you missed the story, you can find it, with photos, by clicking here.