A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 4, Scene 1
I’m back! Which means that now I can finally write about all the things I’ve been up to over the holidays. Firstly, I got to visit the British Museum’s exhibition on ‘Shakespeare: Staging the World’ early on in July which was very interesting, especially the section the new sense of regional and national consciousness that was brought about through mapping and surveys in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Shakespeare helped develop this with plays such as Richard III and Henry V which presented the archetypal English villian and hero.
I also enjoyed the part of the exhibition on the creation of ‘Great Britian’, particularly considering the current debate over Scottish independence and the possible break-down of this concept. Apparently there were debates in playhouses over British history and origins when the concept was first introduced by James I. Shakespeare originally referred to the country as ‘England’ in his early plays (see above all the many speeches in ‘Richard II’ on “this sceptered isle”) but in ‘Cymbeline’, written in 1610, the words “Britain” or “Britains” are used nearly 50 times, showing how aware of current issues Shakespeare was, and also, perhaps, showing his eagerness to keep in good relations with the King. I learnt quite a bit about ‘Cymbeline’ in this exhibition, although I am only just getting round to reading it. However, one of its main themes is that of nation-building. It presents King James’ fantasy of Britain and meditates on the future and the present rather than dwelling on the past.
Not sure how I can relate all this back to my EPQ, but I’ll find a way. Perhaps I could examine Henry V and Richard III in showing Shakespeare’s strengths of characterisation and then examine the language used by them and consider which I think makes the plays more successful? There are certainly a wealth of characters in Henry V and Richard III would be an interesting contrast. Also, of course, I’ve been to see both these plays recently and Richard III is one of the performances I am to see on my school trip to Stratford-upon-Avon in about two weeks time (very excited!) Jonjo O’Neill is playing Richard, which is great, since I saw him as Orlando in ‘As You Like It’ last year, and this is a huge contrast. he was also in the ‘Shakespeare Unlocked’ series as Mercutio, which I talked about in a earlier blogpost.
I’ve got lots more to write about, so will hopefully blog again tomorrow!