Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Stewart’

The Hollow Crown – last chance to catch these four Shakespeare histories, for free

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Rory Kinnear’s Bolingbroke should get more love.

The Shakespeare-deniers, of course, say the upstart from Stratford could not have written the plays, that it must have been some nobleman in Elizabeth’s court – how, they ask, would a glover’s son know the way courtiers and kings converse at court? The obvious answer, of course, is that he didn’t. He made it up out of his head. Historians agree that the royal interactions don’t ring true. Now, however, this is the way we imagine kings and queen should speak. William Shakespeare shaped our reality.  Check it out: the BBC is giving you an excellent opportunity to revel in the matchless histories of Shakespeare with The Hollow Crown, which includes Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V.  (Follow links I’ve provided.)

A lot of rubbish has been written about the series already.  Even esteemed places like the New York Times don’t seem to know how to write about Shakespeare anymore (here and here) – any moment I expect them to begin complaining about how hard the language is.  Pretty much all of them, however, agree that this is a terrific, must-see series. Ben Whishaw has been praised for his Richard II, though I find it over-the-top, and Rory Kinnear‘s Bolingbroke underrated (see Clip #2). David Suchet (a.k.a. Hercule Poirot) is at Bolingbroke’s left, by the way, another good performance. Clip #3 features Patrick Stewart‘s John of Gaunt. Clip #4 Jeremy Irons as Henry IV. Clip #5 features Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff. And the final clip is Tom Hiddleston‘s Henry V.

It’s been at least a year or two since I’ve seen Shakespeare performed. The ear craves it. Tease your own with the excerpts, below. The full videos are available for listening at for a limited time only. Take advantage of the opportunity.  Please. You owe it to yourself.

Postscript on 1/13:  I broke down and bought the DVDs on Amazon. Under $30.  Free shipping with a Prime account.  How could I forbid myself this little indulgence?

1.  Trailer for the series.

2.   Richard II  (A few seconds of “Great Performances” la-di-da at the beginning. It’s only a few seconds, really…)

3.   Richard II

Henry IV, Part 1

Henry IV, Part 2

Henry V

A poem for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America today…

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

A poet for troubled times…

It’s been a grim week with grim news every day – we can’t see the end of it too soon.  So let us finish off the week on a better note – here’s John Clare‘s “Autumn,” read by Richard Burton (with a hat tip to Morgan Meis of 3quarksdaily for bringing it to our attention).   It’s a dandy poem, one of the group written while Clare was confined in the Northampton County Asylum from 1842 until his death in 1864 … well, Clare had a few troubled times of his own. Biographer Jonathan Bate wrote that Clare was “the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.”

As for Burton’s reading, this is the way a poem should be read – listen to the short clip, and see if you agree.  Patrick Stewart is also a wonderful performer – you can compare Stewart’s reading to Burton’s, and see some of the the working-class poet’s Northamptonshire home.  Only … it’s not the same poem.  “Autumn” and “To Autumn” are two different poems.  Both are splendid, and well worth a few minutes of your time.

I know what you’re thinking…  It’s May.  It’s springtime.  Yes, but not for the Book Haven’s southern hemisphere readers.  They’re deep into autumn on that side of the equator.

So to those of you in Christchurch, Buenos Aires, Cuzco, Johannesburg, Melbourne, and elsewhere today:

The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.