Thursday, January 17, 2019

women: poetry: migration : Chris Tysh, Cia Rinne

Crocus. Beckington (Somerset), 17th January 2019.

Two more caplets from the anthology women: poetry: migration ...


"You're now part of this trip
they kept me from"

"How silly," she adds,
"a thousand years have passed

and I'd recognize it at once"
With its milky white skin

frosty garlands and angels
cupolas and balustrades

the municipal casino
surrenders its arms

at the stroke of noon
It is not without magic

from Ravished     (a "transcreation" of a 1964 novel by Marguerite Duras, Le Ravissement de Lol. V. Stein. Published in full in Hotel des Archives: A Trilogy (2018).)


17 questions
(eine frage des charakters)


[CT: born in France, lives in USA. CR: born in Sweden (to Finland-Swedish parents), lives in Berlin]


Honesty. Beckington (Somerset), 17th January 2019.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Sir Walter Scott: The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte

In 1786, [Napoleon] became an adventurer for the honours of literature also, and was anonymously a competitor for the prize offered by the Academy of Lyons on Raynal’s question, “What are the principles and institutions, by application of which mankind can be raised to the highest pitch of happiness”. The prize was adjudged to the young soldier. It is impossible to avoid feeling curiosity to know the character of the juvenile theories respecting government, advocated by one who at length attained the power of practically making what experiments he pleased. Probably his early ideas did not exactly coincide with his more mature practice ; for when Talleyrand, many years afterwards, got the Essay out of the records of the Academy, and returned it to the author, Buonaparte destroyed it, after he had read a few pages. He also laboured under the temptation of writing a journey from Valence to Mount Cenis, after the manner of Sterne, which he was fortunate enough finally to resist. The affectation which pervades Sterne’s peculiar style of composition, was not likely to be simplified under the pen of Buonaparte.
In 1789, Buonaparte, then quartered at Auxonne, had composed a work, which might form two volumes, on the political, civil, and military history of Corsica. He addressed a letter to General Paoli, then residing in London, on the subject of the proposed work, and the actual condition of his countrymen. He also submitted it to the Abbé Raynal, who recommended the publication of it. With this view, Buonaparte invited M. Joly, a bookseller of Dole, to visit him at Auxonne. He came, he says, and found the future Emperor in a naked barrack room, the sole furniture of which consisted of a wretched bed without curtains, a table placed in the embrasure of a window, loaded with books and papers, and two chairs. His brother Louis, whom he was teaching mathematics, lay on a wretched mattress, in an adjoining closet. M. Joly and the author agreed on the price of the impression of the book, but Napoleon was at the time in uncertainty whether he was to remain at Auxonne or not. The work was never printed, nor has a trace of it been discovered.

(from The Life of Nopoleon Buonaparte, Ch XIX in the full edition, but Ch I in mine)

Auxonne (pronounced "Aussonne") is in Burgundy, a few miles east of Dijon.

Louis Napoleon, in one of the numerous corrective footnotes that he added to Scott's work, tells us that M. Joly's account was romanticized. Napoleon had been allocated a good, larger-than-average room, as it was known that Louis was going to be staying with him.


It's taken me a couple of years -- longer than Scott took to write it! -- but I've finally finished reading the Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (downloaded to the Kindle app on my smartphone). Mostly in the dark, while settling down for a night in the van. Not ideal, especially since the phone screen got shattered. That was last August, while we were messing about on the fitness machines outside the "aire" at Le Mans.

Some provisos. Scott's massive book was published in nine volumes (June 1827 onwards). The eighteen introductory chapters, about the French Revolution and the wider European context in which Napoleon first emerged, are most unfortunately missing from my text. This text, I should explain, formed part of a £1 collection of Scott's complete works in Kindle format. The OCR-produced text is atrocious. It swarms with typos and many passages, especially in the numerous footnotes, are simply incomprehensible. These footnotes interrupt the main text, and each other, without any warning. So I became resigned to giving up an anecdote in mid-sentence with no assurance of when, or if, I would get to hear the end of it.

I had two motives for embarking on the Life of Buonaparte : to read more of one of my favourite authors, and to redress some of my ignorance of a part of European history of enormous cultural significance.

I don't regret the time I spent, but I'm not sure I could honestly recommend the exercise to casual readers. The Life of Buonaparte was mostly written during the worst year of Scott's life (discounting the final ones, when his health had broken down and his writing  became a mere compulsive tic). In 1826-27 the dire background of bereavement, illness and bankruptcy didn't  stop Woodstock and the Journal from being great books. But the Life became increasingly a conscientious slog, a way to numb himself from his own pain and grief. Scott's characteristic humour and breadth of acute reference are almost entirely missing.

A French translation followed later in 1827, then German and Spanish. The book was a commercial success but the reviews were critical. French reviewers thought that Scott wrote too coolly of Napoleon; British reviewers thought that he wrote too warmly. Though these criticisms, and others, appeared flatly contradictory, yet you can't help wondering if the critics were united in sensing an endeavour that fell short of its potential . Scott didn't disagree. Soon after its publication, he told his friend John Leycester Adolphus, "I could have done it better, if I could have written more at leisure, and with a mind more at ease."

A visual of the full text, in both English and French, can be read here:

There are hundreds of Lives of Napoleon. Napoleon died on 5th May, 1821, so this is certainly a very early one. (Good luck finding a list, by the way.)

It's very detailed, and yet I think a modern reader will repeatedly think of questions that seem to call for some attention but don't receive any.  At least, that was my experience.

The earliest volumes make the best reading. Scott's account of Napoleon's Italian campaigns is often thrilling. Scott is always happiest when he can be honestly enthusiastic about his protagonist, even (or especially) when the protagonist isn't on his side.

But as Napoleon's less admirable features accumulate -- the duplicity and atrocity in Egypt, the bonfire of democratic freedoms in France, the serial lying of the Moniteur, the monstrosity of appointing himself emperor -- so the author loses his zest.

He remains, however, scrupulously just. If we miss Scott the visionary novelist, the stirring poet, the chatty essayist, yet still we have Scott the adept compiler of history and, perhaps above all, Scott the lawyer. The best sections of the later volumes are when he pronounces weightily on a moral point. For instance, Napoleon's accountability for the execution, or murder, of the Duc d'Enghien; whether Napoleon had a moral case for interfering in Spain in 1809, or for declaring war on Russia in 1812;  whether Bernadotte was disloyal to Napoleon, once he had accepted the Swedish crown; whether there was any validity in Napoleon's claim that he had been betrayed by the British when they exiled him to St Helena, etc.


My desire to learn more about European history arose, of course, in reaction to the dismaying result of the 2016 referendum.

Well, at least no-one witters any more about history being over. History is unmistakably here and is moving with frightening speed. It's curious how almost everything I read now, historical or otherwise, seems to have something urgent to say about our own times.

But perhaps the most striking thing, in this case, is Scott's profound belief in the importance of genuine democracy; a theme that arises particularly in connection with Napoleon's practical despotism, though not only there. (By modern standards democracy in the early nineteenth century was  a distinctly limited affair, but as an alternative to absolutism it seemed very precious.)

I can't help contrasting his view with where we are today.  On the one hand, the willingness of today's right-wing populists to subvert democratic process by any means available, criminality and fraudulence not excepted, and the willingness of so many to overlook this.

On the other hand (and no less alarming) the refusal of so many of us earnest left-leaning progressives to understand our obligation to accept a democratic outcome regardless of whether we voted for it ourselves.

Surveys seem to show that young people are becoming less committed to democracy. Perhaps they see it as a system that has serially failed to counter the evils of capitalism and the catastrophe of environmental destruction.

But is that really an informed view? Hasn't it, rather, been failures in the implementation of true democracy that have made our systems of government less effective than they need to be?

Would disentranchising some or most people be likely to solve the enormous problems of capitalism and environmental destruction?

But this isn't, at root, about systems of government. It's about whether people, people such as ourselves, still recognize an over-riding social duty to behave with integrity.

I'm thinking in particular of the integrity to reject, not only the transgressions of the other side (everyone does that), but the transgressions of our own side. It's becoming a rare virtue. Perhaps many don't even regard it as a virtue. Who wants such unreliable people around? Especially in a battle?

But is battling, of all things, what we really need?

Granted that Scott was well-born, white, male, Protestant, and a firm Tory in a period when Tories were seriously hard-line, his unfailing belief that all questions are moral questions feels like something we might have to learn from at some stage. As history is speeding up, it might be soon.


Thursday, January 10, 2019


Photos from 1st January in Warminster, Wiltshire. Above, the mute, tight-lipped appearance of White Dead-nettle (Lamium album; Sw: Vitplister; Sp: Ortiga blanca). Below, Common or Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica; Sw: Brännässla; Sp: Ortiga mayor/Ortiga verde), with a noticeably more open appearance, mainly due to the longer leaf-stalks.


at seven fifteen
eastern streak


but widening

so soon
the element

of dawn
is gone

flit blackbirds
single use cups
while people pronounced
while queues will jazz

you could talk down
Harry Martinson and say
"dawn never comes".


... gleam of
the last full bottle...

so once more
I cast a glance at
the last full bottle...

while we met
and resentments flung us apart
even in those
minutes I sometimes nursed
the last full bottle


As you may have gathered, I've been taking a closer interest in winter greenery. Here's a plant I see everywhere (so it must be very common), but haven't yet managed to link to its summer appearance. The squared-off ends are very distinctive.

No mysteries with this one... Cow-parsley starting to get busy. (Anthriscus sylvestris; Sw: Hundkäx/Hundloka; Sp: Perifollo verde). Distinctive for the fresh yellow-green colour, and the feathery appearance of those crisped leaflets.

Here's a local plant that looks rather similar: Corky-fruited Water-dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides; Not found in Sw; Sp: Enante de hoja de apio, i.e. celery-leaved Oenanthe). It's a local plant in the UK, but it happens to be common in Frome.

Oenanthe pimpinelloides. Frome, Somerset, 12th January 2019.

You can distinguish it by the more bluish colour and by the leaflets being flatter, hence looking less feathery.

Anthriscus sylvestris (left) and Oenanthe pimpinelloides (right).

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

William Shakespeare (kind of): 1 Henry VI

Talbot and son

[Image source: . From a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.]

“In what history did your grace find that incident?” said Burnet to the Duke of Marlborough, on hearing him quote some anecdote concerning the wars of York and Lancaster which was new to the Bishop. “In Shakspeare’s plays,” answered the Victor of Blenheim, — “the only history of those times I ever read.”

(From Sir Walter Scott's review-essay of Boaden's Life of Kemble  and Michael Kelly's Reminiscences)


This post records my delighted discovery of an online PDF of Paul J Vincent's 2005 PhD thesis about 1 Henry VI.

"The Genesis of the First Part of Henry VI" (University of Auckland). [It's also rather wittily nicknamed "when harey met Shakespeare" -- you'll see why.]

(I think that should take you to it. If not, do a Google search on "paul j vincent henry vi" and you'll find it.)

This was a great opportunity for me to get up to speed on what scholars have managed to establish about the origin of this problematic play. Vincent builds on the foundation of Gary Taylor's argument in "Shakespeare and Others" (which itself rehabilitates Gaw and Dover Wilson), but Vincent's conclusions have some significant differences from Taylor's. [Brian Vickers, I've read, largely assents.]

So, what are they? 

1H6 was written as a prequel to the already extant 2H6 and 3H6, but not by Shakespeare. It was the "harey the vj" performed by Lord Strange's Men seventeen times between 3/3/1592 and 31/1/1593 (see end of post for details). A very successful venture, judging from Philip Henslowe's diary.

(Vincent -- I can't remember if this was his own idea or another's -- speculates that the subject of Talbot was chosen as a compliment to Lord Strange. Talbot was an ancestor of Lord Strange. This is likely enough, but it's gracelessly executed. Sir William Lucy tells us, in IV.7, that one of  Talbot's  titles is Lord Strange of  Blackmere, but the authors were unable to resist raising a cheap laugh about the rigmarole of Talbot's excessive titles, so let's hope Lord Strange was fairly thick-skinned.)

These original authors were Thomas Nashe (Act I) and "Y" (Acts 2 - 5). Thus Nashe, commenting admiringly on the stage Talbot in Pierce Pennilesse (also dedicated to Lord Strange), was praising his own play. We don't know the identity of Y, but apparently it was not one of the named dramatists with whom comparative textual analysis can be attempted, i.e. Nashe, Peele, Greene, or Marlowe -- or Shakespeare. [I'd love to see a stylistic comparison of Y with the anonymous author of Edward III.]

At some stage Shakespeare's company acquired the play, and Shakespeare then made some powerful though apparently incomplete revisions (Vincent suggests this was in 1594, but the date isn't closely defended). Shakespeare added the new Temple Garden scene (II.4), probably intending it to replace the Tower scene (II.6), and he replaced the scenes of Talbot's downfall (IV.2 - beginning of IV.7)... though, once more, Y's IV.6 is accidentally preserved in F. Part of the motive of these revisions was apparently to make 1H6 a more powerful statement of the principal theme of 2H6 and 3H6: the disastrous consequences of civil discord. Perhaps the Lord Chamberlain's Men planned to perform all the plays in sequence.

Vincent's conclusions differ from Gary Taylor's in two important respects. Taylor had assigned the Folio text to four authors: Z (Nashe -- Act 1); Y (Acts 3 and 5); X (Shakespeare -- 2.4 and 4.2-5, start of 4.7); and W (the rest of Acts 2 and 4). Vincent shows that the evidence for distinguishing W from Y is inadequate: W is an unnecessary complication. He also argues that Shakespeare's contributions were all revisions and were not present in the original play, which thus had just two authors, i.e. Nashe and Y.

Vincent's authorship analysis (based on textual analysis, including matching the Literature Online database) seems -- as far as I can tell without re-doing the work, but it looks very thorough -- more firmly established than his theory of provenance. The latter, however, does make sense of the longstanding problem of "hary the vj" belonging to a company that Shakespeare isn't known to have worked for.. Henslowe's diary of the Lord Strange era records no performances of any Shakespeare plays -- unless "harey the vj" is one... But if "harey the vj" wasn't originally by Shakespeare, then everything falls into place.

Of course this poses a new question: how would Shakespeare's company acquire one of their former rival's most successful plays? Perhaps in early 1594, when the short-lived Earl of Sussex's men appear to have inherited plays both from Lord Strange's men (e.g. The Jew of Malta) and from Pembroke's company (Titus Andronicus)? That joint legacy might then have ended up in the hands of the Lord Chamberlain's Men (formed in late 1594).

If 1H6 is "harey the vj" and was new in March 1592, this tends to be an external argument for it being written later than 2H6. Vincent's thesis also gives a lot of detail about the internal arguments for thinking 1H6 was written after 2H6. For instance, 2H6 doesn't mention Talbot, shows little awareness of the rose symbolism, shows the dissension of the nobles as having not yet begun, and has different conceptions of the characters of Humphrey of Gloucester and Margaret.

But some of these issues remain issues for Vincent's thesis. If 1H6 was always consciously intended to prelude the already extant 2H6 (as clearly shown by V.3 and V.5, and even its misleading title) why didn't its authors make Humphrey and Margaret consistent with the play that already existed? Because they didn't have access to the text, and couldn't remember it in enough detail? 

Vincent seems to go down the road of thinking  that V.3 and V.5 were a bit of an afterthought; a revision or eleventh-hour rethink. But according to his own authorship tests these scenes are by Y, the original author of Acts 2-5, not by Shakespeare. So he concludes, rather ambiguously, that although the Suffolk/Margaret scenes were not part of the original conception they were nevertheless part of the original composition. But why should Y suddenly think, "I'd better put in some Sussex and Margaret"?

I'm not persuaded that this ending was as unplanned as Vincent implies. V.1 had already introduced the topic of Henry marrying; evidently this was meant to lead on to something.

 (Incidentally I'm also not persuaded that Henry's lovestruck behaviour in 5.5 shows a troubling inconsistency  with his character earlier in the play. It's almost axiomatic in drama of this period that people who disclaim any interest in love then proceed to fall violently in love -- think of Proteus in 2GV. It's not subtle or clever, but a jobbing playwright like Y would see sounding this hackneyed motif as a plus.)

We can only go so far with this discussion before we have to address the question of the provenance of 2H6 and 3H6. Unfortunately  they lie outside the scope of his thesis, but Vincent says enough to show that he doesn't think they are pure Shakespeare compositions. (Unlike Richard III, apparently.)


A few other thoughts.

 1. If Shakespeare's II.4 was simply absent from the original version of the play, then Y's IV.1 would have introduced the rose symbolism from nowhere. The audience might understand that Henry's red rose is Somerset's badge, not York's. But the visual impact of what Henry does in IV.1 is immensely enhanced if we have just witnessed the meaning attached to the roses in II.4 .

2. Also in IV.1, Gloucester (Humphrey) is a voice of peace regarding the York/Somerset enmity.  It's true that earlier in the play he was a wrangler himself. But surely his portrayal in IV.1 fits reasonably well with that of 2H6, and seriously undercuts the argument about his inconsistent portrayals in the two plays.

So maybe that answers the question about the prequel matching the (already extant) sequel. And David Nicol (see below) makes the interesting suggestion that Margaret in 1H6 is meant to seem a bit different (and yet not wholly different) from Margaret in 2H6.. the audience would have got an extra thrill from Margaret's true character being almost concealed, and from enjoying the dramatic irony of Sussex's smug belief that he will be able to control her.

But of course these perceptions also undercut some of the arguments for 1H6 having been composed after 2H6. If what we are looking at is not character inconsistency but character development, then that could also fit with the plays being planned and written in their natural sequence (though the dramatic irony, of course, would only be discerned retrospectively).

I should mention another argument that appears in Vincent's thesis. On the basis of Tamburlaine, he argues that "First Part" plays were bound to be complete in themselves; they needed to stand up on their own. Part II of Tamburlaine was a commercially-motivated afterthought. So the fact that 1H6's ending so patently points forward to 2H6 is clear evidence for it being, in fact, a prequel to a successful play that already existed.

That may well be true in this case, but the general argument has a highly doubtful consequence. Because the endings of 2H6 and 3H6 are both highly inconclusive. These plays self-consciously do not stand on their own (the ending of 2H6, in particular, has "To Be Continued" written all over it).  But surely no-one wants to argue that the sequence of composition must therefore have been R3, 3H6, 2H6, 1H6?

In truth, I don't see why what was certainly true of Tamburlaine should be the only way that things could be done in those highly experimental days. The audience of 2H6 might have gone home both thorougholy satisifed with today's entertainment and desperate to come back next week for the sequel.


The 1592-1594 closures of the London playhouses.

This information is dredged from David Nicol's astonishing (and still unfolding) blog of Henslowe's diary.

This cluster of closures began on 23/6/1592, in response to a riot in Southwark. Initially the closure was meant to end at Michaelmas (29/9/1592), but in the meantime the plague had become strong, so the closure was extended to 29/12/1592.

This time the playhouses did re-open (the plague tended to slacken off in winter), but only for about a month. On 28/1/1593 another closure was ordered. The last Rose performance was the Jew of Malta on 1/2/1593. The day before, they had played "harey the vj".

The London theatres stayed closed for nearly a year. Apparently both Pembroke's and Lord Strange's companies collapsed during this recess.

On 26/12/1593 performances began again; the Earl of Sussex's Men now used the Rose. Among other plays they performed Titus Andronicus three times before the next closure (ordered 3/2/1594, last performance on 6/2/1594).

Performances at the Rose began again on 1/4/1594, but only until 9/4/1594. There was then another hiatus (reasons unknown) until 14-16/5/1594, and then another until, on 5/6/1594, regular performances finally resumed for an extended period.


Performances of "harey the vj" by Lord Strange's Men:





Arguments for 1H6 being later than 2H6.

There are four kinds.

1. External evidence that the date of 1H6 is later than the date of 2H6. (Bearing in mind, however, that plays don't always have a single period of composition, owing to ongoing revision etc.)

2. Internal stylistic evidence that 2H6 is earlier than 1H6. (Largely a theoretical category here. Obviously works best when the same author wrote both plays, which many think is only partially true in this case.)

3. Internal evidence from 2H6, tending to show that 1H6 was not already in existence.

4. Internal evidence from 1H6, tending to show awareness of 2H6.

3 and 4 are much more problematic than may appear. It needs to be emphasized that inconsistency, in itself, is not evidence for priority.

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Saturday, January 05, 2019

William Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew

[Image source: . Engraving by H. C. Selous, that certainly does nothing to conceal the discomfort of the moment.]

It's an early play. There are strong reasons for thinking it was performed before the closure of the playhouses in mid-1592, and some less strong reasons for thinking it no earlier than 1591. Brian Morris' claim that it was Shakespeare's first play, c. 1589, is attractive and not impossible, but I feel reluctant to place it before 2GV; it's so closely related yet has so much more impact.

In fact even during Shakespeare's lifetime you have the sense that it had a bracing effect, it was both too good to ignore and a bit too hard to swallow. And that feeling has grown ever sharper.

Sometimes we can sense that Shakespeare is writing something he doesn't really believe in, he's dragging his heels. The last act of Titus Andronicus, and some of Timon of Athens, could be examples of this. The Taming of the Shrew couldn't be more different, it's composed with great vigour, with a consciousness of excelling. Maybe there are signs of authorial discomfort in the final scene, but we'll come back to that.

The most agressively offensive aspect of the play is its title.  Indeed, I remember feeling a bit affronted by it the first time I heard it, when I was about six. I was not so innocent, even then, as not to know that referring to someone by an insulting label was a way of refusing to recognize their individuality (of course, I wouldn't have had the words to articulate why, it just seemed rude).

I took it for granted that "shrew" was a gendered animal insult, like "cow" or "bitch". It probably has been that, but the OED casts significant doubt on whether the opprobrious term originally derives from the small highly-strung rodent, or just meant a devil. In the Middle Ages it was used about individuals of both sexes. Its meaning , generally, was the kind of person you want to avoid having any business with: typically, the kind of mean-minded person who always turns down a request for help, the kind of bloody-minded person who stands uncompromisingly on their rights; but a shrew can also describe a yob or low-life. Shrews make other peoples lives miserable. Shrews don't care what other people think.

This bunch of meanings was all still current in 1591, so when in the play Petruchio is described as a worse shrew than his wife, this is not a figurative use of the term.

Nevertheless, the insult was on the way to becoming gendered and being used particularly of nagging women. One cause was the  popular folktale, in dozens of versions, of a husband taming a shrewish wife by starvation, sleep-deprivation, etc : the basis of Shakespeare's play. Contemporaries, hearing the title, would have a pretty good idea of what Katherina was in for.

The other context in which they would hear the word, also gendered, was in the proverb, "Everyone can tame a shrew but he who has her". The folktale and the proverb had a sort of dialogic relationship, they fed off each other.

Shakespeare's comedy dramatizes the folk-tale, but this necessarily questions it. Populating that crude old anecdote with people who breathe and feel, introduces a critical distance.


The "romantic" reading of TOTS is that Petruchio and Katherine, while they play out the Shrew tale, are really falling in love, growing in respect for each other, etc. I have a lot of sympathy for this view, though romantic isn't quite the right word.

The strongest analogy for their relationship is Beatrice and Benedick, who likewise maintain a war of words while clearly signalling their fondness for each other. Can we retrofit that happy strong relationship back into TOTS? To some extent. What both couples demonstrate is that communication is about much more than the words that are actually spoken. Interpretations of this kind infer a great deal from silence and from what is Not said. The director Lucy Bailey noticed, for example, that Petruchio never lectures Kate. It's a good point.



When Petruchio wanders on stage, with Grumio in tow, that coincides with the end of the Sly framework (in the Folio). Originally there may have been more Sly scenes (as in A Shrew). But Shakespeare realized that in the fully developed Petruchio he had all the momentum the play required.

I say "fully developed" because Petruchio, like Pistol and Nym, took form as the author wrote. The opening of 1.2 is pretty forgettable, featuring generic knockabout with Grumio. This is pure 2GV master-servant in manner, just like the opening of 1.1 had been (Lucentio, Tranio).

But by the end of the scene Petruchio is transformed. He's become the figure we love to watch, dominant, unpredictable, swift in action and collected in dealing with what follows. He makes drama happen. He's unmistakably Richard III in his glory days; I mean in terms of how he wields the plot, not in moral or other terms. Like Richard he deals in soliloquies but his actions in company always come as a surprise, he's always one or two steps ahead. He also has the great advantage of not giving a damn what anyone thinks of him.

How does my father? Gentles, methinks you frown.
And wherefore gaze this goodly company
As if they saw some wondrous monument,
Some comet, or unusual prodigy?

I know you think to dine with me today,
And have prepared great store of wedding cheer,
But so it is, my haste doth call me hence,
And therefore here I mean to take my leave.

Who knows not that the noble duke is dead?

Petruchio's work on Katharina consists of always performing, never directly addressing their relationship, or Katharina's behaviour. That is compatible with the belief that there is an unspoken love discourse taking place. Indeed, could Petruchio succeed so well if there were no such discourse?

Petruchio's view of marriage is challengingly unromantic. He regards wealth (to add to his own) as an essential attribute. He claims not to care whether his wife is attractive. But he is determined to mould his wife into the right shape for a happily married life. If Katherina's attractiveness does modify his approach,we aren't told, we can only guess.


Katherina ends up in a better place than she began. When we meet her she is a thoroughly unhappy girl, she makes herself miserable and she makes those around her miserable too.

It's evident she wants to marry... In her fury (after the nasty scene with Bianca) she accuses Baptista of holding her back, though she knows the opposite is true.  Katherina is apparently jealous of Bianca.

[Bianca's character is routinely blackened these days, by people who want to think that Katherina's outrageous behaviour towards her must be justified. For example, the Shmoop-author tells us: "we see her taunt Kate for being an old maid without marriage prospects". That's based on the sentences

Or what you will command me will I do,
So well I know my duty to my elders.

If you affect him, sister, here I swear
I'll plead for you myself but you shall have him.

But there's no evidence that Bianca takes pride in her unwanted suitors (certainly not Gremio). Bianca is just desperate to placate her sister. Of course Katherina might upset herself by her reaction to Bianca's innocent words. But her only explanation to her father is not something like "Bianca keeps aiming these subtle digs at me" but "Her silence flouts me, and I'll be revenged". That's the sort of thing unjustified haters say in Shakespearian drama: a little early hint of Iago.]

Katherina is proud to get married, and she thinks quite well of her lover, we suspect. She's genuinely distressed when she thinks he might not turn up at the church. Because of the social disgrace primarily, but not only because of that.

Tormented as she is by Petruchio's subsequent course of treatment, she retains a healthy taste for material things, not just tripes but caps and gowns. She isn't, in short, behaving like someone who's being tortured or brainwashed.

Social status is important to her; while at Petruchio's she remembers with fondness the giving of alms at Baptista's. At the end of the play, too, we see Katherina returning to Padua as a proud wife. Husband and wife now operate as a practised team. But it isn't exactly romantic. They have the mutual fondness and mutual respect of a wealthy, handsome couple who are going places. Katherina is no feminist; she's more driven by putting down other women than by any wish to lord it over her husband. In fact being regarded as a shrewish wife would lower both her and her husband's social status, and she knows it.

It's her strong social interest that motivates a now much happier Katherina at the end of 5.1. The couple enjoy looking on at the Lucentio denouement. (Much like Beatrice and Benedick, here.) Kate shows no particular concern about her sister's and father's involvement in the scene she's watching. It's just an "ado". But if the play ended here we could accept the romantic view of Katherina and Petruchio, kind of.

Katherina. Husband, let's follow, to see the end of this ado.
Petruchio. First kiss me, Kate, and we will.
Katherina. What, in the midst of the street?
Petruchio. What, art thou ashamed of me?
Katherina. No, sir, God forbid, but ashamed to kiss.
Petruchio. Why then, let's home again. (To Grumio) Come, sirrah, let's away.
Katherina. Nay, I will give thee a kiss. Now pray thee, love, stay.
Petruchio. Is not this well? Come, my sweet Kate.
Better once than never, for never too late.


Of course it's very well, from a man's point of view. "Sweet Kate" has learned how to wheedle and trade, and do it lovingly. Petruchio is willing enough to be the sugardaddy. It's hard for the actors to avoid showing the romantic love that must, we think, go along with this. Is romantic love, indeed, really anything other than a performance?

But for all that, the play's final scene makes an ugly impression,well captured by the engraving at the head of the post, in which Katharina is put through her paces like a dog or horse or falcon, in front of a boozy male crowd.

It's the setting, rather than the content, that feels debasing. In principle, I could accept the argument that sometimes it makes sense to have a boss. That's no different from a team in the workplace, and there's no intrinsic degradation in accepting that your manager gets to make decisions.

But after all, Katherina's portrait of the husband is very idealized. Will Petruchio really stay up on cold nights watching over his household? Surely that's what his servants do.

Likewise, how does the breadwinner argument apply, when the couple live off inherited wealth, part of it from Katherina's dowry? Of course Petruchio will run the farms, but that's just a circular argument: the master should be obeyed because he expects to be obeyed.

Surprising that Shakespeare doesn't mention child-bearing. Apparently he doesn't want to talk about separate spheres of responsibility. He prefers, in this speech, to emphasize the spoiled leisure of women's lives.

The speech halts. Despite some fine lines (e.g. the muddy fountain), it falls a bit flat. As if Shakespeare, committed to dramatizing his folktale, is self-conscious about how it doesn't tell a credible truth, it papers over the cracks. He tried to shape the tamed Katherine as a male fantasy, feisty but solid gold, utterly compliant to hubby, the envy of hubby's peers. But even so, this speech is not what his wishful heroine would really say, and he's too well aware of it. Now he's just trying to get shot of the task as best he can.


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Studies in Geranium molle

Geranium molle (En: Dove's-foot Cranesbill, Sw: Mjuknäva) from groups on roadside verges in Frome.

The cranesbills are a very attractive group of mostly common species, so I soon got to know them back in the 1980s, and thereafter stopped really focussing on them. Now I'm looking again, and find that I've either forgotten a lot, or wasn't as knowledgeable about Geranium as I thought.

It's possible I've misidentified one or both groups, in which case I'll be back to correct in due course...

The other possible candidates are G. rotundifolium (another annual) and G. pyrenaicum (a perennial).

The leaves are hairy, the leaf-stems are round and hairy too.

These photos are from late December 2018.

First group, by Sainsburys roundabout, with eye-catching morning dew:

Second group (A361 Marston roundabout on S edge of Frome), speckled with yellow leaves. Leaf-lobes separated by relatively deep cuts.

Third group, near Asda roundabout. They stood out because of the wide gap between the two lowermost leaf-lobes.

Frome, 12th January 2019

I am also seeing Geranium lucidum (Shining Cranesbill). The upperside of the leaves do have a few hairs, but the stems are hairless.
Geranium lucidum. Sandy's Hill Lane, Frome, 15th January 2019.

 and Geranium robertianum (Herb Robert). This one, at any rate, is unmistakable.

Geranium robertianum. Frome, 12th January 2019.


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