Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Henry IV, Part II - Act I

Henry IV, Part II
Act I

So, so, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge
Thy glutton bosom of the royal Richard,
And now thou wouldst eat thy dead vomit up,
And howl’st to find it

I admit that I don’t get Falstaff. I gather that he’s a bit of a comic relief type of character but he’s quite verbose and half the time (at least) I’m fairly clueless as to what he’s going on about – as is the case in Scene II. Though I will say that he comes up with some highly colorful turns of phrase.

Otherwise, not much going on in the aftermath of the battle at Shrewsbury, except that another faction of rebels are plotting to take down the king, who is being threatened on three separate fronts.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Titus Andronicus - Summary

Titus Andronicus

For I must talk of murders, rapes, and massacres,
Acts of black night, abominable deeds,
Complots of mischief, treason, villanies
Ruthful to hear, yet piteously perform’d:

I don't have much more to say about Titus Andronicus. Except that if you're looking for Shakespeare's version of a splatter movie (or the Shakespeare play that inspired splatter movies?) this is the one, sports fans. Heartwarming.

Friday, December 26, 2014

White Corridor, by Christopher Fowler

White Corridor
By Christopher Fowler

(No overt spoilers ahead, but perhaps a few mild ones. There’s your disclaimer.)

This site has been on an unofficial hiatus of sorts for the simple reason that I haven’t been reading as much mystery fiction lately. But not so long ago a light bulb went off above my head and I realized that there were a number of Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May books that I haven’t read yet. So I set out to clear up that problem forthwith, jumping back into the fray with White Corridor.

A lot of ink has been spilled in praise of the exploits of Bryant & May. They’re an aging pair of British detectives – one quirky and one normal – who take on a variety of offbeat crimes as part of their work with London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. I’ve spilled a fair amount of this ink myself, but I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about White Corridor as the others I’ve read.

Which is not to say that I didn’t like it because I did. I’ll just say that of the two primary threads that move the plot along I found that one didn’t quite work for me. It was the thread that felt more like it belonged in a “thriller” than a “mystery” and the device of a killer on the loose stalking people wasn’t really my cup of tea. Not to mention that the resolution to that plot line seemed to come from way out of left field. But it did make for some decent suspense and the bit with Bryant & May being stranded on the road in a blizzard was interesting.

The other thread of the plot – which involves a somewhat prominent member of the supporting cast – was more to my liking. Though this thread suffered somewhat because much of the legwork was carried out by the other members of the PCU, rather than our heroes. This due, of course, to the fact that our heroes were stuck in a snowstorm and could only offer limited assistance.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Titus Andronicus - Act V

Titus Andronicus
Act V

Why, there they are both, baked in that pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.

This Aaron feller turns out to be quite a villain, as we see when he is captured by Lucius and his troops and confesses to being behind much off the mayhem that has gone on so far. If that wasn’t villainous enough, not only is he not repentant for his “heinous deeds” but wishes he had done “a thousand more,” a number he later revises to ten thousand. Which is hardly any way to win friends and influence people.

As Tamora goes to pull a fast one on Titus, the tables are turned. After she leaves her sons are done away with and their bones and blood are used as ingredients for a dish to be served at an upcoming banquet. Which Titus kicks off in fine form by killing Lavinia. Tamora is next to go at the hand of Titus, but not before she’s had a chance to dine. Then Titus is knocked off by Saturninus, who is in turn done in by Lucius. Keep those scorecards handy, sports fans.

Lucius takes over as emperor and as for Aaron, he is unrepentant to the bitter end – which finds him being buried alive. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Titus Andronicus - Act IV

Titus Andronicus
Act IV

We will solicit heaven and move the gods
To send down Justice for to wreak our wrongs.

Titus and his crew - what's left of it - are beginning to plot their revenge for the various insults and injuries inflicted upon them. In the meantime Aaron and Tamora have had something going on the side and their secret is about to be spilled when Tamora gives birth to a baby that is suspiciously dark-skinned – like its father. This won’t do so Aaron kills the baby’s nurse and connives to swap it out with one that is suitably light-skinned.

Back at the palace word comes that the Goths are marching on Rome, with Lucius – son of Titus – commanding the troops. As things wind up Tamora goes forth to try to work some kind of wily deceitful stuff on Titus. Methinks this ain't gonna end well.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Titus Andronicus - Act III

Titus Andronicus

Tigers must prey; and Rome affords no prey
But me and mine: how happy art thou then,
From these devourers to be banished!

Hard times for old Titus, in an act where he finds out that his daughter has been assaulted and badly mutilated. But wait. There's more. Two of Titus's sons have been accused of the murder of Bassianus and carted away to answer for it.

But then word comes from the emperor that if Titus will sacrifice one of his hands his sons will be saved. He proceeds to do the deed and ships off the hand, which is then sent back to him along with the heads of the sons. Which seems like a helluva way to run a railroad but there you have it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Titus Andronicus - Act II

Titus Andronicus
Act II

Remember, boys, I pour’d forth tears in vain
To save your brother from the sacrifice;
But fierce Andronicus would not relent:
Therefore, away with her, and use her as you will:
The worse to her, the better lov’d of me.

Holla! what storm is this?

Lavinia gets the worst of it here, as opposed to Bassianus, who is merely killed. She loses her tongue, hands and virtue at the hands of Tamora’s villainous sons. As for Titus’s sons, they are in the wrong place at the wrong time and an incriminating letter fingers them for the killing of Bassianus. One can't help but believe that it’s not going to go well for them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Titus Andronicus - Act I

Titus Andronicus
Act I

I’ll find a day to massacre them all,
And raze their faction and their family,
The cruel father, and his traitorous sons,
To whom I sued for my dear son’s life;
And make them know what ’tis to let a queen
Kneel in the streets and beg for grace in vain.

My plan was to go through Shakespeare’s plays in alphabetical order, thus imposing some sort of structure on the process. Which is what I’ve done for the most part. I didn’t know much about any of the plays before I started this, not even the big name ones like Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear and so on. But I knew that Titus Andronicus had a reputation for being one of old Will’s more gruesome efforts. As a once upon a time fan of all things horror fiction and film-related my curiosity got the better of me and I thought I might just skip ahead a bit and see what it was all about.

It’s not exactly Friday the 13th, at least not at this juncture, but then we are only one act into it. In which several parties are clamoring to be leader of Rome when the title character returns triumphant from a war with the Goths. Titus is put forth as the next leader but he declines the honor on the grounds that he’s no spring chicken anymore.

Titus finally agrees to the sacrifice of one of the prisoners, one of the sons of Tamora, queen of the Goths. Who is then married off to Saturninus, the new Roman Emperor. In the meantime, Titus himself bumps off one his own sons, which prompts a bit of a row about where he is to be buried. This is finally settled but before things wind up it’s made pretty clear that Tamora, who seems to have adjusted to her own son’s death well enough, is actually not going to let that one ride.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Henry IV, Part I - Summary

Henry IV, Part I

Doomsday is near; die all, die merrily.

I'll make this brief. Henry IV, Part I was not what I was expecting. Or I should say that the first few acts - which seemed to focus on the antics of the prince and Falstaff and their pals - was not what I was expecting. Nor did I care for it much. As for the rest of it, where the battle looms and finally takes place, that was more what I was expecting and had a tone that seemed more appropriate to a play about a great historical figure.

Not much more to say than that. Next, please.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Henry IV, Part I - Act V

Henry IV, Part I
Act V

The southern wind
Doth play the trumpet to his purposes,
And by his hollow whistling in the leaves
Foretells a tempest and a blustering day.

As the battle is about to be joined, Worcester and Vernon come to the king’s camp to present their grievances. The king offers to go easy on the rebels if they’ll stand down. They strategically neglect to mention this to the rest of their rebel posse.

The battle is joined. Archibald, Earl of Douglas does away with Sir Walter Blunt, thinking he is the king. Then he happens upon the real king and they take each other on, with the prince, who has been wounded, getting into the fray.

Archibald “flies” and then Hotspur and the prince go at it and Hotspur is wounded. In the meantime Archibald returns and he and Falstaff go at it. Hotspur gets the worst of it and Archibald flees the scene again, only to be captured, along with Worcester and Vernon, who are eventually done away with.

As things wind up, at least for this installment, the king splits his forces and sends part of them to York and part to Wales to deal with various rebel factions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Henry IV, Part 1 - Act IV

Henry IV, Part 1
Act IV

All furnish’d, all in arms,
All plum’d like estridges that wing the wind,
Baited like eagles having lately bath’d,
Glittering in golden coats, like images,
As full of spirit as the month of May,
And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer,
Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls.
I saw young Harry, with his beaver on,
His cushes on his thighs, gallantly arm’d,
Rise from the ground like feather’d Mercury,
And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
As if an angel dropp’d down from the clouds,
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus
And witch the world with noble horsemanship

Something happens! Or at least we’re given the impression that something is about to happen, in a play where not so much of consequence seems to have…happened up to this point. Much of the act is concerned with preparations and discussion of the impending battle and much of that is spent in the rebel camp, including a scene where the king sends an emissary to try to smooth things out.

The tone also seems to have changed, for the most part. Much of what has passed so far was rather colorful (to say the least), in terms of the language employed by the prince and Falstaff and the rest of the gang. Now things seem to have taken a decidedly more somber tone and old Will waxes quite poetic in some passages, including the one cited above.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Henry IV, Part 1 - Act III

Henry IV, Part 1

I had rather live
With cheese and garlick in a windmill, far,
Than feed on cates and have him talk to me
In any summer-house in Christendom.

Nothing much to see here. So little of significance (just an opinion, mind you) has happened thus far that the play could just as easily been called Much Ado About Nothing. But that's another story.

Act III finds the king’s enemies making warlike plots. Hotspur takes great delight in goading Glendower, who looks to be the head honcho in all of this. Hotspur is cautioned against said goading by some of the others but he doesn’t think much of their advice. Then it's back to the tavern again, where there's whole lot more nothing in a scene concerned primarily with Falstaff's pocket being picked. Ho hum.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Henry IV, Part 1 - Act II

Henry IV, Part 1
Act II

Out, you mad-headed ape!
A weasel hath not such a deal of spleen
As you are toss’d with.

Still a bit of a muddle, this one is, but the prince and pals apparently have pulled off their exploit and the rebellion is still in the plotting stages. There follows a scene in which the prince retires to a tavern and gets shit-faced and spouts a bunch of gibberish. But maybe that’s just my interpretation. In come Falstaff and his boys talking the big talk about how well they acquitted themselves in the earlier scrape, even though they ended up without the money they stole.

After a good bit of creative embellishment on this theme and plenty of very colorful language the prince finally reveals that Falstaff and the boys were punked. Soon after word comes that the king has summoned the prince. Falstaff and the prince play out a few scenarios of how this might go and as the scene ends the sheriff turns up, looking for a certain “gross fat man.” Not that Falstaff fits the bill or anything.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Henry IV, Part 1 - Act I

Henry IV, Part 1
Act I

He said he would not ransom Mortimer;
Forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer;
But I will find him when he lies asleep,
And in his ear I’ll holla ‘Mortimer!’

I’ve remarked before that I’ve found some of Shakespeare to be tough going and this first act of Henry IV, Part I was a good example. I’ve managed to divine that there are a bunch of wars going on and the king is at odds with some of his nobles. Many prisoners have been taken during the conflicts and the king is demanding that they be turned over to him. The nobles don’t dig it and it appears that a rebellion is brewing.

In the meantime, the prince and his pal Falstaff seem to be engaged in some comparatively trivial pursuits, planning to play a prank on a few of their pals who are plotting a robbery. Or something like that. I admit that I didn’t completely get the gist of all this but I think I'm close.