tempestsarekind: (all the world's a stage)
I ask because the Folger Shakespeare Library dropped a link to this podcast interview with Craig Pierce and Shekhar Kapur, where they talk about creating the new TV show Will, into my inbox this morning:


Will I listen to it? (Another way of asking the same question as before.)

...I mean, I probably won't, because between the two of them, these men are responsible for three films that I really don't like - the Lurhmann Romeo plus Juliet and Kapur's two Elizabeth films, which lucked out by having Cate Blanchett in them, but are not actually, like, good, or nuanced, or even comprehensible. But if you have a higher tolerance for this whole "Shakespeare is totally punk rock, yo, not all stuffy like the Man says!" thing, here you go.


Dec. 10th, 2016 06:45 pm
tempestsarekind: (i am my father's daughter [elizabeth])
V&A acquires earliest picture of Henry VIII's lost palace of Nonsuch

The palace itself was sold by Henry’s daughter Mary, then came back into royal ownership when her sister Elizabeth acquired it to settle a debt. It became one of her favourite residences, and Thomas Tallis’s heart-stopping composition Spem in Alium, a motet for 40 voices, is said to have been first performed to mark her 40th birthday by choirs singing from the towers.

The diarist Samuel Pepys saw Nonsuch in 1665, and wrote that “all the house on the outside is covered with figures of story … and most of the house is covered with lead and gilded”. Within a few years it was rubble: Charles II gave the building to his lover Barbara Castlemaine who pulled it down and sold off anything worth salvaging.
tempestsarekind: (ophelia has so few options)
I started reading this article expecting it to be one of those finger-wagging pieces about how the sheeple just like escapism and fancy dresses, and was pleasantly surprised. It has a little bit of that ("At this moment, what we want from our relationship with a national past is this: to draw the curtains, shut out the noise of the world, and put on a box set. Thinking about Tudor history is, at least in its laziest manifestations, an excellent way of not thinking about history"), but by and large it remains an exploration of why the Tudor story resonates with people:

Tudormania: Why Can't We Get Over It?

Tee hee:

Jessie Childs, a popular historian who has written about the period, said: “The Tudors are very clearly defined for children: you have Henry VII, the battlefield king; then Henry VIII, the tyrant who marries six times; then Edward VI, the boy king; then Lady Jane Grey, the nine days’ queen; then [the Catholic] Mary I who burns 300 people; and then Elizabeth I, the virgin queen. They are like a boyband: each has an identity. If you look at the Plantagenets, on the other hand – people don’t know which is which.”

I bought Jessie Childs' book God's Traitors ages ago - when it first came out in the States, in fact - but haven't yet found the time to read it…alas. Anyway, the author also speaks to Hilary Mantel, as well as to other historians who want to widen the scope of what we talk about when we talk about the Tudors.

[Edited to add: …huh. I got this link via Twitter, so I went back and clicked on the Twitter handle of the author of the article. It turns out that she wrote Under Another Sky, a book about Roman Britain that I…appear to have misplaced, actually, but I found a copy of it on sale in a bookstore in York when I was there, which is good because I don't think it was published in the US. But it also turns out that she wrote This New Noise, a book about the BBC that I read about a little while ago and wanted to look up. I did not know that these two books were even by the same person!]

Then there's an article on how aspiring actors from farther down the social ladder are increasingly being shut out of the profession in the UK. These have been bubbling up for a few years now; this one takes its starting point from the show The Night Manager. (I haven't seen it; it will probably go into the bin of "stuff about machinations that I really don't want to watch," along with House of Cards.) The article also takes a tiny swipe at costume drama, so these two articles wind up being a tiny bit related:

Why working-class actors are a disappearing breed

And what, you can’t help wondering, is our obsession with period drama all about? Downton, suggests Josie Long, comedian and co-founder of the charity Arts Emergency, “speaks to that certain weird thing that is going on in the UK. Something very repressive that is reflected in our art.”

It’s what happens, she thinks, “when you don’t have different voices coming through”. And “posh fetishisation… posh as aspiration” becomes a defining feature of our culture.

Posh is at the very heart of mainstream viewing, a cornerstone of all TV schedules and a guaranteed seller abroad. The Night Manager is currently being broadcast in America on the cable channel AMC, which contributed a large part of its £18m budget. It’s a vision of Britain that sells.

The piece itself is a more interesting look at this phenomenon than simply "Downton make drama all posh now." But I'm sure there is some sort of "Downton effect," even if it is more about making money than having it: just as it's harder to sell comedies internationally because they tend to rely more on specific cultural contexts than action and superhero films, it is probably easier to sell costume dramas and literary adaptations abroad - if only because costume drama tends to assume that you have to explain the historical setting at least a little bit, and that explanation works just as well overseas. It is frustrating, though, to be a fan of costume drama and have it assumed that you must just want to watch posh people lounging about in frocks, as opposed to being interested in fictional explorations of what life was like in the past. I would love to have a wider range of costume drama available - even just getting a show set in the Tudor period that didn't take place at court would feel like Christmas!

That's separate from the main point of the piece, though, which focuses on how hard it is to pay for a place at drama school, and then to find work in the industry if you do. (And as always, don't read the comments: Guardian articles about the arts are always overrun by people who fling about the word "luvvies" and seem to think no one should ever expect to be paid for art, because it's not a real job like plumbing. One wonders whether these people watch TV or movies, or listen to music, and what they think would happen to their own lives if we made it impossible for people to make a living while making art.)
tempestsarekind: (princess elizabeth)
So…the last couple of trips I've made to the bookstore and library have resulted in running across several books that seem to be arguing that Princess Elizabeth was really attracted to Thomas Seymour? Like, are we doing that again? Because I really don't want to be doing that again, dude was a child molester. I mean, I am no historian, so I can stick my fingers in my ears on this subject if I want to, and I really want to, because that entire story has always given me the heebie-jeebies, and I am irrationally unwilling to consider "the evidence" on this one. Call me unobjective if you want, but when a man sneaks into a girl's bedroom, slaps her on the rear end, and slices her dress to ribbons while she's still wearing it, I am really not interested in hearing about how the girl in question might have been attracted to him or found the whole thing titillating.

Anyway. Is anyone else encountering these books?

For example: https://books.google.com/books?id=P_zHBQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=elizabeth:+renaissance+prince&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwijxNnx_L7KAhVLRyYKHR4lCS4Q6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=%22elizabeth%20flirted%20back%22&f=false

(from Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince by Lisa Hilton)

And this is the book I saw earlier this week, which actually gave me the creepy-crawlies as I was flipping through it:
The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor by Elizabeth Norton

"She would never allow her heart to rule her head again," eww eww ewwwwwwwwwww...
tempestsarekind: (i am my father's daughter [elizabeth])
From Buzzfeed: 21 Things Only Kids Who Grew Up in the 1590s Will Understand


6. Having *that friend* who was secretly harbouring Jesuits. We all know, Agnes!

12. That one guy in the ordinary who won’t stop going on about his service in the Low Countries. Go on, tell me for the hundredth time about the women in Flushing…

tempestsarekind: (histories)
I was searching for information about Tudor petticoats on the internet (like you do), and happened upon the fact that Mary Shelley wrote a novel about Perkin Warbeck.

How did I not know this before?

It is apparently available on Project Gutenberg Australia:


Apr. 5th, 2015 10:14 pm
tempestsarekind: (martha + ten + TARDIS)
I am entirely too amused by the fact that in the credit sequence for Wolf Hall, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Harry Lloyd got a title card all to themselves, seeing as they were both in "Human Nature/Family of Blood."
tempestsarekind: (bonny kate)
Top ten historical forensic facial reconstructions

This includes the recent reconstruction of Richard III (the one with blond hair), and the reconstruction of Mary, Queen of Scots done from portraits, as well as a rather nice one of a woman from medieval Edinburgh.

Of particular interest here is the "Beachy Head Lady," described as "a sub-Saharan African living in Eastbourne during Roman times." As the article says, "Beachy Head Lady was assumed to be a third century European Roman until experts took a closer look."

And this is precisely why people who talk about "the historical record" as if it is fixed and objective - usually to complain about the inclusion of people of color in media that take place in the European past, because of that terrible specter, "political correctness" - are so frustrating. (Well, there are many reasons; this is one.) The historical record is determined by what is left out and what is assumed, just as by what is there. How many skeletons might there be like this one, but which are still keeping their secrets because historians and archaeologists never considered the possibility that they might have belonged to people of different races?

(With all the caveats necessary when one talks about "race" in other periods, of course.)

And here's a story on the Beachy Head Lady, from the same site:
tempestsarekind: (quite a good arm actually)
I really haven't done a lot of reading about Thomas More, so I didn't know about the annotations More apparently made on the drawing for the Holbein portrait discussed here:

Wolf Hall is wrong: Thomas More was a funny, feminist Renaissance man

(The title of this article is a bit silly.)

Edited to add relevant text from the article:

For this Tudor statesman did not just want Holbein to paint him, but to include all his nearest and dearest in what was clearly intended as a companionate image of family life, like nothing hitherto seen in Britain. Women and men all gather together sociably in a little community. On the compositional drawing that survives, More has annotated Holbein’s design. Next to Holbein’s depiction of his wife kneeling, More asks for a change – she should be sitting in a chair, not kneeling like a servant!

Tragically, Holbein’s painting is lost. The drawings and copy that survive, however, tell a story of a truly loving family and a politician with almost feminist ideas, by the standards of the time. A copy by a 16th-century artist in the National Portrait Gallery proves that More got his way with the kneeling. All the women depicted are seated, reflecting More’s written instruction to do away with that particular bit of gender hierarchy.
tempestsarekind: (london flower of cities all)
Anglo-Saxon or sub-Roman: what should we call Lincolnshire in the fifth and sixth centuries? by Dr. Caitlin R. Green

Historical guessing or expert accuracy? SCEMS scholar Catherine Fletcher on her Wolf Hall work (summary; link leads to fuller post elsewhere)
tempestsarekind: (very few dates in this history)
Guess who's still struggling to read Wolf Hall? (I think I'm going to set it aside soon, if I keep having this problem, because right now I'm hypersensitive to this issue.) It's just that it feels demeaning, to keep taking ideas and beliefs that would have been normal to quite a few people if not everyone, and only holding them up as silly things that our urbane, clever characters like Cromwell and Wolsey could never believe. Wolsey tells Cromwell that Henry VIII can't actually believe that God has cursed his marriage to Katherine of Aragon - not because Wolsey thinks the king is self-serving enough to use such an idea for his own benefit, but because the king is too "rational" - that's the word Mantel has Wolsey use, "rational" - to believe in such a vengeful God. (And Cromwell's narrative voice backs this up, in case we were in doubt about what we should think: "It's not the hand of God kills our children. It's disease and hunger and war, rat bites and bad air and the miasma from plague pits" [75]). Never mind that the idea that it was a sin to marry your brother's wife was an accepted idea for many people - as was the idea that Wolsey disclaims a few pages later, when he says that "They say" that the sweating sickness is a visitation from God, only to continue airily that he "can't pretend to know his purposes" (83). Only the undifferentiated, dismissible masses of "They" could seriously entertain such an idea. Meanwhile, Cromwell mocks Thomas More for - so far; he hasn't actually shown up as a character yet - basically praying in the mornings. It's true that More gets in a swipe about how usury is bad - again, not an uncommon belief for a religious man to hold - but listen to the language Mantel uses to contrast these two men:
These are good days for him: every day a fight he can win. "Still serving your Hebrew God, I see," remarks Sir Thomas More. "I mean, your idol Usury." But when More, a scholar revered through Europe, wakes up in Chelsea to the prospect of morning prayers in Latin, he wakes up to a creator who speaks the swift patois of the markets; when More is settling in for a session of self-scourging, he and Rafe are sprinting to Lombard Street to get the day's exchange rates. (83-4)

Mantel undercuts this very, very slightly by remarking in the next sentence that Cromwell can't actually sprint, because of an old injury - but just look at the way she contrasts them here! That needling use of "Sir" before More's name, the way More "settles in" ponderously for his old-fashioned Latin and his old-fashioned scourging (and "session" suggests nastily that this is just measurable routine for More, rather than actual belief) - and Cromwell, by contrast, is a man of the future, whose God speaks in a "swift" tongue (so unlike that cumbersome Latin!) and who can 'sprint' off to where the real power and importance lie: not with the old, backward-looking scholarship of Europe (after all, if the scholars "revere" a man like More, they must be behind the times, right? It's More who is the "revered" false idol here, not usury), but with the fleet changing of every day's exchange rates.

But these aren't separate ideas, or at least they don't have to be; it's not actually the case that you can only be a good businessman by ridding yourself of the antiquated belief in morning prayer. It's not actually the case that just because you yourself don't pray in Latin, it's a given that you mock and belittle those who do. What keeps bothering me about the beginning of this book - and I've only made it eighty-five pages in, so things could change, I suppose - is that the world of the book is being set up so that the only people we are supposed to take seriously are the ones who hold only "modern" views, like Cromwell and Wolsey. Look, here's the thing: I already know that self-scourging is an extreme thing to do. I already recoil from imagining the pain of it. What I want to know, from historical fiction, is why someone like More would have seen this as an important part of his life, and yet as much a part of his day as putting on a shirt. I don't need some modern mouthpiece like Cromwell to feed back to me the prejudices that I already probably have, to praise the ideas of the present at the expense of mocking the past.
tempestsarekind: (don't get clever in latin! [donna])
I'm going to go ahead and post the last couple of things I've written about trying to read Wolf Hall recently (I figure I should try to read it before I see the miniseries? I have until April - which is when PBS is airing it), even though I am kind of embarrassed by them (why can I not appreciate this book that everyone else in the world loves? What is wrong with me?), but for the sake of honesty, here we go.

18 January 2015

Somewhat perversely, I would like to read some criticism of Wolf Hall by someone smart and thoughtful who didn't like it; maybe it would help me like it better, knowing that someone out there hadn't praised this book to the skies when I am not enjoying it. Admittedly I have only managed to struggle through the first three chapters - this is only partly the book's fault; I haven't been reading it consistently - so maybe I haven't adjusted to the prose yet and I will enjoy it more as I get used to it, but right now the book's very syntax is grating on my inward ear. Stop cramming all the paragraphs with so much syntactically unconnected detail, Hilary Mantel! Stop changing point of view in the middle of paragraphs! (You can't just throw "We hope he'll grow up tall" in the middle of a paragraph about Cromwell's son when the whole rest of the paragraph is being narrated in the third person, what are you even doing!) Also, I know this book is all dudes*, but if you could be a little bit clearer who you're talking about - so that every sentence isn't "He said to him that he was a great scholar" or whatever, although this would be less difficult to figure out if every paragraph weren't crammed with so much detail, because each one of those three pronouns could refer to a different man mentioned in the last two sentences, for all I know - that would be nice. (Yes, yes, I'm sure this is on purpose. That doesn't mean it doesn't grate.)

Also, the dialogue is also irking me, but this is more personal; it just sounds so terse and modern that it actually feels at odds with the way that Tudor people seem to me to think. Even their personal letters are more playful and elaborate with language than we are today - they like playing with words and coining new ones; they weren't like, "ah yes, in the halls of power we get right to the point, none of this fancy-dancy speechifying." And their speech could still be muscular and vivid - but they were not exactly a terse people. I know historical fiction doesn't have to represent the speech patterns of its historical period exactly, even in stories about speakers of whatever language one is writing in (a book set in ancient Rome but written in English is never going to sound like Latin), but still.

*This bit actually sounds more sarcastic about Mantel than I meant it to; it's not her fault that every important person in this period is a guy named Thomas!

21 January 2015

Still trying to read a chapter or so of Wolf Hall before bed; right now I am only managing three or four pages every couple of nights, but hey ho. I hit one of those bits last night where Mantel apparently uses what reviewers actually called "ye olde speech," because why not, in order to make a humorous contrast or whatever:
Above all, Mantel avoids ye olde-style diction, preferring more contemporary phrasing. Small rises in the level of language are frequently used for comic effect, as in: "Well, I tell you, Lady Shelton, if she had had an axe to hand, she would have essayed to cut off my head." The effortless-seeming management of contrasting registers plays a big part in the novel's success, as does Mantel's decision to let Cromwell have a sense of humour."

And this is even more grating than the lack of clarity regarding third-person singular masculine pronouns, because it's indicative of a thing that feels to me like a failure in the world being imagined. It's the same problem I had with Desperate Romantics, a not particularly good miniseries about the PRB, in which all the painters spoke in relatively modern speech, except for Millais (played by an adorably hapless Samuel Barnett), who was supposed to sound so quaint and prim and prudish...except that all he really sounded was Victorian. You know, like all of the other characters in the miniseries are as well. Or "The Shakespeare Code," which is supposedly set in 1599, but has an exchange between two of "Shakespeare's" actors in which they complain that they never know what old Will is going on about (yeah, Early Modern English must be really hard for you sixteenth-century guys to understand), and the only characters in the episode who ever sound remotely Elizabethan are the Carrionite "witches," who are supposed to be from the dawn of time. I mean, I get it: modern readers and viewers hear that language as old-fashioned and ridiculous, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to yell "do better!" at people when they pull this nonsense. It never stops bothering me when historical fiction or historical drama takes the language that people actually spoke and turns it into nothing more than a ridiculous joke. Surely historical fiction is supposed to be about imagining what the past was like, to the degree that we ever can, and trying to conjure up an actually different world, in which people thought - and yes, spoke - very differently from the way we do? And wouldn't it make more sense for critics to - let's get crazy here - respect that endeavor, instead of demeaning the so-called trappings of historical fiction as nothing more than "ye olde-style diction," and only praising those books of historical fiction that "make the past seem just like today" or "make the sixteenth-century court seem just like the modern halls of power," as though the erasure of difference and such easy parallelism between then and now are things to strive for?

I know I have ranted this rant before, about RTD-era Doctor Who historical episodes (oddly enough, Moffat managed to ameliorate this not by having a companion from the past - which I still want, and I'm still wistful about Victorian Clara - but by changing the Doctor so that he no longer says things like "This lot have still got one foot in the Dark Ages," but instead remarks offhandedly that he's on Virginia Woolf's bowling team, and has longstanding relationships with figures like Churchill, and takes Vincent van Gogh seriously and befriends him instead of making jokes about him like Ten does to Shakespeare), but still. This attitude is like nails on a chalkboard to me; I can't help it. And it's such a waste. (As much as I find myself yelling "what are you even doing right now" at Sleepy Hollow on a regular basis this season, one thing that they got right is that Ichabod's old-fashioned language doesn't mean that he's a joke - even though he is often funny, and Abbie rightly laughs at him when he takes refuge in an even greater level of formality because he doesn't want to deal with something. He speaks the way he speaks not because he's some kind of prudish fussbudget, but because he's, you know, from 1781. They spoke like that then. And he can still be curious and tender and exasperated and everything else in that language, because it is an actual language to him, not just an affectation a writer has him put on when he wants to make fun of someone else. I can't wrap my head around Mantel's decision, after reading what must have been tons of Tudor documents and history, to look at the way they spoke and then decide to use it only in mockery. Why not just choose not to use it at all?)
tempestsarekind: (london flower of cities all)
More BBC Tudor programming I'm going to be sad not to see, I guess; this batch to go along with the Wolf Hall miniseries and the 500th anniversary of Hampton Court Palace:

The one on Mary Arden sounds particularly interesting, even without the Shakespearean connection; these sorts of programs are so rarely about people outside the orbit of the court. And of course, the other one I'd really want to see is Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home...

uh what

Oct. 29th, 2014 11:12 pm
tempestsarekind: (all the world's a stage)
(I had to use this icon. I mean, Shakespeare and witches, on TV?)

My best friend sent me a screencap of this article the other day, but I didn't have a chance to go looking for it until now:

Mark Harmon Developing Young William Shakespeare Drama for CW

"Described as a tale of black magic, romance and revenge, the drama is set in 1590s London and chronicles a young Will Shakespeare's rise to prominence as he finds himself caught in a deadly conflict among three witches and the most powerful woman in the world, Queen Elizabeth. The project is described as having the grit of HBO's hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones with the wit and heart of Shakespeare in Love."

I don't…particularly see those two things going together? At all? And presumably - this being the CW - we can expect all the historical accuracy and coherence of Reign. I'm mildly terrified.

(This is probably the wrong place for this gripe, but I really wish that costume drama in general - and historical fiction, especially set in the Tudor period - weren't so tied to real historical people. I get that it's an easy pitch - it's a movie about Jane Austen in a love story of her own! or whatever - but it's lazy and often not particularly useful, since they don't generally manage to dramatize any of the actual interesting things in that historical figure's life, and make up confusing, nonsensical plots instead. [Seriously, why would you make an Elizabeth I movie and then not use the Tilbury speech when it's right there? Why is the film The Duchess so DULL when Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire's life was so interesting? Why is Becoming Jane, at all?] I feel like I would be seventeen times more interested in this show if it weren't about a young William Shakespeare.)

(There are at least two books out at the moment that I have just put down at the library/bookstore, or preemptively put down - one of them isn't out yet - because I can't be bothered with Will Shakespeare Sexytimes: Dark Aemilia by Sally O'Reilly - even though I would actually be interested in a novel about Aemilia Lanyer (though I'd prefer a biography) - and The Tutor by Andrea Chapin. It's not even because I've already read tons of these, because I haven't. [Is the only novel I've read that's predominantly about Shakespeare - as opposed to containing a Shakespeare cameo - The Players by Stephanie Cowell? That can't be right, can it? … Maybe it is. I read Grace Tiffany's My Father Had a Daughter - how could I not, it played right to my Judith-as-Viola feelings - but I never got around to reading Will...] My brain just ughs off of these books, for some reason. And yet Shakespeare in Love is one of my favorite movies...)

Also contained within this article:

This development season, The CW also is exploring the 20-something years of Charles Darwin and his journey through the Amazon with Unnatural Selection.



May. 12th, 2014 04:34 pm
tempestsarekind: (little dorrit)
There are several actors announced in this article on the upcoming BBC miniseries of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, but the one I'm most interested in is Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn:

(Maybe this summer I will actually get around to reading Wolf Hall? I mean, I'm not holding my breath, but maybe.)
tempestsarekind: (martha at the globe)
Always glad when this subject gets a bit of press (or re-press, anyway):


(Article originally from July 2012, but - it seems - recently added to the website; would be better with some citations.)

I feel like I was just reading about Mary Fillis recently; I wish I could remember where...
tempestsarekind: (danielle laugh [ever after])
From Hark! A Vagrant, "Anne of Cleves Gables":


(...oh man, I have just remembered that I recently tried to make a serious point in a debate about Macbeth by describing that Kate Beaton comic where Macbeth reacts to the "Banquo's sons will not be kings, but will beget kings" prophecy by going "KILL EVERYONE" whereas Banquo goes, "haha, our kids are totally going to hook up." *facepalm*)
tempestsarekind: (no party like a tudor party)
Mildly annoyed that there's now a BBC series based on Ian Mortimer's book The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England:


Granted, the book is on my "to be purchased" list when it finally comes out in the US next month, but what can I say? I love history programs. And I know they always say the book is better, but as someone who is not at all good at picturing what things look like when I read about them, I find it very helpful to see sites and costumes and suchlike. Also, some of the things on TV don't always make it into the book - or at least this was the case with Lucy Worsley's series about the history of the home (which I saw courtesy of some kind soul on YouTube): because she'd spent a lot of time at the Weald and Downland Museum, there were "living history" details that just weren't in the book If Walls Could Talk.

ETA: huh. Apparently this is part of a whole "Tudor Court Season" on the BBC:

(Incidentally, has anyone read Thomas Penn's book on Henry VII? I keep seeing it in bookstores and wondering about it.)


tempestsarekind: (Default)

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