Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shakespeare's Birthday

I love my nerd friends. Not even an hour after midnight, and they're already digging up their favorite obscure quotes and YouTube clips. In standard form, I cannot find the passage where Sebastian from Twelfth Night compares himself to his mother while flirting with Antonio.

In Richard II, the main conflict is based on the title monarch's inability to separate his favorites from his politics, and partly on his wife's suspicious lack of children. At the beginning of Act III, Scene I, Sir John Bushy and Sir Henry Green, two of Richard's favorites, have been taken prisoner as traitors by Henry Bullingbrook, whose exile they were responsible for. He's back, though, and he's pissed. The politics have much more going on than beds, but when it's the loyalties around the king that are at issue, it's revealing what becomes significant.

Bull. Bring forth these men.
Bushy and Green, I will not vex your souls--
Since presently your souls must part your bodies--
With too much urging your pernicious lives,
For 'twere no charity; yet, to wash your blood
From off my hands, here in the view of men
I will unfold some causes of your deaths:
You have misled a prince, a royal king,
A happy gentleman in blood and lineaments,
By you unhappied and disfigured clean;
You have in manner with your sinful hours
Made a divorce betwixt his queen and him,
Broke the possession of a fair queen's cheeks
With tears drawn from her eyes by your foul wrongs...

The queen's unhappiness would be totally immaterial if not for the implication that Richard is sexually involved with his favorites. Kings and nobles took mistresses and locked their wives up in towers or worse all the time.

Richard's real crimes seem to consist of being selfcentered and not knowing who he needs to keep happy. He's just Some Dude who happens not to make a very good king. Which, okay, a lot of people wouldn't.

That wasn't very fun. Why did I pick that? Thinking of more lighthearted things to post about brings me to Showtime's The Tudors, wherein Hollywood makes up an affair between Thomas Tallis and William Crompton, of all people. Seriously? Shift historical figures towards the gay? Does that ever happen? Villainous effeminacy, maybe, but actual sex is crazy talk, much less a sympathetic relationship.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Holy cow you guys!

Read this blog. Right now. The Drummer's Revenge.

It's a gay history essay blog focusing on Canada, going back several centuries and very detailed. I haven't even read it all yet, I'm so excited to tell you it merely exists. The author is excellent from what I've seen so far, and I dream of being that productive- the first post was two months before mine.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Book rec

A book I finished recently and enjoyed: Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748-1914 edited by Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt. Many of the stories were published in the mainstream, but the "hidden" part mostly refers to who was interpreting the subtext and how. Most of the selections by well known authors are lesser-known ones people are less likely to run into (such as "I and My Chimney" by Herman Melville instead of an excerpt from Moby Dick or Billy Budd, etc). I hadn't even heard of many of the pieces, such as Louis Wilkinson's pastiche of Henry James, or Joseph and his Friend: A story of Pennsylvania by Bayard Taylor. There's the moderately well known Lord Strutwell part in Smollett's The Adventures of Roderick Random, which I've read before but still like. Edward Prime-Stevenson's "Out of the Sun" is printed in entirety, as is Alan Dale's A Marriage Below Zero, which is nice because the most recent edition seems to be the original one (1889). I have to say I enjoyed that last a lot more than I expected to; it's most commonly interpreted as pure homophobic evil but that seems to depend on taking the (extremely bitter) female narrator at her face value.

The introductions to each author by the editors are quite witty and informative, but sometimes threw me. So much research has clearly been done, but neither of them bothered to find out who said "Once a philosopher, twice a sodomite"? The text blithely asks, "Was it Rousseau?" No, it wasn't. It was Voltaire (maybe not even reliably; the closest origin I can find right now with my quick-n-dirty methods is Richard Burton, writing more than a century later in 1886, and I can't remember what book I originally read the story behind it in). Another story- Tobermory by Saki, about a cat who is taught to speak and reveals many indiscretions on the parts of some garden party attendees- I have no earthly idea why it was included. The intro claims that the tomcat that kills Tobermory was some "rough trade" afraid of him talking? I read it about three times and still missed it, and I'm basically the Queen of Subtle References.

This is me nitpicking, though, and on the whole the book is a very well researched and edited collection, worth finding a copy.