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.

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