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Showing posts from August, 2016

Wealth by Aristophanes.

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I've been reading the plays of Aristophanes for quite some time now, my first play was The Frogs, which I read in February 2015, and here I am now in August 2016 reading my final play, Wealth. The last play I read by Aristophanes was Peaceof 421 B.C., and now I zip forward 33 years to 388 B.C. for Wealth (Πλοῦτος, known also as Plutus or Ploutos). Before I get into Wealth I want to say how much I've enjoyed reading Aristophanes' plays, I've absolutely loved them. But, and it's a sad thing, I'm ending on a low note: I really hated Wealth. This is the second time I've read it: the first time, in spring, I ended up skimming it, and the second time around I did concentrate more but all the same I suffered it.
The gist (which is all I'm able to provide!) is this: Chremylos and his slave Cario have returned to Athens having consulted the Oracle to ask how Chremylos should instruct his son to improve his wealth: Cʜʀᴇᴍʏʟᴏs: I've always been a virtuous and rel…

Heptaméron by Marguerite of Navarre.

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The Heptaméron is a collection of short stories within a frame narrative, written by Marguerite de Navarre (known also as Marguerite of Angoulême) and first published nine years after her death in 1558. The concept was inspired by Boccaccio's Decameron (1348-53): in Boccaccio, a group of seven women and three men are staying in a villa in Florence hoping to escape the plague that was ravishing Italy at the time. For the ten days they were there, each person would tell a tale each day, thus there were a hundred stories told. The title Decameron comes from the Greek δέκα meaning ten and ἡμέρα meaning day, so δέκα-ἡμέρα would mean a 'ten days'. In the Heptaméron's case, ἑπτά means seven, so ἑπτά-ἡμέρα simply means a 'seven days'. In Marguerite de Navarre's frame collection, which was originally titled Histoires des amans fortunez (Stories of Fortunate Lovers), a group of five men and five women stranded after floods in the Pyrenees Mountains. To pass time they…

Isabella, or the Pot of Basil by John Keats.

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Isabella, or the Pot of Basil is a poem by John Keats which was first published in 1818. The story of Isabella comes from Boccaccio's Decameron (the fifth story told on the fourth day) in which Filomena tells of how Lisabetta and Lorenzo fell in love, but Lisabetta's brothers disapproved and murdered Lorenzo. When Lisabetta finds his body she decapitates him, unable to move him in any other way, and keeps his head in a pot of basil. When her brothers discover this they take the pot and flee to Naples, and poor Lisabetta cries herself to death.
Keats' 63 verse poem is far longer than Boccaccio's tale but, though Lisabetta's name has changed to Isabella in the poem the story remains roughly the same. It begins, Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love’s eye!
They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
Without some stir of heart, some malady;
They could not sit at meals but feel how well
It soothed each to be the other by;
They could not, sure, benea…

Book IV (Cantos VII -XII) of The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.

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Amoret rapt by greedie lust   Belphebe saues from dread: The Squire her loues, and being blam'd   his dayes in dole doth lead.
We left Book IV Canto VI with Britomart explaining to Scudamour that Amoret had disappeared: in Canto VII we find out what happened to her. After the great tournament she left with Britomart who very quickly fell asleep. Unable to do so herself Amoret went for a walk when she has kidnapped by a man: It was to weet a wilde and saluage man,
Yet was no man, but onely like in shape,
And eke in stature higher by a span,
All ouergrowne with haire, that could awhape
An hardy hart, and his wide mouth did gape
With huge great teeth, like to a tusked Bore:
For he liu'd all on rauin and on rape
Of men and beasts; and fed on fleshly gore,
The signe whereof yet stain'd his bloudy lips afore.She is dragged deep into the forest where no one could hear her cry for help, however she finds another prisoner, who later reveals her name to be Aemylia. She tells Amoret of how this m…

Peace by Aristophanes.

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Peace is a comedy by Aristophanes, first performed in 421 B.C. (of the surviving plays it follows The Wasps). Like many of Aristophanes' plays the major theme is war; when Aristophanes was writing the Peloponnesian War between the Athenians and the Spartans was being fought (it lasted from 431–404 BC), something that influenced many of his works. As he was writing Peace the first half of the war was coming to an end and a treaty known as the Peace of Nicias was to be signed by both parties; Peace anticipates this treaty and it was performed just a few days before its signing, at which point, it's worth noting, the war had been going on for some ten years.
Aristophanes' Peace (Εἰρήνη) is an allegorical play that tells the story of Trygaeus, an Athenian frustrated with the war and seeks himself to bring about peace by finding and rescuing Peace, the allegorical figure of the title. It begins with two slaves of Trygaeus who are kneading two cakes of dung. Trygaeus himself shor…

A Group of Noble Dames by Thomas Hardy.

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A Group of Noble Dames is Thomas Hardy's second short story collection (following Wessex Tales, 1888) and was first published in the same year as his novel Tess of the D'Urbervillesin 1891. The book is a frame narrative: the overall story is that the members of the Wessex Field and Antiquarian Clubs have gathered together for a dinner and they each tell a tale, some before dinner, some after dinner: It was at a meeting of one of the Wessex Field and Antiquarian Clubs that the foregoing story, partly told, partly read from a manuscript, was made to do duty for the regulation papers on deformed butterflies, fossil ox-horns, prehistoric dung-mixens, and such like, that usually occupied the more serious attention of the members.This Club was of an inclusive and intersocial character; to a degree, indeed, remarkable for the part of England in which it had its being—dear, delightful Wessex, whose statuesque dynasties are even now only just beginning to feel the shaking of the new and…

Two bits of bookish news.

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Yesterday was a very unexpected book day for me! I have two bits of news: firstly, readers of old know I usually have some kind of 'Top 100' list that I try to read through, the latest being the now abandoned 'Top 50 Literary Figures' (I gave up on it for two reasons, one I found it tedious, and two I was ultimately so unimpressed by the list I realised that I would not feel a single scrap of pride in it were I to finish). I've been without such a list for a few months now and I do think these lists are rather good for me as I am inclined to get into my comfort zone and refuse to budge out of it, and reading other people's lists opens up new opportunities. I have been looking around for quite a while now but yesterday morning after my Aristophanes post I found a good list to read through- the first editions of the Penguin Classics series (I don't own a single Penguin first edition, by the way!). I found the list on the Penguin site and my progress list can …

The Clouds by Aristophanes.

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The Clouds (Νεφέλαι) is a comedy by Aristophanes and was first performed in 423 B.C when it came third of three plays performed at the Dionysian festival. Though that may be fairly damning, The Clouds was later re-written, and with this play I feel I'm entering into the best phase of Aristophanes writing: of the surviving plays, The Clouds was proceeded by The Acharniansand The Knights, both of which I liked, but what follows The Knights, that is, The Clouds, The Wasps, Peace (admittedly I haven't read this yet), The Birds, Lysistrata, The Poet and the Woman, and The Frogs are quite simply the reason I love Aristophanes. The final two surviving plays, written in the early 4th Century B.C., are for me the moment things begin to go awry. I liked The Assemblywomen well enough, though without great enthusiasm, and I didn't enjoy Wealth at all (I do mean to re-read it next week though, hopefully my opinion will be changed).

The Clouds is a philosophical comedy, or rather a comed…

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

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Last week's Deal Me In Challenge brought me Saloméby Oscar Wilde, this week another Wilde play of an altogether different though more recognisable genre - The Importance of Being Earnest. This is a comedy and was first performed on the 14th February 1895. The play also marked Oscar Wilde's downfall: though very successful, on the opening night Marquess of Queensberry (the father of Wilde's lover Lord Alfred Douglas) accused Wilde of being homosexual, leaving a calling card that read "For Oscar Wilde posing Somdomite" (meaning 'sodomite'). Wilde sued him for libel, however it was ascertained during the trial that Wilde was indeed gay, and he was thus sentenced to two years in prison (he was sent to several prisons including, most famously, Reading Gaol, where he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, first published anonymously as "by C. 3. 3." in 1898). Because of this the play was eventually cancelled, and it would be Oscar Wilde's last play, no…

The Knights by Aristophanes.

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I've been on a bit of a Greek kick of late, reading History of the Peloponnesian War, Homeric Hymns, and making a very very tentative start on The Iliad this wek, but I didn't want to miss out on Aristophanes. I'm nearly finished reading his plays (after The Knights I just have three to go) and I'm sort of 'filling in the gaps' of what I've read so far. The Knights is my eighth Aristophanes, but it was his fourth following Banqueters and Babylonians (both lost) and The Acharnians.
The Knights (Ἱππεῖς) was first performed in 424 B.C. and it concerns Cleon, an Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War. Cleon had previously banned one of Aristophanes' plays - Babylonians - and Cleon has already received some back-lash in The Acharnians, which directly followed Babylonians. In The Knights this continues. Aristophanes begins with two slaves, Nicias and Demosthenes, who have received a beating from their master Demos. It's revealed that Paphlagonian, a…