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Showing posts from October, 2016

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.

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This October I joined the annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, this year reading Inferno by Dante, Faust Part I by Goethe, Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare, and this, the final title (and a return to the Faust story): The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus,a  tragedy by Christopher Marlowe first performed somewhere between 1588 and 1593. Being as it's Halloween today I thought it would be a good day to say a few words on it!

There are two versions of Marlowe's Faust; the first was published in 1604, and the second, the one I read, in 1616. This second text is longer, with additions by Samuel Rowley (author of When You See Me You Know Me, and possible collaborator with Shakespeare on The Taming of the Shrew) and William Birde. I dare say had I realised as I was reading it I might have preferred the first text, known as the "A Text" (the second being the "B Text"), but such is life.

The play begins with the prologue, like a Greek tragedy might…

Undine by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué.

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Undine is a fairy tale by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, a German writer, and was first published in 1811. It seems that de la Motte has fallen out of fashion: my edition was published by Cassell's National Library (1886-88), cheap classics essentially, and there is another edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1909), so one can deduce in the late 19th, early 20th Century it was popular, yet now I struggled to get much information on de la Motte and his other works. If Undine is anything to go by, this is a travesty! Undine is a fantastic work. 
Reading it, one can see the influence of Undine on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen (1837). We meet Undine when a knight, Sir Huldbrand of Ringstetten is wandering a forest inhabited by unearthly spirits. He finds a cottage in which lives a fisherman, his wife, and their adopted daughter, the wild, beautiful, and rebellious Undine. The knight falls in love with her, and, when they marry, she reveals that she is a descendent of …

Historia Brittonum by Nennius.

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Historia Brittonum or History of the Britons is, as the title suggests, a history of Britain ascribed to Nennius, a Welsh monk living in the 9th Century. I am growing increasingly fond of reading Medieval histories having recently read Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain (1136) and Bede'sEcclesiastical History of the English People (731), both of which I loved, and I thought now was the time to turn to Nennius.
A common criticism of Nennius is that he is not historically accurate: this is true, he is not even remotely historically accurate. Historia Brittonum is more a mythical history. It begins, rather sweetly I thought, Nennius, the lowly minister and servant of the servants of God, by the grace of God, disciple of St. Elbotus, to all the followers of truth sendeth health.  Be it known to your charity, that being dull in intellect and rude of speech, I have presumed to deliver these things in the Latin tongue, not trusting to my own learning, which is li…

Chapters XXI - XXIII of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

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It is October 1836 and it is snowing. Edinburgh records up to five inches of snow on the 28th October, and in London about an inch has fallen: this is just the beginning of one of the coldest and indeed snowiest winters on record in the United Kingdom. This period, and the perhaps unusually snowy periods of Charles Dickens' youth influenced us more than we realise in our dreams of a white Christmas, something I will write a little about in December, but not now; after all, only a few inches have fallen so far...
October 1836 also saw the return of Charles Darwin: he arrived in Falmouth in Cornwall on HMS Beagle having collected data to develop the theory of evolution (in January 1836, two months before the first instalment of Pickwick Papers, Darwin had just arrived in Australia). And, of course, October 1836 saw the eighth instalment of The Pickwick Papers.

Chapter XXI In which the Old Man Launches Forth into his Favourite Theme,  and Relates a Story About a Queer Client
In the sevent…

“Enter Ghost": Top Ten Creepy Shakespeare Quotes for Halloween.

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This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a Halloween freebie and I can't resist! Here are some of my favourite creepy Shakespeare quotes, full of dark omens, owls, ghosts, and sprites...

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1) From Hamlet(1603)


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2) From Macbeth(1606)

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3) From Henry IV Part I(1597)

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4) From Julius Caesar(1599)

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5) From A Midsummer Night's Dream (1600)


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6) From Henry VI Part III (1591)

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7) From Macbeth (1606)

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8) From Macbeth (1606)


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9) From A Midsummer Night's Dream(1600)

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10) From The Rape of Lucrece(1594)

The Plays of Terence.

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Publius Terentius Afer, or Terence as he is best known, is a 2nd Century B.C. Roman dramatist, possibly of Libyan descent, born around 184 B.C. and dying about 159 B.C. at the very young age of 25. He wrote six comedies in his short life, all of which have survived: Andria (The Girl from Andros, 166 B.C.)Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law, 165 B.C.)Heauton Timorumenos (The Self-Tormentor, 163 B.C.)Eunuchus (The Eunuch, 161 B.C.)Phormio (161 B.C.)Adelphoe (The Brothers, 160 B.C.)I've been spending the past few weeks reading them, and because, though I enjoyed these comedies, I don't have a great amount to say about them, so I thought it best say a little about them in one post rather than in six separate posts. That said, I have already read Andriaand given that a separate post, so here are my thoughts on the remaining five plays:

Hecyra, or The Mother-in-Law

Hecyra, or The Mother-in-Law was Terence's second play which was first performed in 165 B.C. however, oddly enough, it wasn'…

Exiles by James Joyce.

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Exiles is James Joyce's only play, completed in 1915 and first published in 1918 between A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man(1916) and Ulysses (1922), and, like Portrait of an Artist, it is rather autobiographical. Unfortunately, it's generally agreed to be his least successful work.
Exiles tells the story of Richard Rowan (a writer), his common-law wife Bertha and his friend Robert Hand, and Robert's cousin Beatrice, recently recovered from a life-threatening illness. Richard and Bertha have recently returned to Dublin from Rome. We find Bertha jealous of the close relationship of Richard and Beatrice; Robert, meanwhile, is jealous of Richard and Bertha. Robert attempts to seduce Bertha, Bertha tells Richard and he advises her to do what is right for her. When they meet again, following an awkward moment between Richard and Robert, Bertha and Robert are left alone, and what occurs is largely left to the audience's imagination. As this love-triangle plays out, Richar…

Dewey's Readathon.

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It's readathon day, and perfect reading weather. Last night was the lowest temperature of the season, just 1 °C, and it will no doubt get much lower as the days go by. Right now it's very misty, low cloud, quite smokey from people's chimneys, yet behind all this cloud the sun is fighting its way through, so the light here is a very beautiful pale gold (I wish I had batteries in my camera!). Temperature-wise it's pretty chilly, so I'm looking forward to sitting in front of the fire and reading.
All that said, I'll have to be an unofficial participant today: for one reason I can't stay up to late tonight, and another, if it does get a little more hospitable outside I will have to go out and plant some more bulbs. I wanted all my spring bulbs planted before the end of October and I still have a lot to go. I do think it's quite likely I'll have to break, as I type the sun is getting much brighter, though I still can't quite see it! 
Because of this ex…

The Masterpiece by Émile Zola.

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The Masterpiece (L'Œuvre) is, in publication order, the fourteenth of Émile Zola's Rougon-Macquart novels, first published in 1886 following Germinal. In it Zola continues to follow the lives of the Rougon-Macquarts, a fictional family in the time of the Second French Empire (1852–1870). In this novel, set between 1855 - 1870, we follow Claude Lantier, the son of Auguste Lantier and Gervaise Coupeau née Macquart (her story is told in L'Assommoir), and the brother of Etienne (Germinal), Jacques (The Beast Within) and Anna (better known as the famous Nana).
In L'Assommoir young Claude is adopted by an old man in Plassans (the 'seat' of the Rougon Macquarts) during a period of extreme poverty for his mother and her new husband: An old gentleman at Plassans offered to take the older boy, Claude, and send him to an academy down there. The old man, who loved art, had previously been much impressed by Claude's sketches. Claude had already begun to cost them quite a …

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is one of my favourite all-time books. It was only the second Dickens I ever read (the first being Hard Times, which I read for my A' Levels) and I wanted to revisit it, and somehow it does feel like a perfect autumn read.
Great Expectations was Charles Dickens' thirteenth and penultimate completed novel, first serialised from  December 1860 to August 1861 in All the Year Round, then published in three volumes in October 1861. It begins on Christmas Eve (around 1812) with one of the most famous opening sentences in literature: My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.Young Pip, an orphan living with his sister Mrs. Joe Gargery and her husband Joe Gargery, is here in a graveyard where he has a terrifying encounter with an escaped convict: A fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a grea…