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Shakespeare borrowed the work of others….

bard's inspiration

“A 16th-century manuscript hidden in the depths of the British Library and decoded using plagiarism software has been pinpointed as a previously unknown source for Shakespeare’s plays.

“A Brief Discourse of Rebellion & Rebels by George North, a minor figure in Queen Elizabeth’s court, is, according to its finders and decoders, the source of more than 20 monologues and passages by the Bard.

“They claim that it inspired Richard III’s villainous determination, the character of King Lear’s Fool, the treatment of Jack Cade and the breeds of dog Macbeth compares to men.”

Well, yes, we’ve known for some time that the Bard borrowed from the work of other people, but this is apparently a new discovery. The comparison of North’s work and the opening soliloquy of Richard III is pretty convincing.

  • A Brief Discourse of Rebellion
    To view our own proportion in a glass, whose form and feature, if we find fair and worthy, to frame our affections accordingly, if otherwise she have by skill or will deformed our outward appearance and left us odible to the eye of the world…
  • Opening soliloquy in Richard III
    But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks/ . . . I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion/ Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature…

Does it matter? It’s up to your own perspective on such matters. Read on here and to learn about George North himself, go here. There is still more about this here.

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Witchcraft (3): Matthew Hopkins

matthew_hopkins_witch-finder-_wellcome_l0000812If the witchcraft trials at North Berwick in the 1590s and later in England, of which Pendle in 1610 is an example, happened because James VI/I fervently believed in witchcraft, as shown by the three characters in Macbeth, it can be argued that the subsequent decline in such cases came because judges and Charles I took a more sceptical approach, Charles being a more Anglican King than his father. There was, however, a significant case in his reign at Lancaster in 1634.

This trend was reversed in the early 1640s when the start of the First English Civil War saw Charles lose his authority over several parts of his largest kingdom but particularly Puritan-inclined counties such as Suffolk and Essex. To fill this vacuum, various individuals assumed some Parliamentary aut240px-st-_johns_church_great_wenham_suffolk_-_geograph-org-uk_-_213446hority in finding witches. Matthew Hopkins, born in about 1620, was the son of a Puritan vicar who had held the living of Great Wenham and land in Framlingham. By 1643, Matthew was an innkeeper near Manningtree but could also rely on an inheritance from his father and appointed himself Witchfinder General. With John Stearne and four followers, he began hunting witches the following year across the whole of East Anglia, subjecting them to the “swimming” ordeal, psychological torture and sending them for trial. By 1647, when his The Discovery of Witches was published, about three hundred people from Bury St. Edmunds to Chelmsford had been hanged, out of the five hundred such executions throughout England between 1400 and 1700.

Early that year, magistrates in Hopkins’ own region began to demand more evidence and the convictions stopped. Hopkins died that August, probably from tuberculosis. Stearne, a decade older, lived on in Bury St. Edmunds until 1670. Their methods had already spread to the New World Colonies, where there was a hanging in Connecticut in May 1647. The first American witch-hunt continued until 1663 but it wasn’t to be the last …

‘The Hollow Crown’: A Poisoned Chalice or the Ultimate Prize?

Giaconda's Blog

benedict Benedict Cumberbatch as Shakespeare’s Richard III

I am currently watching the second instalment of Shakespeare’s history plays, concerning ‘The Wars of the Roses’ as interpreted by the BBC’s condensed and somewhat, contorted adaptation.

The first part of ‘The Hollow Crown’ covered Shakespeare’s history plays: Richard II, Henry IV, Part I and II and Henry Vth.  It was, for the most part, an excellent production. A combination of strong casting, brilliant original material and interesting sets made it a joy to watch. Simon Russell Beale’s Falstaff was a triumph. He gave a mesmerizing performance which managed to capture all the facets of Falstaff’s complex character in little more than a look or a gesture.

The overwhelming sense of these plays was the great burden which kingship brought for the poor unfortunate who wore the crown. In another blog post I have written about this in detail, taking specific lines from each of…

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Macbeth – Michael Fassbender’s flawed hero king.

Giaconda's Blog

macbeth 2

I’m always intrigued to see how a Shakespeare play will be approached, particularly when the constraints of the stage are removed and a director is given free rein to adapt and interpret through the medium of film.

I had read a few reviews of the 2015 version of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender in the lead role and was keen to see it.

Macbeth is not a play that I am particularly familiar with, despite studying at school. I found it a hard slog at the time and have avoided going to see it live ever since. It has always felt too dark and morbid with unsympathetic characters, motivated by greed and ambition, so I wasn’t surprised with the moodily evocative filming and all the rain or the nod to ‘Game of Thrones’ which seems to influence so much tv drama at the moment. I was ready for gratuitous throat-slitting, if…

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