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Stephen Orgel

my subject. Henry Lawes, the composer and their music teacher, played the Attendant Spirit, who in the manuscript is called a Guardian Spirit or, in Greek, Daemon, a classical figure similar to the Christian Guardian Angel, but much less effective as an agent. Most discussions of Comus focus on its political or religious implications, and its status as a precursor

in Spectacular Performances
Stephen Orgel

surrounded herself. This had been introduced into the political life of the realm by her grandfather Henry VII, who used Burgundian models of knightly heroism to legitimate the de facto rule by conquest confirmed at Bosworth field. Henry VIII had extended the trope into lavish displays of Arthurian fantasy, asserting through spectacle a parity with Francis I and Charles V that he

in Spectacular Performances
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Stephen Orgel

side of Shakespeare’s creative process. But forgetting is key to the act of creation and even in certain respects the essence of drama itself. “The case for Comus” offers a radically unorthodox reading of Milton’s Maske , focusing on both the nominal villain and the place of women in the society for which the work was composed. Most discussions of Milton’s early masque focus on its political or

in Spectacular Performances
Stephen Orgel

Shakespeare’s lifetime. For us, in so far as Shakespeare’s play is about kingship, it concerns the responsibilities of the office, not its prerogatives; but we tend to view the play less as political than as deeply personal. It is about how thoughtless small acts can have formidably terrible effects, about how little we understand even the people who are closest to us, above all, about

in Spectacular Performances
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Stephen Orgel

that he had only her interests at heart, that he knew best; and the crowd agreed. He was a popular hero. A reading of the pamphlet reveals no intention of either sedition or libel, but it does tell a good deal about Elizabeth’s sense of the crucial importance, both political and personal, of the fictions with which she surrounded herself, the fictions that were to be enshrined in

in Spectacular Performances
Stephen Orgel

also adapted to contemporary politics: the blue caps of Macbeth and his troops were the uniform worn by the Jacobite rebels at the battle of Culloden in 1746, when the Jacobite forces were decisively defeated. The costumes give a clear sense of what side Macbeth is on: the wrong side

in Spectacular Performances
Stephen Orgel

political,” they “demean and … degrade moral thought.” I’m extremely relieved not to be in this class. I can’t, of course, match the intensity of Ricks’s indignation – I never could – but I do certainly share his ethical principles. My primary concern was with the historical and scholarly aspects of the subject, and I shall return to those; but since

in Spectacular Performances
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Stephen Orgel

of political influence and independence. Here then is the progression of fantasies: imperial power is almost immediately abandoned for money, and not even for what we would call “real money,” all the gold in the New World or the riches of Asia, but something much more modest and localized, the commercial revenues of Emden. Women get short

in Spectacular Performances
Stephen Orgel

the role goes into the villainy – it is a melodramatic energy, undeniably effective, but it simplifies the play, makes him a villain like Richard III, where his villainy is in every sense his defining characteristic. In the case of Richard III, his success is represented first as a political phenomenon, where he is supported by people who are either naively trusting or think he

in Spectacular Performances
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Reading early modern illustrations
Stephen Orgel

’s wife. According to Suetonius, she was engaged to him, but the engagement was terminated in favor of a more politically advantageous marriage to Cinna’s daughter Cornelia, who became Caesar’s first wife: this is laconically explained in Cossutia’s caption. Nevertheless, coins were issued by both Cossutia’s family and Caesar’s describing her anticipatorily as “Uxor Caesaris

in Spectacular Performances