For my fourth cartoon strip I chose William Shakespeare, The Bard of Avon, regarded as the greatest writer of the English language. Here’s my blog.
William Shakespeare is the world’s most published, read and performed playwright and yet a large slice of his life remains a mystery. He was born in Stratford upon Avon during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but the date is only guessed as April 23rd 1564. Records show he was baptised on April 26th and in those days it was usual for the baptism to be performed 3 days after birth, also the scholars like it because he died on April 23rd 1616 exactly 52 years later. His schools are also just guesses, but he certainly became proficient in Latin…not that unusual in those days.
There is also the case of the ‘lost years’, 1585 to 1592 when there is no record of him, but he was thought to have moved to London, maybe writing and acting in ‘The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’ drama troupe.
What we do know for definite is that his dad was a glove maker and his mom the daughter of a wealthy farmer. After writing 16 comedies, 12 tragedies, 10 historicals and a bagful of sonnets it can be said ‘the boy William done well’! He moved back to Stratford upon Avon (probably because of the outbreak of plague) just a few years before his death. He ended up a wealthy man and rather strangely left his wife Anne Hathaway his “second best bed”. Make what you will of THAT …it’s been interpreted a few different ways!
So from such a wide choice of plays, why did I choose ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for this fourth cartoon strip? Easy. We did it at school, many years ago and I read Quince the carpenter.
It’s a story of romance, fairy magic and comic goings-on. There’s a whole bunch of characters here, so hold tight whilst I give you a whistle stop tour through Shakespeare’s magical forest.
Theseus, Duke of Athens and Hippolytus, Queen of the Amazons are getting married and celebrations are being planned. Egeus brings his daughter Hermia before the Duke to order her to marry Demetrious, but she’s in love with Lysander. The Duke warns her if she disobeys her father under Athenian law she faces the death penalty or life as a nun in a convent.
Hermia and Lysander decide to elope and do a runner into the forest. Hermia tells her best friend Helena who is in love with Demetrius. In the hope it will help win over his affection she tells Demetrius and the two of them follow Hermia and Lysander into the forest.
Meanwhile a troupe of tradesman are also in the forest rehearsing a play, ‘The Tragedy of Pyramus’ to perform as a celebration of the Duke’s wedding. Quince, a carpenter. Snug, a joiner, Bottom, a weaver, Flute, a bellows-mender, Snout, a tinker and Starveling, a tailor. Not much call for a bellows-mender in Warwickshire these days.
You’d think there were enough humans running around in the forest for one play, but you’d be wrong. We haven’t got round to the fairies yet.
The fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania are having a right old set to because Titania won’t hand over her adopted page boy. Oberon sends his servant Puck to find a magic plant. The juice of the plant when squeezed onto the eyes of someone asleep causes them to fall in love with the first creature they see when awakening. Oberon uses the juice on Titania as she slumbers.
Puck overhears the tradesmen rehearsing and magically transforms Bottom’s head into that of an ass. The other players see this and run, terrified, from the forest. Titania awakes, sees Bottom and falls madly, deeply, rapturously in love with him…donkey head and all.
Helena chases Demetrius and their fighting disturbs Oberon. He tells Puck to use the magic juice on Demetrius and put an end to the quarrel. However Puck gets confused and squeezes the juice onto Lysander’s eyes. When he wakes up he falls in love with Helena. Well…you can imagine the outcome of that…a right old cat fight between two women over one man.
Time for a commercial break, I think.
What could be more British than crumpets? Jones Wood Foundry bake the best and serve them with lemon curd or Marmite. Lemon curd will probably need no introduction, but Marmite? It’s a product that has become part of the English language over here in the U.K. If you describe something is like Marmite, you mean that people will either love it or hate it, no in-between. Marmite is definitely an acquired taste. Try it and see for yourself. Me? I love it!
Okay…back to the forest. Look away now if you don’t want to know the end.
Oberon tires of the confusion and lifts all the enchantments, also putting the humans to sleep. Titania cannot believe she’s fallen in love with donkey head and makes it up with Oberon. On waking the lovers think it’s all been a dream and Hermia and Lysander are back together, whilst Demetrius decides he does love Helena. When Bottom wakes up he feels he’s had the strangest dream of all.
So now there’s a triple wedding to celebrate and Quince, Bottom and the rest of the troupe amuse the three couples with a performance of ‘The Tragedy of Pyramus’.
Well there’s certainly is a lot of Shakespearean order and disorder. How true is the most famous quote from the play, “The course of true love never did run smooth”?
Bangers and Mash is a dish all British kids have grown up on…and we loved it. Sausages in mashed potato it’s a basic dish, but modern chef’s have given it many tasty variations.
Sausages are probably the oldest processed food, it can be traced back to ancient times. Pork sausages have been mass produced since the 19th century. The Victorians called them ‘little bags of mystery’ suspecting there was more horse meat than pork in them.
Why call them bangers? During World War One there was a severe shortage of meat of any kind and sausages were filled with scraps, cereal and water. When they were cooked on shovels over open fires in the trenches of Northern Europe they hissed and popped…hence ‘bangers’.
Now you’ll know of the UK’s film star Peter Sellers (1925-1980), he of Pink Panther, The Millionairess and Dr Strangelove fame. Well not only did he hit the big time internationally in films he was also a radio star who also made humorous records with actress Sophia Loren. One of these that entered the UK charts was ‘Bangers and Mash’ which he sings in a bold Cockney accent in contrast to Loren’s smooth broken Italian/English.
Sellers: “Bangers and mash”
Sellers: “Bangers and Mash”
Sellers: “Give us a bash at the bangers and mash me muvver (mother) used to make”
Now I thought it would be funny to have Shakespearean characters from the sixteenth century singing it. So here they are Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena giving it large!
We can’t leave Shakespeare without mentioning Jason and Yves other restaurant, The Shakespeare’ serving superb cuisine on 24E 39th Street, between Park and Madison.
(It would be rude not to mention Britain’s other great writer. ‘The Man Who Stole Rock’n’Roll’ is a story of rock’n’roll plagiarism set in the sixties, the eighties and the noughties. It was written by …er, whatsisnam?…O yes, Bob Lawton. It’s available from Amazon and also on Kindle.