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London research trip

I’ve finally got around to writing up my recent (July 29th) trip to London – unfortunately my SD card reader died on me, so I couldn’t get my pictures off my camera. Anyway, here it is, in tweets and photos…

7:10 AM Research trip today – Globe Theatre and maybe Tower of London (again). Camera battery charged this time! We are not at home to Mr Cock-up…

10:35 AM Train to London is v slow – good job I have plenty of podcasts on my iPhone! Now playing: I Should Be Writing (what else?) :)

A nice collection of swords and daggers in the Globe museum (my hero, Maliverny Catlyn, has a rapier very like the ones seen here)
A nice collection of swords and daggers in the Globe museum (my hero, Maliverny Catlyn, has a rapier very like the ones seen here)

1:39 PM No photos inside the Globe today – Paul McGann was rehearsing Euripides…

1:50 PM Just walked from Globe to Tower of London – 20 mins. Thames street not so picturesque nowadays :(

St Thomas' Tower, aka the Ambassador of Vinland's lodgings
St Thomas' Tower, aka the Ambassador of Vinland's lodgings

2:48 PM I
have just stood at the window where the Dudley brothers would have
watched their father’s execution – poignant, but cool too :)

John Dudley's carving in the Beauchamp Tower (in my book, the two blank lines at the bottom are completed by Robert during his second imprisonment)
John Dudley's carving in the Beauchamp Tower (in my book, the two blank lines at the bottom are completed by Robert during his second imprisonment)

3:07 PM Tower of London touristy fish’n’chips surprisingly good – no dinner for me tonight!

3:51 PM It’s not called Tower Hill for nothing! On my way back to King’s Cross – got to get an off-peak train before 4.30!

6:18 PM Home at last! My feet ache and I barely have the energy to type, but it was a productive day. Lots of photos and notes – blogging will occur

The perspective of time

I’ve just been watching a DVD of “Twelfth Night” (the BBC/Trevor Nunn version with Helena Bonham-Carter and Nigel Hawthorne), and it suddenly struck me that this play is the twin (no pun intended!) of “The Merchant of Venice”.

We often think of “The Merchant of Venice” as a serious play, even a tragedy, because of its (to us) strongly anti-Semitic flavour and the persecution of Shylock. In contrast, “Twelfth Night” is acknowledged to be a comedy, even though a substantial subplot consist of the cruel persecution of another representative of a hated religious group, Malvolio the Puritan.

However having seen “The Merchant of Venice” performed at the Globe, I now know that it is one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, much like “Twelfth Night”. A large part of the play is taken up with the story of Portia’s testing of her suitors with the almost fairy-tale challenge of the three caskets of silver, gold and lead.
Being a lover of Shakespeare rather than a serious student, I have not done a detailed study of the two side by side, but I can’t help wondering what a difference history has made to our perception of them. If there had been a vicious counter-Reformation that saw Protestants being exterminated in a holocaust, would we now feel as uneasy about “Twelfth Night” as we do about “Merchant”?

Plus ça change

I was watching “Doctor Who Confidential” on BBC iPlayer this evening (nothing unusual about that!), when a bit of theatrical jargon caught my ear. During a section about lighting effects, the gaffer (head electrician) explained that he was following the script “from what’s called ‘sides'” – and I was suddenly taken back four hundred years. “Sides” was a term back in Shakespeare’s day for the individual scripts which contained each role’s lines and cues; lacking photocopiers or typewriters, the copyist provided each actor with only the bare minimum he needed to follow his part.

For me, one of the joys of history is discovering unexpected links with ancestors long dead, and today’s find was a very small but still pleasurable addition to that list…