New Book by BSA Member
1st December 2015
The BSA is delighted to announce the publication of a new book by one of our members, available from retailers now. Details and an extract from the book can be found below.
Shakespeare Calling – the book
Why Shakespeare? Who is this Hamlet? Is Lady Macbeth really evil? Can Caliban really be a twitchy speeded Goth freak? What’s so interesting about Lady Blanche, Lucius, Queen Margaret, Cassius, Paulina, Emilia, Celia…? These and many more questions sent the new Bardolator Ruby Jand on a personal journey of exploration into the plays of Shakespeare and the search for an explanation of what a 450 year-old playwright from Stratford-upon-Avon means to us today.
Shakespeare Calling – the book is a personal journey based on four years of blogging Shakespeare. It is useful for students in the classroom and out, for group discussions and individual analysis, for academic studies and enjoyment, a book to be read by theatre enthusiasts and anybody who has ever wondered, ‘Why Shakespeare?’
Ruby Jand (Rubyjandshakespearecalling@gmail.com) has worked as an English and history teacher at a community council school for adults in Sundbyberg, Sweden. She is now retired but continues to lecture on Shakespeare in schools and libraries.
Excerpt from Shakespeare Calling – the book:
Like Father Like Daughters?
Two questions always bother me when reading or seeing this, Shakespeare’s most emotionally gruesome play, King Lear: Are Goneril and Regan as awful as everyone says they are? And if they are – why? What is there in the text that prompts directors to immediately show them as haughty, false, lying, hypocritical, vampy, etc., etc., from the moment they walk onto the stage?
To quote a few of the characters, my answer is, ‘Nothing.’
Maybe I’m missing something but in the whole first scene what I see are two respectable older daughters and a saucy younger one, and a manipulative, hypocritical, hot-tempered, frighteningly irrational father.
Here’s the situation. The old king, to the surprise of everyone and the dismay of some, is retiring and dividing his kingdom equally among his three daughters. Sounds good, right? But in the very first lines of the play we are informed that Lear tends to play favourites: Kent says to Gloucester: ‘I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.’ That is, Goneril’s husband more than Regan’s husband. Gloucester agrees but goes on to say that now that things are to be divided equally, who knows?
Enter the king and the whole gang. In the eleventh line he speaks, Lear reveals himself to be an emotional manipulator:
…Tell me, my daughters,
Which of you shall we say doth love us most,
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where merit doth most challenge it? (Scene 1)
Wha’?! He just told them it would be divided equally, now they have to compete by loving him most? I think the daughters can be excused for being a bit puzzled but Goneril and Regan are daughters to a king, wives to dukes and heads of great households. They are trained in the art of diplomacy as would all women of their class be. Goneril starts with, ‘Sir, I do love you more than words can wield the matter…’ Regan ends with, ‘…I am alone felicitate/ In your dear highness’ love.’
Flowery yes, but hypocritical? Why should we think so? This is a ceremonial moment. They are put on the spot. They rise to the occasion and if we might think, ‘Why should they love the brutal old coot – I wouldn’t!’ I doubt that we would say so if we were in their position.