To sing happiness


I went back to Wilderness this year and again spent a happy hour listening to the Bookshop Band. Since coming home I’ve spent additional happy hours listening to their albums and noodling around their website – and now I’ve found their Shakespeare archive I’m even happier.

I’m going to advise you all to check out their songs (no matter what books you’re into, you’ll find something you like), buy their albums, and listen to this awesome song based on Richard II…


It was builded far from accident


Remember me talking to you about Shakespeare’s early theatres, including the Curtain? Remember this building with this plaque on the wall?


Well, right at the moment both building and plaque have been replaced by a (thanks to London’s inexorable rise upwards as it builds on itself) deep hole, and what is at the bottom of that hole (apart from pipes, concrete and the surprisingly high water table) is archaeology.

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Twelve drummers drumming


On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve drummers drumming,

Eleven pipers piping, Ten lords a-leaping,

Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking

Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying

Five gold rings,

Four calling birds, three French hens

Two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree

I have known when there was no music with him but the drum and the fife; and now had he rather hear the tabor and the pipe.

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A miracle in nature


I went to see the Play that Goes Wrong last night, which was brilliant, but got me to thinking about how much it owed to the long tradition of theatre. So much of its humour relies upon its audience knowing what should happen, so that we would find it funny when things didn’t go as expected.

And this is a completely different situation from the one in which Shakespeare found himself. Although there had been some tradition of dramatics (the Mystery Plays were certainly around in the 1300s), the first theatre was only built in London in 1576 – less than 20 years before Shakespeare started writing. His work was basically cutting-edge.

And how different the world would have been, if Shakespeare had been born a hundred years earlier, or a hundred years later. Would there have been someone else to carve out his place as the national poet “not of an age, but for all time”?

Take it to the fire


Since my local display is currently prevent me from catching up with Doctor Who*, I thought you might like to know that Shakespeare only mentions fireworks twice in his entire oeuvre – once in Henry VIII “those remnants of fool and feather that they got in France with all their honourable points of ignorance pertaining thereunto- as fights and fireworks” and once in Love’s Labours Lost “the King would have me present the Princess, sweet chuck, with some delightful ostentation, or show, or pageant, or antic, or firework”.

There’s a touching glance to the power of fireworks in Romeo and Juliet “These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss, consume.”

This is perhaps a surprising omission given fireworks had been around for at least 100 years (they were definitely used at the wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York), and that Elizabeth I apparently created the position of “Fire Master of England.” Not to mention that the Gunpowder Plot actually happened while Shakespeare was still living in London!

I’m several episodes behind. No spoilers please!