Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Enter Ghost": Top Ten Creepy Shakespeare Quotes for Halloween.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a Halloween freebie and I can't resist! Here are some of my favourite creepy Shakespeare quotes, full of dark omens, owls, ghosts, and sprites...

1) From Hamlet (1603)

2) From Macbeth (1606)

3) From Henry IV Part I (1597)

4) From Julius Caesar (1599)

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6) From Henry VI Part III (1591)

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7) From Macbeth (1606)

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8) From Macbeth (1606)

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9) From A Midsummer Night's Dream (1600)

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10) From The Rape of Lucrece (1594)

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Happy Halloween!

The Plays of Terence.

Publius Terentius Afer, or Terence as he is best known, is a 2nd Century B.C. Roman dramatist, possibly of Libyan descent, born around 184 B.C. and dying about 159 B.C. at the very young age of 25. He wrote six comedies in his short life, all of which have survived:
  • Andria (The Girl from Andros, 166 B.C.)
  • Hecyra (The Mother-in-Law, 165 B.C.)
  • Heauton Timorumenos (The Self-Tormentor, 163 B.C.)
  • Eunuchus (The Eunuch, 161 B.C.)
  • Phormio (161 B.C.)
  • Adelphoe (The Brothers, 160 B.C.)
I've been spending the past few weeks reading them, and because, though I enjoyed these comedies, I don't have a great amount to say about them, so I thought it best say a little about them in one post rather than in six separate posts. That said, I have already read Andria and given that a separate post, so here are my thoughts on the remaining five plays:

Hecyra, or The Mother-in-Law

Hecyra, or The Mother-in-Law was Terence's second play which was first performed in 165 B.C. however, oddly enough, it wasn't performed without interruption until 160 B.C. It was inspired by a play by Apollodorus of Carystus (also titled Hekyra, or The Mother-in-Law) and is about a young man, Pamphilus, the son of Laches and Sostra, who has fallen in love with a prostitute, Bacchis. Nevertheless he is rather struck by Philumena (the daughter of Phidippus and Myrrhina) and one day he rapes her, and takes her from her a ring which he gives to Bacchis. A short time passes, and Pamphilus agrees to an arranged marriage: his wife will be Philumena, the woman he raped, however she has kept this a secret and Pamphilus is unaware it was she he raped. Now Pamphilus is married Bacchis rejects him, and so he becomes increasingly in love with his new wife. Philumena meanwhile realises she is pregnant from the rape and is in fear her secret will be discovered, especially by Sostra, the mother-in-law of the title, who is left wondering why Philumena has apparently become very much against her. It is of course inevitable that the secret will be discovered, but I shall leave it there for readers to find out!

Heauton Timorumenos, or The Self-Tormentor

Heauton Timorumenos was first performed in 163 B.C. and appears to be inspired by Menander's play of the same title (only fragments survive of Menander's play so it is difficult to make that judgement). The 'self-tormentor' of the play is Menedemus, who in the first part of the play explains to his neighbour Chremes that his son Clinia has gone to the east as a soldier having taken a good telling off a little more to heart than Menedemus intended. When Clinia returns, accompanied by Clitipho, Chremes' son, he begs that Chremes doesn't tell Menedemus he has returned. Clinia is then reunited with his lover Antiphila (this relationship originally incurred Menedemus' wrath), who is accompanied by Bacchis, a prostitute with whom Clitipho is in love. Neither of the men want their fathers to find out about their lovers, and they are aided by Chremes' slave Syrus, who is very much like an ancient Roman Jeeves. What follows is a rather confusing account of Chremes essentially trying to sort everyone out and tell everyone what they should and should not be doing, whilst Syrus attempts to enable the various affairs. The irony is that Chremes, apparently so moral, has a secret of his own that his wife Sostra is on the point of exposing, and as he tries to organise everyone he is unaware of the many plots in his own household. It is a very complicated play indeed, perhaps a little too complicated to enjoy.

Eunuchus, or The Eunuch

Eunuchus was first performed in 161 B.C. with unprecedented success. It's essentially a re-write of Menander's play Eunouchos and tells the story of a young man, Phaedria, and his lover Thais (a prostitute): Parmeno, the slave of Phaedria, acts as an adviser to Phaedria during his stormy relationship. At the start of the play Phaedria is lamenting over his recent argument with Thais whilst Parmeno consoles and advises him. Thais then appears and we learn of the soldier Thraso who is interested in her, and he is very rich. He intends to give Thais a slave girl, Pamphila, who in fact is Thais' sister, unbeknown to Thraso. Thais plans to then return Pamphila to her brother Chremes. Nevetheless Phaedria is worried by it all and longs to marry Thais, and to prove his love he gives her two gifts: an Ethiopian slave girl and a eunuch.

Later, when Pamphila arrives, Phaedria's brother Chaerea falls for her on the moment he sees her, and, at the port, tries to follow her but loses her in the crowd. Parmeno however is able to guide him to her, telling him of the story. So that he may be close to her he decides that he will replace the eunuch to get access to the house. When he is finally alone with her he is apparently overcome and rapes her, which threatens to ruin the household. Phaedria intervenes however and, as comedies go, everything is sorted out in the end.


Phormio was first performed in the same year as The Eunuch, in 161 B.C., and, like Hecyra it was based on a play by Apollodorus of Carystus; Epidikazomenos, or The Claimant. In it we meet two brothers,  Demipho and Chremes, the latter of whom is married to Nausistrata, and together they have a son, Phaedria (hard now to ignore that Terence recycles many names for his plays). Each year Chremes travels to Lemnos to collect the rent of his wife's various properties, and each time he stays longer than is necessary and brings home less than he ought. His wife suspects nothing more than incompetence, but it is revealed that he has in fact a second 'wife' and a daughter, Phanium, and furthermore in Lemnos he is known by the name Stilpho. Demipho, meanwhile, has a son - Antipho, and it's agreed that he should marry Phanium, and pass her off as the daughter of a friend. However Geta, a slave, rather scuppers the plans after the two sons, spoilt and unpleasant, make his life difficult. When Demipho and Chremes return from Lemnos they find the pair virtually uncontrollable and in love with unsuitable women. Antipho meanwhile falls in love with a girl, who turns out to be Phanium, but her maid Sophrona tells him she will not consent to Phanium leaving her care except in marriage. This risks revealing Chremes' secret, but, with the help of Phormio, a rather shady character who goes on to exploit the miseries of the other characters, they manage to come up with a plan. This is I think my least favourite of Terence's plays: too complicated to be enjoyable.

Adelphoe, or The Brothers

Adelphoe is Terence's final play and was first performed in 160 B.C. As with The Eunuch, The Self-Tormentor, and The Girl from Andros, this play was inspired by a work of Menander's, this time Adelphoi as well as a play from another author - Diphilus (his work again of the same title Adelphoi). The brothers of the title are Demea and Micio, and Demea decides to split up his two sons Aeschinus and Ctesipho: Dema will raise Ctesipho, and Micio Aeschinus with the object of seeing which makes the better father, both with sharply contrasting methods. Aeschinus ends up raping a girl, Pamphila, the daughter of Sostrata, and must now marry her. Meanwhile Ctesipho, brought up very strictly by Dema, falls in love with a slave. To protect his brother Aeschinus takes responsibility for Ctesipho's actions, however Sostrata is made aware and believes that Aeschinus is on the point of deserting her daughter, who has now given birth. Things typically get very complicated very quickly, though the resolution is still somewhat of a surprise.

Terence's plays are typically the comedies of old: highly complicated and farcical at times, though occasionally mildly amusing. He is not my favourite playwright by any stretch, but I think it's important to read him given his influence on some of our most famous writers, Shakespeare, Molière, Wycherley, and Udall in particular. The morality of the plays, frequently centred around rape, are highly questionable, some excuse them simply as they show immorality very well, and it is certainly eye opening to read of ancient attitudes towards rape. I'm glad I've finally read Terence and, though it's unlikely I'll ever revisit them, they can at times be fairly good fun.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Exiles by James Joyce.

Exiles is James Joyce's only play, completed in 1915 and first published in 1918 between A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922), and, like Portrait of an Artist, it is rather autobiographical. Unfortunately, it's generally agreed to be his least successful work.

Exiles tells the story of Richard Rowan (a writer), his common-law wife Bertha and his friend Robert Hand, and Robert's cousin Beatrice, recently recovered from a life-threatening illness. Richard and Bertha have recently returned to Dublin from Rome. We find Bertha jealous of the close relationship of Richard and Beatrice; Robert, meanwhile, is jealous of Richard and Bertha. Robert attempts to seduce Bertha, Bertha tells Richard and he advises her to do what is right for her. When they meet again, following an awkward moment between Richard and Robert, Bertha and Robert are left alone, and what occurs is largely left to the audience's imagination. As this love-triangle plays out, Richard must also decide whether or not to settle down in Dublin and teach at the university or live, as Joyce himself did, as an 'exile'.

It is a fairly simple play, certainly not the finest I've read by a long stretch, but entertaining enough. Joyce was very influenced by Ibsen, and from the little I've read of Ibsen I see this in Exiles, the psychological drama of conflict imposed on these exiles living almost on the edge of society, their unusual relationships very much outside the norm, and their various attempts at a resolution. Because I've read so little Ibsen I'll have to refrain from saying any more on that topic and simply recommend an article from the New York Times - Revaluing James Joyce's 'Exiles' by James T. Farrell (1946). It is an entertaining play, I dare say memorable (though time will tell), but I can see why this is James Joyce's least popular work. Still, it's a must-read for Joyce fans, and I'd be curious to know what Ibsen fans make of it.

Exiles was my 43rd title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week: Marina by T. S. Eliot.

Further Reading

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Dewey's Readathon.

It's readathon day, and perfect reading weather. Last night was the lowest temperature of the season, just 1 °C, and it will no doubt get much lower as the days go by. Right now it's very misty, low cloud, quite smokey from people's chimneys, yet behind all this cloud the sun is fighting its way through, so the light here is a very beautiful pale gold (I wish I had batteries in my camera!). Temperature-wise it's pretty chilly, so I'm looking forward to sitting in front of the fire and reading.

All that said, I'll have to be an unofficial participant today: for one reason I can't stay up to late tonight, and another, if it does get a little more hospitable outside I will have to go out and plant some more bulbs. I wanted all my spring bulbs planted before the end of October and I still have a lot to go. I do think it's quite likely I'll have to break, as I type the sun is getting much brighter, though I still can't quite see it! 

Because of this expected interruption I have made an early start with reading today, though the readathon doesn't begin until 1 pm my time (8 am EDT). So far I've finished Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (I only had Act V to go to be honest), and I've read Nennius' History of the Britons, which is absolutely tiny (41 pages, large print, but I did like it however inaccurate it was!). As for other plans, I have a few lists: firstly, books I really really want to read today:
  1. The Song of Roland.
  2. La Vita Nuova by Dante.
  3. The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher.
  4. News from Nowhere by William Morris.
  5. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane.
  6. Symposium by Plato.
Other books, let's call them 'back-up books' or 'if there's time books':
  1. In Praise of Folly by Erasmus.
  2. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster.
  3. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith.
  4. Confessions of an Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey.
  5. Animal Farm by George Orwell.
  6. Ralph Roister Doister by Nicholas Udall.
Finally, books I'd like to at least start, but there's no way I'll be able to read the entire book in one sitting:
  1. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope.
  2. The Devils by Dostoyevsky.
  3. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
So, I shall press on, and I think I'll start with The Song of Roland. I'll update later today, and perhaps join in with a few of those questionnaires.

Good luck and have fun to all those participating! :)

Update: Despite not updating until now, 10 am, I have been reading a fair amount! Yesterday was on and off rain so I didn't plant my bulbs, instead I was able to read more or less all day. Here's what I read:

  1. The Song of Roland.
  2. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev.
  3. Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell.
  4. La Vita Nuova by Dante.
  5. News from Nowhere by William Morris.
  6. The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher.
  7. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster.
There are three hours left, and if it were raining I'd say with confidence that I would read the Orkneyinga Saga in that time, but the weather is fine and sunny (though very cold) and I do need to plant those bulbs. So I shall do so, then later on today I'll have some time for more reading. I hope I'll read the Orkneyinga Saga and, if there's time, just one more little book, but I fear that might be a stretch! I could perhaps read a play, in which case I'd read Ralph Roister Doister. Having said all that I'll probably not even get to start anything! But I live in hope... 

I hope everyone is having a good time still! Well done to all those who have been up all night :)

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Masterpiece by Émile Zola.

The Masterpiece (L'Œuvre) is, in publication order, the fourteenth of Émile Zola's Rougon-Macquart novels, first published in 1886 following Germinal. In it Zola continues to follow the lives of the Rougon-Macquarts, a fictional family in the time of the Second French Empire (1852–1870). In this novel, set between 1855 - 1870, we follow Claude Lantier, the son of Auguste Lantier and Gervaise Coupeau née Macquart (her story is told in L'Assommoir), and the brother of Etienne (Germinal), Jacques (The Beast Within) and Anna (better known as the famous Nana).

In L'Assommoir young Claude is adopted by an old man in Plassans (the 'seat' of the Rougon Macquarts) during a period of extreme poverty for his mother and her new husband:
An old gentleman at Plassans offered to take the older boy, Claude, and send him to an academy down there. The old man, who loved art, had previously been much impressed by Claude's sketches. Claude had already begun to cost them quite a bit.
This is virtually the last we hear of him in L'Assommoir, save a brief comment towards to the end that his brother Etienne "never mentioned Claude who was still in the south". Claude Lantier also has a role in the third novel of the series The Belly of Paris (1873, the third novel in publication order) where we learn that he is now an artist but it is not until The Masterpiece we learn his full story. In itself it is an interesting one, but it's made all the more interesting knowing its inspiration.

In The Masterpiece we see Claude in Paris with his friends Louis Dubuche and Pierre Sandoz: oddly enough it was in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung, 1899) that I learned the significance of the name "Sandoz":
In the novel of an artist's life, L'Œuvre, whose subject-matter must have suggested itself to my dream-thoughts, it is well known that the writer has portrayed himself and his own family happiness in certain episodes, appearing in this role under the name Sandoz. He probably reached this change of name along the following route. If we were to reverse Zola (as children like to do), we get Aloz. That was probably not sufficiently disguised for him; so he replaced the syllable Al, which also introduces the same Alexander [or perhaps Alexandrine, the name of Zola's wife], by the third syllable of that name, sand, and that is how Sandoz came about.
Paul Alexis reading to Émile Zola by Paul Cézanne (1869–70).
Sandoz was indeed Zola's fictional counterpart, whereas Claude was largely inspired by Zola's old friend Paul Cézanne (as well as Claude Monet and Édouard Manet). Claude is a struggling artist, like his close circle of friends comprising largely of artists and writers. In the beginning of the book he meets Christine, a woman who combines modesty and sensuality, and they develop a relationship as Christine agrees to model for him, and eventually they have a son, Jacques. Claude's intense struggle to achieve fame and produce great art is partly owning to the clash of his style with accepted tastes of the age, something his friends suffer from too. Claude's obsession however takes over his very self, his mania reflecting patterns of behaviour seen in other members of his family such as the Rougon Macquart matriarch Adélaïde Rougon (The Fortune of the Rougons and Doctor Pascal), as well as Marthe Mouret (The Conquest of Plassans), Serge Mouret (The Sin of Abbé Mouret), Angélique Rougon (The Dream), and others (the theme of heredity is crucial in understanding Zola's Rougon-Macquart novels). He gradually dehumanises and objectifies Christine seems hardly to care of her suffering, only his own when the Salon finds him a laughing stock at the works he has produced, and he neglects his son with terrible consequences.

It is perhaps no wonder, then, that Paul Cézanne cut all ties with his childhood friend, his final letter he ever sent to Zola saying,
Gardanne, April 4 1886 
Mon cher Émile, 
I’ve just received L’Œuvre, which you were kind enough to send me. I thank the author of the Rougon-Macquart for this kind token of remembrance, and ask him to allow me to wish him well, thinking of years gone by. 
Ever yours with the feeling of time passing, 
Paul Cézanne
Other artists of Zola's circle were disgruntled: Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Guillemet wrote to Zola, "In your last book [The Masterpiece] I see only sadness or impotence... God forbid that members of the little gang, as your mother used to call us, should recognise themselves in your characters. Mean-spirited, they are of little interest." Claude Monet wrote more kindly,
Though you made certain that none of your characters should resemble any one of us, I am still afraid that our enemies in the press and in the public at large may sieze this pretext to call Manet and the rest of us failures - which, I must believe, was not your intention.
Zola's novel of the Impressionists portrayed them as mad failures, it was a risk that cost him a great deal. Though I did enjoy The Masterpiece and I greatly admire this portrayal of a man descending into madness, I can't help but feel it wasn't quite worth it. For that, I am always very uncomfortable with this novel. Nevertheless, not quite masterpiece, it is an excellent work.

Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe by Édouard Manet (1863).
This painting is fictionalised in The Masterpiece as Claude Lantier's Plein Air.
Further Reading


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