Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth.
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night\'s Dream
A couple of weeks ago I went to watch a production of Shakespeare\'s Taming of the Shrew - which, somewhat bizarrely was set in the American West. Once I had been able to tune into the unfortunately bad faux-American accents I settled back to enjoy a great show. But, I couldn\'t quite get into the play. Don\'t get me wrong, I love Shakespeare (with Twelfth Night my favourite play), but Taming of the Shrew just doesn\'t ring true with me. Many of Shakespeare\'s themes and concerns are still valid today (Never a borrower or a lender be…) but the open misogyny of Taming... doesn\'t really have a place in society today. And as I read the first blog post submitted to the History Carnival this month I was immediately reminded of Taming of the Shrew and thought that it would be interesting to theme this month\'s carnival along Shakespearian lines. So here we go…
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labor both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love and obey.
The Taming of the Shrew
The words above mark the moment that the previously independent, feisty Katherine finally gives in to the \'training\' she is subjected to by her abusive husband, which I found remarkably apt when reading this blog about the life of Florence Bravo on the Scandalous Women site. The blog is an intriguing insight into the life of a Victorian woman, who despite her wealth was unable to escape from a cycle of abusive relationships and disgrace.
Macbeth: “Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?”
Doctor: “Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.”
The next blog submitted follows on comfortably from the sad tale of Elizabeth Bravo. At History Hoydens is a blog about the lives of Charles and Mary Lamb, beginning just after Mary Lamb had murdered her mother in a fit of lunacy - unable to cope with the duel stresses of professional writing whilst maintaining a home and performing the established role of a woman in the household. The post emphasises the gritty reality behind an often-romanticised period.
Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.
The sonnet above is often used by researchers to justify the ongoing rumours that Shakespeare regularly took hallucinogenic drugs to aid him in his writing. A BBC report here discusses how fragments of old pipes found in the garden of Shakespeare\'s home in Stratford-upon-Avon contained traces of cannabis. The reference to “new found methods, and to compounds strange” and “invention in a noted weed” are seen to add credence to the theory that Shakespeare had dabbled in drugs. But, the reaction to drug taking today has changed dramatically today. At Obscene Desserts is a blog about an early drugs bust - with a twist! In 1804 a Mr William Pouce was tried and sentenced to a month in prison and a public whipping when he was found to be in possession of Opium. But, it was the fact that he had stolen the Opium from a merchant which got him the sentence that he received - not the fact that he was carrying around drugs!
O, I have passed a miserable night,
So full of fearful dreams, of ugly sights,
That, as I am a Christian faithful man,
I would not spend another such a night
Though \'twere to buy a world of happy days,
So full of dismal terror was the time.
The events of 9/11 changed the world. It is one of those moments that will stay with you forever. It may seem like a cliché, but you will probably always remember what you were doing when those aircraft struck the Twin Towers - watching the events that followed in horror. Since the attacks it has been difficult to really explain the events of the day, almost as if examining the attacks would bring the horror of the occasion crashing back. Larry Ferlazzo\'s Websites of the Day tackles this with a blog on the best sites to help teach about 9/11 - particularly for young students or for English Language learners.
I should fear those that dance before me now
Would one day stamp upon me
Timon of Athens
The next blog from the History News Network left me in stitches. Using early film editing techniques a film was created that showed Nazis dancing along to the Lambeth Walk. There is a video of it up at the blog - it is definitely worth a watch - a truly bizarre piece of propaganda film!
And arte made tung-tide by authoritie,
And Folly (Doctor-like) controuling skill,
And simple-Truth miscalde Simplicitie,
And captive-good attending Captaine ill.
Sir Topas, never was man thus wronged: good Sir
Topas, do not think I am mad: they have laid me
here in hideous darkness.
Two Shakespeare quotes for the next blog - the first sees Shakespeare reject the role of censorship with regards to art (which can be tongue tied by authority). The second quote comes from Twelfth Night, where the overall frivolity is suddenly undercut by the overt cruelty displayed towards the hapless Malvolio, who is locked in a dark room, and cruelly inflicted to psychological torture. At Progressive Historians, both torture and censorship are examined in this blog about the censorship of the story about the torture Death of Kim Soo-im. I am not sure about the blog\'s assertions that the world is heading for a final nuclear war - but it does make for interesting reading.
- Perplex'd in the extreme; of one whose hand,
- Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
- Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdu'd eyes
- Albeit unused to the melting mood,
- Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
- Their med'cinable gum. Set you down this;
- And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
- Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk
- Beat a Venetian and traduc'd the state,
- I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
- And smote him thus.
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well.
All that glitters is not gold.
So much of Shakespeare\'s work has entered the daily vernacular - sit through any of his plays and you are sure to hear words or phrases that have become part of our day to day language. Above are two of the most misquoted lines in the Shakespearean canon. The actual quotes run “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy” and “All that glisters is not gold”. At A Historian\'s Craft the dangers of misquotes or bad citations are discussed - showing how easily our words can be manipulated into saying something totally different. The blog also discusses whether or not a historian could be called on to make a statement about morality or whether moral judgement should not be made by historians who should instead just deliver information on what happened, with no bias or preconception.
Ford - “If money go before, all ways do lie open.”
Falstaff - “Money is a good soldier, sir, and will on.”
The Merry Wives of Windsor
The next submission from Appalachian History tells the story of America\'s most famous soldier and what happened to him on his return for the First World War. It goes on to show that a soldier\'s bravery does not necessarily lead to success outside of the military, as Alvin C. York\'s brave efforts to provide a better education for others than what he received end up in bankruptcy and corruption charges.
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
it seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.
Speaking of bravery and heroism, a recent article sparked an interesting debate on the Osprey Publishing blog (and on a forum) when Richard asked who Britain\'s greatest military hero is. Is it the figure head, brilliant general whose leadership and ability will win the day, saving the lives of soldiers without firing a shot in anger? Or is it the individual on the ground, whose individual acts of bravery in the face of untold danger saves the lives of those around him?
There is a history in all men's lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceased,
The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie intreasurèd.
The last post this month is from The World\'s Fair, and asks what difference the history of science makes to the world. The blog maintains that experts all agree on one thing - that a continuing debate is necessary on whether the history of science has a use. But this continuing debate never seems to materialise. Even blogs and forums - where this sort of debate would fit in comfortably are conspicuously empty of debate. Individual blogs touch on the subject, but seem to ignore each other. Maybe Shakespeare has it right after all…
Tis well said again;
And 'tis a kind of good deed to say well:
And yet words are no deeds.
Next months carnival is due to be hosted by Jennie Weber at American Presidents Blog on the 1st October. Submissions can be entered by using the form here.
And finally - at the last minute I received four blogs from the Edge of the American West, which I just couldn't leave out - so here they are!
The first is about the 'One Bomb' strategy used on Hiroshima at the end of WW2.
The second deals with the anniversary of the social security act.
The next examines the impact that the Wizard of Oz had on cinema.
And the last is about the challenges that faced James Meredith who was the first African American to graduate from the University of Mississippi.