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Walsingham’s Plumber

Patrick Collinson: John Bossy, 5 July 2001

Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 189 pp., £18.95, May 2001, 0 300 08400 5
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... they know you know they know you know the code.’ Peter Ustinov’s Cold War satire Romanoff and Juliet (1956) could have been about Salisbury Court, the London home in the early 1580s of the French Ambassador to the Court of Elizabeth I, Michel de Castelnau, seigneur de Mauvissière, an establishment described by ...

Travelling Hero

G.R. Wilson Knight, 19 February 1981

Coriolanus in Europe 
by David Daniell.
Athlone, 168 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 485 11192 6
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... actor as apart from the fiction, is described, the past tense may be in order. As, ‘Romeo takes Juliet by the hand,’ but ‘at this performance John held Mary’s hand too long.’ It all depends on the context, but distinctions are not precisely observed, as though the author was not used to stage commentary. If he is ...


John Bayley, 10 December 1987

John Keats 
by John Barnard.
Cambridge, 172 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 521 26691 2
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Keats as a Reader of Shakespeare 
by R.S. White.
Athlone, 250 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 485 11298 1
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... detail and come up with a host of fresh examples and insights. His book makes a good complement to John Barnard’s more general but also innovative study in the new Cambridge introductions to ‘British and Irish Authors’, a high-quality series which includes Patrick Parrinder on James Joyce and John Batchelor on ...

The Great Copyright Disaster

John Sutherland, 12 January 1995

Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright 
by Mark Rose.
Harvard, 176 pp., £21.95, October 1993, 0 674 05308 7
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Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation 
by Susan Stewart.
Duke, 353 pp., £15.95, November 1994, 0 8223 1545 9
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The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature 
edited by Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi.
Duke, 562 pp., £42.75, January 1994, 0 8223 1412 6
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... Royal Shakespeare Company, were they so minded, could move to injunct Hamlet Cigars or Romeo and Juliet condoms. There are troubling aspects to the 70-year-term extension and the strengthening of authors’ moral rights. That section of the population which buys classic reprints will have noticed that good editions of great works coincide with the end of ...

Saint Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 19 August 2010

... Mary Stuart of Scotland). Only 30 or 40 years after this crowded hour, Mercutio, in Romeo and Juliet, says: ‘A plague on both your houses.’ He was not, of course, speaking ecclesiastically, but the phrase has a usefulness. So does Donne’s actually ecclesiastical comment, in his ‘Satire III’, roughly contemporary with Shakespeare’s play, that ...

Maximum Assistance from Good Cooking, Good Clothes, Good Drink

Frank Kermode: Auden’s Shakespeare, 22 February 2001

Lectures on Shakespeare 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Arthur Kirsch.
Faber, 398 pp., £30, February 2001, 9780571207121
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... and never lets you down?’ He discusses these matters at some length in his lecture on Romeo and Juliet. And although for the most part he proceeds dutifully through the canon he occasionally jibs at plays he despises – The Taming of the Shrew is one, The Merry Wives of Windsor another. Indeed he declined to discuss The Merry Wives, and told the class they ...

A Girl Called Retina

Tom Crewe: You’ll like it when you get there, 13 August 2020

British Summer Time Begins: The School Summer Holidays, 1930-80 
by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £18.99, July, 978 1 4087 1055 5
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... in winter.’ These are women with names like Bubble Carew-Pole and Charlotte Bradley-Hanford and Juliet Mount Charles. Women who can say things like ‘My parents chose Wycombe Abbey because it was the nearest girls’ boarding school to Harley Street,’ or ‘My parents chose Heathfield because none of the girls had spots.’ Or, ‘My mother went to West ...


William Wootten: Alun Lewis and ‘Frieda’, 5 July 2007

A Cypress Walk: Letters to ‘Frieda’ 
by Alun Lewis.
Enitharmon, 224 pp., £20, October 2006, 1 904634 30 3
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... read poetry. Ian Hamilton edited a selection of Lewis’s work, and there is a good biography by John Pikoulis. But his achievement has been hard to focus on. He moved quickly as a poet, and the poetry he wrote while on home service is markedly different from that written after his arrival in India in December 1942. There are also short stories, among the ...
Leaving a Doll’s House: A Memoir 
by Claire Bloom.
Virago, 288 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 1 86049 146 4
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... the boards: ‘I had no idea that I would be breaking new ground when I played the role of Juliet. I just played her as honestly and passionately as I knew how.’ Her descriptions of friends and lovers, meanwhile, are composed exclusively in autobiographese – that maddening modern idiom in which all experience is ‘marvellous’ or ‘a ...

Jours de Fête

Mark Thornton Burnett, 9 January 1992

Shakespeare’s Festive World: Elizabethan Seasonal Entertainment and the Professional Stage 
by François Laroque, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Cambridge, 423 pp., £45, September 1991, 0 521 37549 5
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... time in earlier communities. Perhaps there is too great a reliance upon certain writers (such as John Aubrey and Philip Stubbes), and arguably the eccentricities of some folkloric approaches are countenanced over-generously: but Laroque would be the first to admit that the sources are fragmentary, and his coverage of a range of anthropological perspectives ...

Rosy Revised

Robert Olby: Rosalind Franklin, 20 March 2003

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA 
by Brenda Maddox.
HarperCollins, 380 pp., £20, June 2002, 0 00 257149 8
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... chief source for a 1987 BBC television film called Life’s Story, in which Franklin was played by Juliet Stevenson. She gave a remarkable performance, and Crick’s impression was that she was ‘not only the true centre of the film – she is almost the only person who really appears to be doing science.’ Here was the beginning of a revaluation of ...

Unsex me here

John Bayley, 20 May 1982

Shakespeare’s Division of Experience 
by Marilyn French.
Cape, 376 pp., £12.50, March 1982, 0 224 02013 7
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... 18th-century critic Maurice Morgann suggested in his ‘Essay on the Dramatic Career of Sir John Falstaff’, Shakespeare’s art is to make us infer far more material about the nature and potential of his characters than is needed for the action of the play. Cordelia is not pinned to her filial devotion and her demise at the hands of Edmund’s ...

Homage to the Provinces

Peter Campbell, 22 March 1990

Wright of Derby 
by Judy Egerton.
Tate Gallery, 294 pp., £25, February 1990, 1 85437 038 3
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... attitude of one who is about to play; he was probably a banker’s son. In 1769 Wright painted Mrs John Ashton. The Quakerish modesty of her black and white dress is belied by its gloss. Her late husband had been in the slave trade. Mrs Sarah Clayton (a courtesy ‘Mrs’, she was unmarried) held a leading position in the coal trade in Liverpool; she points to ...

Nothing Is Unmixed

Michael Wood: Shakespeare’s Vows, 28 July 2016

Shakespeare’s Binding Language 
by John Kerrigan.
Oxford, 622 pp., £35, March 2016, 978 0 19 875758 0
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... There is a touch​ of Shylock in this,’ John Kerrigan says of a moment in King Lear. There are touches of Shylock in many places outside The Merchant of Venice, and indeed outside Shakespeare altogether, but this one is of unusual interest. It is in Cordelia’s speech responding to her father’s question about which of his daughters loves him most – well, to be precise, which of his daughters he is to say loves him most ...

If my sister’s arches fall

Laura Jacobs: Agnes de Mille, 6 October 2016

Dance to the Piper 
by Agnes de Mille.
NYRB, 368 pp., £11.99, February 2016, 978 1 59017 908 6
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... piece called Appalachian Spring in collaboration with Aaron Copland and Isamu Noguchi. In 1945, John Cage and Merce Cunningham would marry their exploratory sensibilities. All these artists were struggling, in the words of Lincoln Kirstein, who co-founded the New York City Ballet, ‘to impose a native meaning on a recalcitrant alien dance ...

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