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Glimpsed in the Glare

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in 1606, 17 December 2015

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 423 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 571 23578 0
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... against Parliament, that the recusant Lord Monteagle handed over to James’s secretary of state, Robert Cecil, just before the plot was exposed. But Shakespeare had used a similar plot device in Twelfth Night (the comedy that is remembered in the Fool’s song at the end of Act III, scene ii), and even Shapiro admits that the writing of the episode in King ...

Money Man

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in Company, 6 February 2014

Shakespeare in Company 
by Bart van Es.
Oxford, 357 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 956931 1
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... company for whom Shakespeare crafted striking parts, among them the clown Will Kemp’s successor, Robert Armin. Armin’s distinctive style of clowning provided the basis for a succession of melancholy fools: Touchstone, Thersites, Feste and Lavatch. But even he seems to have been expendable. In Lear’s Fool, van Es writes, Shakespeare tested ‘this ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... Uwe Kitzinger, who published a fascinating ‘instant’ study of the campaign in 1976, but Robert Saunders offers something different: a comprehensive historical account, which relates debates about Europe to the wider social and cultural contexts of Britain in the 1970s. The Sex Discrimination Act became law in 1975, and Saunders devotes considerable ...

Physicke from Another Body

Michael Neill: Cannibal Tinctures, 1 December 2011

Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture 
by Louise Noble.
Palgrave Macmillan, 241 pp., £52, March 2011, 978 0 230 11027 4
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Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians 
by Richard Sugg.
Routledge, 374 pp., £24.99, June 2011, 978 0 415 67417 1
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... them Queen Elizabeth’s surgeon, John Banister, as well as Francis Bacon, Sir Kenelm Digby and Robert Boyle. Mummy continued to be dispensed well into the 18th century, when Robert James’s Pharmacopeia Universalis (1747) advised: Mummy resolves coagulated Blood, and is said to be effectual in purging the Head, against ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest, 22 March 2018

The Shakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... a Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield (c.1590), Antony Munday’s two-part Downfall and Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon (1598) and Jonson’s unfinished Sad Shepherd – remember or re-enact the paradigmatic story of Robin Hood. In George Peele’s Edward I, the Welsh bandit Prince Lluellen and his followers give their cause a veneer of mischievous ...

Where will the judges sit?

Stephen Sedley: What will happen to the Law Lords?, 16 September 1999

The House of Lords: Its Parliamentary and Judicial Roles 
edited by Brice Dickson and Paul Carmichael.
Hart, 258 pp., £30, December 1998, 1 84113 020 6
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Constitutional Futures: A History of the Next Ten Years 
edited by Robert Hazell.
Oxford, 263 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 0 19 829801 3
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The Law and Parliament 
edited by Dawn Olivier and Gavin Drewry.
Butterworth, 219 pp., £15.95, September 1998, 0 406 98092 6
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Crown Powers: Subject and Citizens 
by Christopher Vincenzi.
Pinter, 343 pp., £47.50, April 1998, 1 85567 454 8
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... of Lord of Appeal in Ordinary to ensure that only real judges would sit in future. That it was, in Robert Stevens’s words in the Dickson and Carmichael volume, ‘the work of a group of right-wing Tory MPs who cared nothing for law, the courts or litigants, but were anxious to prop up the hereditary principle by creating a group of judges who might balance ...

They would have laughed

Ferdinand Mount: The Massacre at Amritsar, 4 April 2019

Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre 
by Kim A. Wagner.
Yale, 325 pp., £20, February 2019, 978 0 300 20035 5
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... who executed fifty prisoners by blowing them from guns after the Kuka outbreak in 1872. Sir Robert Davies, O’Dwyer’s predecessor as lieutenant governor of Punjab, defended Cowan wholeheartedly: ‘Blowing from a gun is an impressive and merciful manner of execution, well calculated to strike terror into the bystanders.’ Mountstuart ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... feet and inches, as for police records. Moira Shearer had rich material to go on in Sir Robert Helpmann, with his ‘bulging forehead and wide protruding eyes’, narrow shoulders, large diaphragm and ‘thin unmuscular legs’; fine for balletic and dramatic roles, but ‘in modern dress he seemed too fantastic to be believable’. Lord David ...


Alan Bennett: Where was I in 1987?, 10 December 1987

... 3 July. My TV film The Insurance Man has won the ‘Beautiful Human Life Award’ in Japan and Robert Hines, the young actor who starred in the film, has been out to Tokyo to collect the citation. He calls round with a souvenir for me. It is a headband as worn by Kamikaze pilots. In the market today: ‘Listen, there’s nothing you can teach me about ...


Alan Bennett: A Shameful Year, 8 January 2004

... as once, at least, the river has seen slaughter. It was in 1388 that Richard II’s favourite, Robert Vere, led his army floundering along this flooded valley, desperate to escape his baronial pursuers, who eventually caught up and cut most of them down a little upstream at Radcot Bridge.15 February. R. and I go down to Leicester Square at noon, the Tube ...


Marina Warner: Medea, 3 December 2015

... the season. The effect followed partly from the translation of the Iliad they’d chosen, Robert Fagles’s from 1990. Fagles goes for the choppy, hard stuff, preferring percussive consonants and end-stopped monosyllables. Some of the pastoral and domestic similes were cut, and a few of the interpolated myths were dropped. The effect was to man up an ...

Cronyism and Clientelism

Peter Geoghegan, 5 November 2020

... press would immediately label as evidence of kleptocracy if they happened in another country. Robert Jenrick remains housing secretary despite admitting ‘apparent bias’ in overruling planning inspectors and the local council to approve Richard Desmond’s Westferry Printworks development – 24 hours before the introduction of hefty new levies that ...

Dreams of the Decades

Liz Jobey: Bill Brandt, 8 July 2004

Bill Brandt: A Life 
by Paul Delany.
Cape, 336 pp., £35, March 2004, 0 224 05280 2
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Bill Brandt: A Centenary Retrospective 
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... on Buddenbrooks for life among the haute bourgeoisie in prewar Germany and Swiss sanatoria, and Robert Musil’s Young Törless for possible events during Brandt’s schooldays. Where there is no proof, there is supposition. For example: ‘There is ample evidence that Brandt suffered a psychic wound in his school days, something so hurtful that it affected ...

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