William Shakespeare

Body of Richard III Identified

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History is always a subject without end.  The body of the last Plantagenet king of England, Richard III has been identified:

 

“The verification came after scientific tests were used to match DNA samples taken from Canadian-born Michael Ibsen, a direct descendent of Anne of York, Richard’s elder sister.

“For me it’s an absolute privilege to be a part, even in a small way, of such a historically significant series of events,” said Ibsen, a furniture-maker in London.

The debate that has risen out of this finding has provoked the nation to rethink the legacy of Richard III, cast in British history by Shakespeare as a deformed villain, who locked his young nephews — rivals to the throne — in the Tower of London, where they are thought to have met their demise.

Richard III’s grave, which was found underneath the Leicester site in the remains of Greyfriars friary, had been lost during the religious reforms of Henry VIII. Richard, the last king of England to fall on the battlefield, was slain in the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field while defending his crown against the raiding upstart, Henry VII. He was famously depicted in Shakespeare’s “Richard III” crying out before his death: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”” Continue reading

Coriolanus

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Though the great houses love us not, we own, to do them right,

That the great houses, all save one, have borne them well in fight.

Still Caius of Corioli, his triumphs and his wrongs,

His vengeance and his mercy, live in our camp-fire songs.

Thomas Babbington Macaulay

The above film is being released on December 2, 2011 here in the US, and I am greatly looking forward to it.  Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s plays that is not performed as regularly as other plays of the Bard, which is a shame, because it is a powerful play about love and hate.  Gnaeus Marcius is a Roman patrician who fought in Rome’s wars shortly after the expulsion from Rome of the last of the Tarquin Kings and the foundation of the Roman Republic, conventionally dated at 508 BC.  Our ancient sources in regard to his career are plentiful, including Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Livy, Appian and Plutarch.  Unfortunately these writers wrote 450-600 years after the time of Coriolanus, and early Roman history is almost impossible to distinguish myth from fact.

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Agincourt

 

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Something for the weekend.  Agincourt by the ever talented folks at History for Music Lovers, to the tune of As Tears Go By, by Marianne Faithful.

October 25, 1415 was an amazing day for the English.  The English longbow had long proved in the Hundred Years War to be a devastating weapon in the hands of skilled archers, but rarely had the English faced such long odds as they did at Agincourt.  Approximately 6,000 English, exhausted and worn from their march, faced approximately 30,000 French.  About five out of six of the English were archers with the remainder men-at-arms, knights and nobility.  The French had about 10,000 men-at-arms, knights and nobility, and 20,000 archers, crossbowmen and miscellaneous infantry.

The English established their battle line between the woods of Agincourt and Tramecourt, which offered excellent protection to both of their flanks.  The English archers made up the front line with stakes set in the ground before them to impale charging horses.  Archers were also placed in the woods to provide flanking fire against advancing French.  The men at arms and knights and nobility, were divided into three forces behind the archers.  They fought on foot.

The terrain between the woods that the French would have to cross in their attack of the English consisted of newly ploughed, and very muddy, fields.  Having walked through muddy fields on several occasions in rural Illinois, I can attest that simply getting from point A to point B in such terrain can be exhausting, let alone fighting at the end of the tramp through the morass. Continue reading

Henry V Times Four

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No special reason to post this, other than I have always loved this speech, and one video containing four perormances of the “band of brothers” speech from Henry V is too sweet not to share with our readers.  Courage, memory and love are powerful motivators, and this speech is a reminder of just how powerful: Continue reading

What is a Youth?

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Something for the weekend.  What is a Youth from Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968).  I think this film is the most beautiful adaptation of Shakespeare’s paean to young love. Continue reading

Age of Kings?

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I love Shakespeare and I love history, so I naturally glommed on to Shakespeare’s An Age of Kings (Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III) after it was released by the BBC in this country.  The plays are divided into 15 episodes, a total of 947 minutes.  First broadcast in 1960, the plays present a galaxy of British actors and actresses who later went on to build outstanding careers.  The two standouts are Sean Connery as Harry Hotspur,   and Robert Hardy as Juvenile Delinquent turned Hero King Henry V.   It should be remembered however that these were originally broadcast in 1960 and the visual quality is often not of the best.  Nonetheless, mediocre black and white visuals detract not a whit from the superb performances.  This would be a good set for homeschooling parents who wish to introduce their kids to Shakespeare.

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