Wednesday, 30 October 2013

How stories grow

I'm always interested in the question of when and why a "literary" story makes it off the review pages, or indeed out of the academic world, into the "news" sphere. The "new scene by Shakespeare" versus "possible new attribution to Fletcher" scenario ... An under-estimated aspect is the desire of an individual, either regional or freelance, journalist to place a story nationally. It was thanks to Dalya Alberge's interest and tenacity that Collaborative Plays by Shakespeare and Others briefly became a news story. By the same account, my other half, Paula Byrne, had an interesting experience this week: answered a question about the Jane Austen banknote at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival (not exactly the buzzing heart of breaking news), pointing out that it is the "airbrushed" Victorian engraving, not the original portrait (or caricature?) by her sister. An enterprising local journo from Radio Solent is there. She does an interview with Paula for her local station, but then, presumably in order to give good profile to Solent within the fragile ecology of local radio, suggests to Radio Five Live that this could also be worth an interview. Next thing, it is the Today programme, stories in almost every national newspaper and a global twitterstorm. The mediation of author pictures (cf. Chandos versus Droeshout, whether Cobb Portrait really is Sir Thomas Overbury etc. etc.) is a fascinating subject, but of course the "mainstream media" is only interested if (a) there is a controversy, and (b) it's about a big name - Austen or Shakespeare (as opposed to, say, Burney or Fletcher - my candidate for the sitter in the "Sanders Portrait").

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Shakespeare's Mucedorus?

What, then, is the claim? Other than that the stage direction "being pursued with a bear" in a King's Men revival of 1610 cannot be entirely unconnected with Shakespeare ...
The new claim, made in Collaborative Plays by Shakespeare and Others, is that the following scene in the revised Mucedorus is either Shakespeare or someone else - Fletcher, perhaps - writing very self-consciously in the style of Shakespeare:

[SCENE 10]
Sound music
Enter the King of Valencia, Anselmo, Roderigo, Lord Barachius, with others
VALENCIA Enough of music, it but adds to torment:
            Delights to vexèd spirits are as dates
            Set to a sickly man, which rather cloy than comfort.
            Let me entreat you to entreat no more.
RODERIGO Let your strings sleep: have done there!     Let the music cease
VALENCIA Mirth, to a soul disturbed, are embers turned,
            Which sudden gleam with molestation,
            But sooner lose their light for’t.
’Tis gold bestowed upon a rioter
Which not relieves, but murders him:
’Tis a drug given to the healthful,
Which infects not cures.
How can a father that hath lost his son—
A prince both wise, virtuous and valiant—
Take pleasure in the idle acts of time?
No, no: till Mucedorus I shall see again
All joy is comfortless, all pleasures pain.
ANSELMO Your son, my lord, is well.
VALENCIA I prithee, speak that thrice.
ANSELMO The prince, your son, is safe.
VALENCIA O, where, Anselmo? Surfeit me with that.
ANSELMO In Aragon, my liege,
And at his parture, bound my secrecy,
By his affectious love, not to disclose it.
But care of him and pity of your age
Makes my tongue blab what my breast vowed, concealment.
VALENCIA Thou not deceiv’st me: I ever thought thee
            What I find thee now, an upright, loyal man.
            But what desire or young-fed humour
            Nursed within the brain
Drew him so privately to Aragon?
ANSELMO A forcing adamant:
            Love mixed with fear and doubtful jealousy,
            Whether report gilded a worthless trunk,
            Or Amadine deserved her high extolment.
VALENCIA See our provision be in readiness:
            Collect us followers of the comeliest hue
            For our chief guardians: we will thither wend.
            The crystal eye of heaven shall not thrice wink
            Nor the green flood six times his shoulders turn,
            Till we salute the Aragonian king.
            Music speak loudly now, the season’s apt,
            For former dolours are in pleasure wrapped.