Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Time Travel is orgasmic bliss in your armchair

Jacques Coulardeau at (21)

Dr Jacques Coulardeau

University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne
University of Paris Dauphine*

Université Paris Dauphine
Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne

Herbert Georges Wells (1866-1946) witnessed eighty years of our developing industrial world during which all basic productive activities bloomed to produce our present mass consumer society based on mass production and the industrial and agricultural, financial, services, communications, entertainment and labor mass markets. He witnessed the growth of the two extreme ideologies produced by this industrial world, communism (or Stalinism) and Nazism (or fascism). He also witnessed the development of biology and particularly Darwinism and his evolution of species, the survival of the fittest, and the birth and elaboration of the theory of relativity and the physics that emerged from it or at the same time. Finally, he witnessed, both in Europe and the USA, the junction of the analysis of society in two antagonistic classes and their class struggle for domination, even reduced to the American simplified approach of the rich and the poor, what he calls himself the “haves” and the “have-nots” (53) on one hand, and Darwinism on the other hand. He died in 1946 after witnessing the fall of the extreme racist form of this social Darwinism (Nazism and fascism) but also the seemingly triumphant expansion of the second form of it, Stalinism.
The Time Machine was published in 1895.We should also consider Wells’ The Invisible Man (1897). Wells first warns us about the biological-and-social-danger of our social Darwinism in The Time Machine and about the plain criminal danger of the uncontrolled development of science in The Invisible Man. This cannot represent a fear of the modern world since Wells was a socialist, but the sign of an independent mind in symbiosis with a quickly changing world.

I will concentrate on the ideological message of The Time Machine along with two adaptations of this short novel to the silver screen. George Pal’s (1960) shows how the book was read before 1968, the turning point towards mass-consumerism and mass-communication. Simon Wells’ (2002) shows how it is read after the no-return turning point of globalization, September 11 and the war on terror. These two adaptations deviate from the original novella in concordance with their times. I will consider these two films in Marshall McLuhan’s perspective that states the message is the medium, which implies the meaning of the films can only be considered from the moment the films meet an audience. The audience gives meaning to the film that is nothing but a hollow shell otherwise. Note this approach is similar to Kenneth Burke’s dramatist theory. This implies that a film’s meaning will change through time along with the audience that builds meaning into the film.


Le Théâtre est le miroir de nos angoisses

Jacques Coulardeau at (15)

C’est un long voyage au cœur des arts de la scène que nous allons faire à travers dix siècles d’histoire.

Tous nos arts poussent leurs racines dans un héritage judéo-chrétien fort ancien, sans parler de la  mythologie grecque. L’histoire des dix derniers siècles d’arts dramatiques est marquée par un long parcours progressif d’une acceptation de la téléologie judéo-chrétienne à sa négation absolue au profit d’une téléologie « humaniste » dont la forme ultime est le scientisme naturaliste ou social de Darwin et Marx (et surtout de leurs continuateurs). Depuis une dizaine d’années, […] [n]ous vivons aujourd’hui les prémisses du siècle des religions.

Nous allons ainsi parcourir environ vingt-cinq siècles d’histoire humaine occidentale. Nous partirons des bases judéo-chrétiennes de la Bible, Ancien et Nouveau Testament, pour planter le décor. Puis nous passerons au théâtre (même si certains considèrent que la Bible est une mise en scène, sans jeu de mot sur ce dernier item lexical). Le Moyen Âge nous offrira des illustrations de la première phase d’une référence biblique triomphante. Puis les temps baroques nous montreront comment une distanciation progressivement se construit avec une référence à la nature et à la psychologie des personnages. Ensuite nous regarderons de prêt le révélateur « FAUST » de Marlowe à Gounod. Nous y verrons Dieu en train de mourir avant même la notice nécrologique de Hegel écrite en lettres d’or à la cheminée de la philosophie, sans parler de celle de Marx gravée dans le marbre de la stèle funéraire et mortifère de la lutte des classes comme explication finale et absolue du monde. Puis nous suivrons cette mort de Dieu chez le Juif (et cela est capital) Gustav Mahler et le Slave Igor Stravinsky (associé à Jean Cocteau). Nous déboucherons alors sur l’ère du cinéma et sur un monde qui n’a plus de Dieu, mais qui pourtant recherche une téléologie qu’il construit de toutes pièces, avec parfois le vieux modèle de la Genèse au fond des yeux. Et ce cinéma est le livre sacré des auditoires les plus larges qui sont formés, informés et même déformés ou conformés par ces images colorées et animées qu’on leur projette à longueur de journée, et de nuit, sur toutes sortes d’écran.

Nous finirons ce voyage avec deux métaphores dramatiques. D’une part Good Bye Lenin, la métaphore de la disparition de la téléologie communiste, marxiste ou stalinienne, comme on veut. D’autre part La Passion du Christ de Mel Gibson, la métaphore du retour en force du modèle téléologique christique. […]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


The end of the world according to Saint Dolan


That’s a film I would recommend to neurotic people who are slightly paranoid and consider they are misunderstood and unable to communicate with anyone. And when they try it’s the end of the world because they can’t speak more than three words and because they dare address people directly and personally. Add to this Asperger syndrome the fact that we are in a family with a compulsive speaker, the mother who tells always and over and over again the same stories that everyone knows but that everyone is supposed to listen to and appreciate. Add to that we have an elder brother, Antoine, and a younger brother, Louis. And one more re-visit to Cain and Abel. The elder brother is the one who works in a factory, like Cain after his crime. Louis is apparently writing plays in a big distant city and he is successful, just like Abel was with God for his well grown vegetables, these things that you have to sweat to grow, whereas Cain, before his crime was just looking after herds of animals, no sweat or not too much anyway. Bad boy! And the symbols are crossed, mixed and we have lost the light of the divine curse in the meantime and replaced it with a simple human curse.

Add to those a sister, Suzanne, who is apparently completely locked up in her room, doing nothing, living on her mother and with her mother, sketching nice little drawings that she will never bring out to any fame. She is a recluse of sorts. Antoine is married and his wife, Catherine, is a mother of several children. If I have understood properly there is a son who is called Louis, not like the younger brother but like the father who is cruelly absent from the present situation, and one or two girls. The relation between Antoine and Catherine is explosive all the time because Antoine does not like to speak and he does not like to listen, so he does not like people who speak, particularly about things that may concern him.

Louis has come to say something but in the end he will say something that is not what has any importance, and is probably not what he wanted to say and he will not say what is so important for him at this moment and why he has come back “home.” In some short sentences here and there and not more than here and there, we learn he was living in the gay area of his city, but he has moved out though he has kept the address. He gets a phone call some time in the afternoon but we cannot know who it is from. He has a flashback about a love scene in the old place of his family, when he was a teenager, and we assume that we are dealing with a man by the body language more than anything else, and Antoine will tell him at the end of a car ride that was difficult that Pierre Jolicoeur just died of cancer, “Your Pierre!” That’s all we know.

Louis’ departure is very difficult because Antoine wants to drive him to the airport but everyone finds this departure slightly too fast and Antoine becomes violent with Louis, so the mother takes Antoine out, the sister disappears and Catherine goes out to rejoin Antoine and the mother on the back terrace.

Typical film by Xavier Nolan who is just, with age, getting more discreet about gayness and gay life but it all turns around the same thing: two brothers or two young men who are related in a way or another and a third one that becomes the lover of one of the two, causing the jealousy of the other and some kind of death falls onto the third one, the lover who is here called with the nice name of Jolicoeur, or Fair-heart. The style is very slow moments entirely centered on one or two close-up shots of faces and their facial language that is telling more than the words which are limited. With now and then one very short sequence of violence in words or in body language or in physical gestures. And yes in such families the end of the world could be happening outside they would not be able to see it. And in this case we will never know what important thing Louis wanted to tell, except that he had an episode of vomiting in the bathroom implying what he wanted to tell was serious, had to do with his health, but we will be frustrated for ever, and it can’t be morning sickness since we were told he can’t have children.


Ce film est tellement typique de Xavier Dolan que j’ai envie d’en finir comme Louis en deux fois trois mots comme: “C’est plutôt moche ! » ou « Pourrait faire mieux ! » Mais après tout je peux délayer ces pépites tri-morphiques et vous en donner un peu plus.

Loin de la grande ville d’où Louis vient on découvre une famille Québécoise plus que dérangeante. Une mère trône au centre et est une parlante compulsive qui aime à raconter toujours les mêmes histoires que tout le monde connait mais que tout le monde doit apprécier. Ce qui n’est pas le cas du fils aîné Antoine qui travaille dans une petite usine locale à faire des outils. Le père est absolument absent, probablement mort, mais qu’importe. La seule chose que l’on apprend de lui est qu’il s’appelait Louis.

Le fils aîné Antoine est marié à Catherine et ils ont plusieurs enfants dont un fils nommé Louis du prénom de son grand-père (tradition oblige) et pas de son oncle. Il n’aime pas parler et il n’aime pas écouter si bien qu’il devient vociférant et linguistiquement violent quand les autres parlent, particulièrement son épouse. Ambiance de luxe. Le fils cadet a quitté la famille il y a longtemps. Il a 34 ans et est revenu pour dire quelque chose d’important. Il s’appelle Louis, montrant ainsi que le père était un personnage secondaire puisque la tradition du nom du père au fils aîné n’a pas été respectée. Ce fils Louis est allé à la grande ville et il écrit des pièces de théâtre. Il vivait dans le quartier gay mais il dit qu’il l’a quitté tout en gardant son adresse là. Il a un coup de téléphone dans la salle de bain dans l’après-midi avec une personne qu’on ne peut pas identifier. Mais à la fin d’une ballade en voiture Antoine dit à Louis que Pierre, Pierre Jolicoeur, est mort. Cancer. « Ton Pierre ! » On avait déjà eu un flashback peu avant d’une scène d’amour entre Louis jeune et un homme qu’l’on ne peut identifier comme tel que par le langage corporel. Il venait dans la chambre de Louis en passant par la fenêtre et en partant dès que c’était fini.

Ce flash back était venu après un épisode de vomissement de Louis dans la salle de bain, ce qui laissait entendre qu’il avait à révéler un état de santé délicat, et ce ne pouvait pas être une grossesse et sa maladie du matin. Quand il finira par dire quelque chose cela tournera si mal qu’il ne dira que des incongruités et n’aura pas le temps d’arriver aux choses sérieuses et comme il doit partir rapidement Antoine le brusque un peu pour le voiturer jusqu’à l’aéroport. La scène d’adieux devient violente car la sœur Suzanne, un être renfermé sur elle-même ,et sur sa chambre, devient véhémente. La mère s’en même, et même Catherine y va d’un mot ou deux. Antoine devient alors violent à l’égard de Louis et c’est la mère qui calme le jeu et entraîne Antoine dans le patio derrière la maison, suivie de Catherine, et Suzanne descend dans sa chambre de recluse. Louis partira seul sans avoir dit ce qu’il avait à dire.

On a là comme une matrice féconde pour Xavier Dolan. Deux jeunes hommes et un troisième qui se glisse entre eux, le troisième étant clairement gay. Le frère aîné dans ce cas devient jaloux et cela explique le départ précipité du cadet. Mais la mort punira Louis, Pierre Jolicoeur est mort. Autre matrice féconde mais routinière : la mère seule avec le père absent et deux jeunes hommes, frères ou pas, sur les bras et des frustrations hormonales multiples qu’elle ne sait pas guérir. Le film est techniquement très beau du fait des longues scènes lentes centrées sur un ou deux gros plans de visages avec des expressions faciales riches, mais ces longs moments lents qui sanglotent comme des violons dans un arrière plan invisible sont entrecoupés de moments brefs mais rares de violence verbale ou corporelle et même physique qui hache l’impossibilité de communiquer.

Dans une famille comme celle-là la fin du monde pourrait être en train d’arriver dehors ils ne s’en apercevraient même pas. Et Louis repartira sans avoir dit ce qu’il était venu dire. Merci maman, mais pas merci papa. Notons bien la réincarnation et l’inversion de Cain (qui a été banni par Dieu) et Abel (qui a été tué par Cain) avec Antoine qui reste dans son trou à rats, se marie et a des enfants et Louis qui est exilé, revient mais repart encore plus vite et il n’aura pas d’enfants, nous dit-on. Tiens donc et son vomissement alors … ?


Monday, November 28, 2016


Monsieur - A part of history

Yes we are


Crime sans châtiment dans les Pyrénées

Deux sœurs.
Une maison de rêve.
Un petit coin de campagne paisible.
Paisible? Si au début de leur installation, les sœurs Brausch pensent retrouver le domaine familial et renouer avec leurs souvenirs d'enfance, le rêve pour elles va vite tourner au cauchemar.
Le Mal se cache parfois dans la douceur d'un paysage, le long d'une rivière qui vient frapper les pales d'un moulin endormi dans la plaine. Mais le Mal peut prendre plusieurs visages et n'est jamais celui auquel on s'attend.

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Quel bonheur de pouvoir lire un premier roman ! Et celui-ci ne dépareille pas à ce plaisir. Il y a une certaine naïveté dans ces personnages, deux femmes essentiellement, et un père de toute façon qui vient juste de mourir et que les deux sœurs enterrent ensemble et ainsi se retrouvent, l’une s’installant dans le moulin du père mais elle était restée pas très loin, l’autre venant la rejoindre et laissant Paris derrière elle, faisant de Paris ce qu’il est profondément, un décor temporaire pour visiteurs toujours éclairs. Y a-t-il des Parisiens de souche, surtout quand ils sont nés là par une sorte d’accident de parcours dans une pérégrination sans fin ?

Mais le roman devient rapidement dans le petit village où nous sommes, presqu’une petite ville de canton provincial écarté, le cadre d’une sinistre querelle territoriale. C’est à toi, je le veux, tu me le donnes où je te tue. Et tout va balancer entre un moulin ancien et un pigeonnier tout aussi ancien, entre une cleptomane pie voleuse et un vautour médical mangeur de chairs. Un peu d’amour pour ces deux sœurs, mais si peu et toujours frustré par une mort soudaine. Le suspense sentimental se double et s’enfle d’un suspense criminel.

Et le meurtrier, si ce n’est pas une meurtrière, fera feu de tout bois, n’hésitera sur aucun investissement sanguinaire, ne reculera devant aucun obstacle charnel. Qu’on s’en débarrasse et laissons au charnier le soin de trier avec un peu d’aide de la gendarmerie. Ce cynisme assassin est pire encore que l’envie criminelle.

Le pire étant que justice sera faite de facto mais pas de jure. Comme on faisait au Moyen Age. Nos villages de la France profonde n’ont toujours pas changé.

Ce qui est le plus troublant, mais aussi fascinant reste le fait que on passe du point de vue d’une sœur à celui de l’autre sœur et qu’entre deux l’auteure se fait redresseuse de récit pour lui donner la direction nécessaire pour aller sinon droit au but, du moins dans la bonne direction. Et ici et là une vue en plongée dans les profondeurs troublantes et obscures du psychisme de ces gens biens sous tous rapports, comme ils disent après le drame qui a surpris tout le monde tellement ces gens-là étaient normaux. Et le pire c’est qu’ils étaient et sont toujours pour les survivants encore plus normaux que normaux, banals comme les fours et les moulins d’autrefois.



Jean de Patmos, Jésus Christ et bientôt la Nativité

Atelier de Grec Biblique du Diocèse de Poitiers
 Traduction :
Ingrid Auriol, Katy Breuil, Michel Caubet,
Jean Couprie,  Jacques Lefebvre, Odile de Loynes.

L’Apocalypse enfin révélée ! Ecrite à la fin du premier siècle de notre ère, cette œuvre prophétique, un des piliers de la littérature chrétienne et du Nouveau Testament, n’existait pas encore en langue française dans une traduction fiable, fidèle, et qui respecte le style et les intentions de l’auteur, Jean de Patmos, « le disciple que Jésus aimait ».
La signification profonde de ce livre, perdue vers le VIIIe siècle, quand l’Église dut rechercher la protection des rois francs pour assurer sa survie, est enfin restituée par une équipe de spécialistes du grec biblique. Soucieux d’offrir au public le plus large les secrets de cette œuvre majeure,  ils ont fait appel aux commentateurs antiques, qui en détenaient encore les clés, mais aussi aux ressources les plus modernes de la linguistique et de l’exégèse biblique.
Sceau après sceau, le livre se révèle enfin pour éclairer le lecteur de sa lumière éclatante sur les destinées du monde.

La couverture a été réalisée par le graphiste Jean-Paul Chabrier.

Remerciements à Véronique Ragagnon, gemmologue, pour ses précieuses remarques concernant les pierres.

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ASIN: B014Y4BE0C      EUR 5,20                               $5.83
Publisher: Editions La Dondaine; 1 edition (September 4, 2015)
Publication Date: September 4, 2015

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Let's celebrate Elizabeth I, dead ten years before


This is certainly not a great play by Shakespeare. The objective is to celebrate the birth and christening of Elizabeth and to position this birth in a context which is difficult. So it shows the conflicts with the Catholic Church, in fact with some top people in the Catholic Church, particularly Cardinal Wolsey who served, as the main minister of the King, his own purposes as the cardinal of York in his position and even some rivalry inherited from the past, for example in his plot to have Buckingham executed, the son of the Buckingham who helped Richard III to ascend to the throne and then got executed by decision of the same Richard III, of the House of York. At least that’s how it appears in the play.

In fact there is a second stake which is the divorce with Catherine of Aragon. The conflict is a conflict with the Pope and it is evoked but not really explored and the main consequence is not even mentioned, the fact that the Catholic Church is disbanded in England and replaced by the Church of England governed by a special Council appointed by the King but the logic in this Council is the same as in the Catholic Church: the fight against the Reformation and Protestantism, in one word heresies. The King supports the Archbishop of Canterbury who is leaning towards some moderate reformation, though nothing is made that clear in the play, and this Archbishop is going to be entrusted with the leading role in the Church of England. But the play is totally silent on the main reform that is going to disband the congregations and take over the churches.

So it is entertaining but not really good. There is not even some kind of deeper political wisdom with a King that is often angry and authoritarian, when he is not parading and showing off. At the same time the final christening “sermon” is not exactly possible, credible, believable and simply modest.

“CRANMER, Archbishop of Canterbury: Let me speak, sir,
For heaven now bids me; and the words I utter
Let none think flattery, for they'll find 'em truth.
This royal infant--heaven still move about her!--
Though in her cradle, yet now promises
Upon this land a thousand thousand blessings,
Which time shall bring to ripeness: she shall be--
But few now living can behold that goodness--
A pattern to all princes living with her,
And all that shall succeed: Saba was never
More covetous of wisdom and fair virtue
Than this pure soul shall be: all princely graces,
That mould up such a mighty piece as this is,
With all the virtues that attend the good,
Shall still be doubled on her: truth shall nurse her,
Holy and heavenly thoughts still counsel her:
She shall be loved and fear'd: her own shall bless her;
Her foes shake like a field of beaten corn,
And hang their heads with sorrow: good grows with her:
In her days every man shall eat in safety,
Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours:
God shall be truly known; and those about her
From her shall read the perfect ways of honour,
And by those claim their greatness, not by blood.
Nor shall this peace sleep with her: but as when
The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix,
Her ashes new create another heir,
As great in admiration as herself;
So shall she leave her blessedness to one,
When heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness,
Who from the sacred ashes of her honour
Shall star-like rise, as great in fame as she was,
And so stand fix'd: peace, plenty, love, truth, terror,
That were the servants to this chosen infant,
Shall then be his, and like a vine grow to him:
Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine,
His honour and the greatness of his name
Shall be, and make new nations: he shall flourish,
And, like a mountain cedar, reach his branches
To all the plains about him: our children's children
Shall see this, and bless heaven. […]
She shall be, to the happiness of England,
An aged princess; many days shall see her,
And yet no day without a deed to crown it.
Would I had known no more! but she must die,
She must, the saints must have her; yet a virgin,
A most unspotted lily shall she pass
To the ground, and all the world shall mourn her.” (Act V Scene v)

And we have to keep in mind the play was written in 1612-1613, that is to say ten years after Elizabeth I’s death and under James I. Is it only to mark the anniversary of this death, or is it because under James I some things started very fast to turn sour? We cannot know.



Encrypted Biblilcal symbolism


It is one of the best known and most produced play by Shakespeare and certainly the best known and most produced history. What’s surprising about this play is that it can stand all by itself though knowing the three Henry the Sixth plays help understand the stake of this one. True enough it only helps because this history is very self sufficient, in a way.

We have to clear the plate of a question that is today no longer debated. Shakespeare proposes here the vision of Richard III promoted by the Tudors, that is to say those who vanquished and destroyed him, in order to stabilize and justify their taking over te throne of England. Richard III was not the physical monster they described.

Richard III was no 'bunch-backed toad', research suggests
Paper published in Lancet says king's scoliosis probably caused him to be shorter but did not cause major physical deformity...
Severe scoliosis in the skeleton found under a Leicester car park less than two years ago – and DNA matches with a distant relative of the Plantagenet king – helped to confirm "beyond reasonable doubt" the identity of the remains.
... Research funded by Leicester University and published in the Lancet medical journal on Friday suggests the king's disfigurement was probably slight because a "well-balanced" sideways curvature in the spine would have meant his head and neck were straight, not tilted to one side.
Although the king's torso would have been short relative to the length of his arms and legs, and his right shoulder a little higher than his left, a good tailor and custom-made armour could have minimised the "visual impact" of his condition, according to the paper.
There was no evidence that Richard would have walked with an obvious limp; his leg bones were symmetric and well-formed. Neither would the disease, which probably developed when Richard was an adolescent, have reduced his ability to exercise.
The researchers have already established that Richard would have been about 5ft 8in (1.7m) tall without his scoliosis, about average for a medieval man, although his condition meant he would have appeared several inches shorter. Tudor propagandists, especially Shakespeare, ensured Richard has been seen as hunchbacked for centuries...
Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, which helped fund the dig which found the king's remains, said the research confirmed "the Shakespearean description of a 'bunch-backed toad' is a complete fabrication"... (, accessed November 27, 2016)

This being said this play is a real thriller. Richard has to eliminate everyone on his path to climb (really climb) to the throne. I would say that sounds plain normal but he declares himself to be evil and to enjoy killing, particularly innocent people. And when he has finally finished the elimination of those who have a blood claim to the throne, except Richmond who has fled to Brittany, he starts killing those who have helped him in his ascent, which is politically absurd and plain suicidal. Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, comes back with an army and defeats Richard III at Bosworth in 1485 and thus becomes Henry VII known as the first Tudor king, though he is a Lancaster, which means the House of Lancaster in the end wins but they change the dynastic reference, probably to ensure the past be the past, which might explain why Richard III after proper examination was buried in a small church with no indication on his grave, which explains why in modern times when the church was pull down to open some space for a parking lot no archaeological search was started and Richard III remained under the parking lot for a long time before new excavations to build some new structure finally discovered him, or at least his remains.

The victor is always right and history hates the past and disguises it to the colors of the present, which means the color of the past changes from one present to the next. In this case Shakespeare took part in the disguising campaign some 110 years after the events. Richard III only lived 33 years and reigned two. He had no descent but the House of York had of course and represented the Plantagenet line, though the Lancaster are also connected to the Plantagenet since Henry the Seventh’s great-great-great-grandfather was the Plantagenet king Edward III (1307-1327). Once again we have to keep in mind that the British kings, and it is probably true of many other noble families in the Middle Ages, were severely inbreeding in medieval times. And when they were not inbreeding in England they went on inbreeding with the French side of the family. They were all cousins and at times not that far removed.

That means the claim that could arise from the York branch of the Plantagenet blood line could have been strong enough to be considered as a real threat. When you want to kill your dog you just pretend he is rabid. And that’s what they did with Richard III.

This production is superb in many ways, once again by the physical acting of pain, sorrow and death, particularly with body language, facial language and tonal language. A triplet of queens is essential: Margaret the old widow of Henry the Sixth; Lady Anne, widow to Edward Prince of Wales, son of Henry the Sixth, later married to the Duke of Gloster who later became Richard the Third; and Elizabeth, queen to Edward the Fourth and then his widow. Of these three queens Lady Anne is the most discreet though fundamental because of her marrying Gloster, the future Richard the Third and the killer of both her husband and her father in law, but another triplet is composed with the Duchess of York, mother to King Edward the Fourth, Clarence and Gloster, the latter to become Richard the Third. The oldest of them, Margaret is a real warmonger against Richard the Third and this production makes her triumphant at the very end, after the concluding words from Henry the Seventh, sitting, laughing hysterically, at the top of a pile of half denuded dead bodies, and holding the corpse of Richard the Third. The full and final step of this purification cycle typical of Shakespeare: she takes, or rather is granted, the victory she is provided with by history or fate.

There is at least one happy person in that play, and it is Margaret, though true enough it is added to Shakespeare’s play that ends with a full pardon

RICHMOND: Now civil wounds are stopp’d, peace lives again:
That she may long live here, God say Amen!” (Act V, Scene v)

But to show how strong Shakespeare’s music can be, I will make a final remark on the famous ghost scene. In his last night living on earth before the battle of Bosworth he has a dream that brings up EIGHT apparitions of ghosts, eleven ghosts all together:
1- Prince Edward, son to Henry the Sixth;
2- King Henry the Sixth;
3- Clarence;
4- Rivers, Grey and Vaughan;
5- Hastings;
6- the two young princes, sons of Edward the Fourth;
7- Queen Anne (Princess of Wales, then Duchess of Gloster, then Queen to Richard the Third. DShe dies mysteriously before Bosworth, hence her apparition as a ghost);
8- Buckingham.

EIGHT is the symbol of the Second Coming, and here we have eleven second comings. The Second Coming is the triggering event of the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation.

ELEVEN is the number of apostles after the elimination of Judas, the eleven apostles who retire away from the Crucifixion (except John) and who deny Jesus, like Peter, and who hide away from the crucifixion and post crucifixion scene out of fear. These eleven apostles announce the resurrection too, even if in a negative way, the way they announce the end of Richard III but they also appear to Richmond and they announce the resurrection of the English monarchy with Henry the Seventh, known as Richmond in this play.

Finally NINE is necessary to complete the prophecy, the prediction, by identifying the beast, in this case Richard the Third. And sure enough the ghosts are going to curse Richard III with a simple formula: “despair and die.” And in that ghost scene this mantra is repeated NINE times.

1- Prince Edward, son to Henry the Sixth: “despair, therefore, and die”;
2 & 3- King Henry the Sixth: “despair and die” “despair and die”;
4- Clarence: “despair and die”;
5 & 6- Rivers, Grey and Vaughan: “despair and die” “despair and die”;
7- Hastings: “despair and die”;
8- the two young princes, sons of Edward IV: “despair and die”;
9- Queen Anne: “despair and die”;
Ø- Buckingham: Ø.

We must understand that in Elizabethan times, after the Reformation and in the ascending phase of chapels and Puritanism, such biblical references (in this case the Passion of Jesus and the Book of Revelation) were unavoidable elements that everyone understood and appreciated. What’s more it is very effective in the “propaganda” (rather self-justification) of the Tudors: the killing of the crucifixion is prophesied, the Second Coming is announced and the Beast is identified. We are in the midst of medieval numerical symbolism. This makes me say NINE is the numerical symbol of this king, and as I have already said in my review of Henry the Sixth, Part Three: 1 + 8 = 9; 4 + 5 = 9; 1 + 4 + 8 + 5 = 18 = 9 x 2. The beast is killed on the diabolical date that is also the resurrection date of Bosworth, the final battle. After this last battle the prophecy of the New Messianic Jerusalem becomes possible.

That powerful symbolism runs through the whole play and had been announced at the end of the previous history. Going to the Globe Theater was a treat for the people of London and they went there regularly to enjoy the theater and to learn about their past history. Here the grossest goriest taste of the audience is satisfied along with the numerical symbolism that cannot be “cabalistic” since it is not Jewish, but is in a way metaphysical and even alchemical, though definitely Biblical, in this medieval and post medieval time, and the extra “knowledge” it provides on English history. Shakespeare’s theater was pedagogical, entertaining and slightly though at times enormously mysterious or poetic.


Saturday, November 26, 2016


Pitiful ans spineless king versus PTSS Richard of the twisted spine


This is the third part, hence the end; of this Henry VI, a weak king that lasted longer than any other on the stage. The last events of his reign are not that important. The fight is to the finish, to the death between the two houses of Lancaster, the King, and York, the contender. The Duke of York is eliminated rather fast and his four sons are the heirs of his vain claim.

First Edward, Earl of March and later King Edward IV, who becomes an in and out and back in king in this play: he is the flip flop king and as such uninteresting, whimsical, self-centered, and I mean here centered on his belly-button, and when I say belly-button you can figure out what explicit word I should use: to take advantage of a widow on the whim of the moment, he marries her while an ambassador is negotiating his marriage with the sister of the King of France. More flip flop than that you die. He will eventually after having spoiled everything and caused the worst possible explosions of rivalry and struggle.

Second Edmund, Earl of Rutland, is in many ways unimportant. He is the follower of his elder brother but he is murdered by Clifford at the Battle of Wakefield at the age of 12, supposedly though he does not seem to be that young in the play and on the stage. Third George, Duke of Clarence, who is an opportunistic change-coat who deserts his brother Edward when he marries his widowed paramour, and thus becomes co-protector of the Realm under Henry VI reestablished on the throne, but not for long, since this Clarence betrays again and brings his brother back on the throne.

Fourth and not least Richard, Duke of Gloster, who is the only one who has some real will, desire, want and urge to become king by all means. He will with his two brothers stab to death Henry’s son, Edward to close up the descent of Henry VI, and at the same time shut him up. He will alone stab to death Henry VI in the Tower where the King is held prisoner. Shakespeare from the very start shows him as a killing machine only bent on conquering the throne.

Clarence, thy turn is next, and then the rest,
Counting myself but bad till I be best.” (Act V, Scene vi)

And Shakespeare makes Richard speak of himself in the basest words and feelings possible:

What other pleasure can the world afford?
I'll make my heaven in a lady's lap,
And deck my body in gay ornaments,
And witch sweet ladies with my words and looks.
O miserable thought! and more unlikely
Than to accomplish twenty golden crowns!
Why, love forswore me in my mother's womb:
And, for I should not deal in her soft laws,
She did corrupt frail nature with some bribe,
To shrink mine arm up like a wither'd shrub;
To make an envious mountain on my back,
Where sits deformity to mock my body;
To shape my legs of an unequal size;
To disproportion me in every part,
Like to a chaos, or an unlick'd bear-whelp
That carries no impression like the dam.
And am I then a man to be beloved?
O monstrous fault, to harbour such a thought!
Then, since this earth affords no joy to me,
But to command, to cheque, to o'erbear such
As are of better person than myself,
I'll make my heaven to dream upon the crown,
And, whiles I live, to account this world but hell,
Until my misshaped trunk that bears this head
Be round impaled with a glorious crown.” (Act III, Scene ii)

It is important though to clearly say that these deformities are pure invention probably spread after his death in Bosworth in 1485 when he was denuded to be prepared for burial; and then his real physical state was discovered. Shakespeare was one of those who produced for posterity that image of a twisted and distorted hunchback with a warped backside, a shorter atrophied arm and a shorter or out of shape leg that made him limp. All that was absolutely false: here are the results of the medical examination of his skeleton after discovery and before reburying.

“The type of scoliosis seen here is known as idiopathic adolescent onset scoliosis. The word idiopathic means that the reason for its development is not entirely clear, although there is probably a genetic component. The term adolescent onset indicates that the deformity wasn’t present at birth, but developed after the age of ten.
It is quite possible that the scoliosis would have been progressive, continuing to get worse as Richard got older. It would have put pressure on his lungs and may have caused shortness of breath, but clearly did not stop him from leading an active lifestyle” (

And common modern approaches of this king is as below, pushing aside all the physical handicaps, except his scoliosis, probably well hidden during his life as a king and discovered after his death by the victorious Henry VII, first Tudor king and that’s when the “legend” or the “myth” started. Shakespeare goes very far in that mythical direction in the mouth of Gloucester himself:

'O, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth!'
And so I was; which plainly signified
That I should snarl and bite and play the dog.
Then, since the heavens have shaped my body so,
Let hell make crook'd my mind to answer it.” (Act V, Scene  vi)

But here is a modern opinion on this problem:

The body of a mediaeval monarch was always under scrutiny, and Richard III's was no exception. In death, however, his body became subject to new forms of examination and interpretation: stripped naked after the Battle of Bosworth, his corpse was carried to Leicester and exhibited before being buried. . .
No mention of Richard's distinctive physique survives from during his lifetime, perhaps out of respect to a reigning monarch, or perhaps because he hid it so well. . .
The stripping of Richard's corpse at Bosworth in 1485 made his physical shape noticeable to many hundreds of witnesses, perhaps for the first time. . .
Richard's body came to be notorious for its misshapen appearance during the Tudor period, although until the discovery of his body it was never clear whether this was pure fabrication to render accounts of his character and actions all the more extreme.
In Richard's case, this purported link between physique and character was frequently underlined, and as the Tudor regime became established, his image became more distorted -he gained a withered arm and unequal limbs, none of which were evident on the skeleton- to fit his blackened reputation.,

To go back to the play, we must say the picture of this future king here is more than bleak. It is monstrous according to the word he himself uses.

Strangely enough the action is tense and dense but it is only action with blood and battles on both sides and the producer enjoys giving some pictures of killed, bloodied half nude corpses after the battles. That’s visual gore and Shakespeare could not afford that just as he could not afford the numerous battles with twenty to forty extras. The BBC could of course invest on extras since the setting itself was made of flotsam recuperated bits and pieces of shredded wood, doors, windows picked from some demolition site.

Some characters stand out and first of all Queen Margaret as a soldier, a captain, a woman leading troops and infantry. I must also say that most of the leading actors are great in their dying scenes.  Warwick and the various Yorks seem to be great dying personae. Richard himself does not die, but he kills very well though his main quality is in his long speeches about his fate of a mongrel in his family, in his house, in his country. And mongrel and monster seem to start with the same letters for him. He is developing a discourse that could freeze your blood and curdle it if it were not on a stage. And there is no black humor in him. He appears as the great central maximum actor in this play, the one who is pulling the strings and soon these strings will become cables. I just wonder if he is not still in the making because he could have been a lot worse in his tone and maybe his body language. But I guess he kept some of his resources in store for the next play.

So this third part of this Henry VI is probably the densest and hence most interesting. Yet Henry VI himself is still smothered in an impersonation that makes him seem a lot more secondary than he should be. The choice is to make him kind of inconsistent. I am not sure Shakespeare’s text could not give him more muscle at least in appearance and tone. Instead of looking pitiful as he does here he might have been able to look impotent in front of people negating his existence and then, he would have been poignant in his powerlessness instead of pathetic in his spinelessness. This is only a question of tone, hence a choice of the director and producer.


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