The Oxford Paragraphs:
The Oxford Shakespeare

Books Imagine my surprise when browsing through Kernaghan Books in the Wayfarers Shopping Arcade in Southport for these editions when I stumbled across Hamlet somewhat working against the purpose of me utilising these Oxfords to discover literature. Edition editor G.R. Hibbard chooses the First Folio as the basis for his text on the assumption that it was produced from a clean, revised manuscript of the play by Shakespeare himself, a final revision of the material that increases the pace but also clarifies the story in other places. His argument is sound, but I do much prefer the much later Arden 3’s approach of suggesting that all the close textual analysis in the world won’t definitively confirm which of the versions is definitive, so it’s best just to present all three (unless like the RSC edition, the mission is to reproduce an edition of the folio in particular). More inevitably posted here.

Hamlet (Oxford World's Classics). Edited by G.R. Hibbard.

Who’s There?

The Oxford Shakespeare is a decades old project under the general editorship of Stanley Wells. They’re an off-shoot of the classic complete works which controversially for their time attempted to collect the plays as they were originally performed rather than taking into account their textual history (something which we’ll discuss below in relation to this text). Although the series began under the Clarendon Press imprint, over the years its become absorbed into the general Oxford World’s Classics literature imprint with cover designs to match.

The Cover.

This latest printing from 2008, features a detail from William Shakespeare Portrait by Max Jacob. A hunt around online doesn’t reveal the full image so I can’t say what facet of the full image this represents, a relatively messy and impressionistic image of Hamlet in his traditional black. The earlier 1998 printing offered Bernardio Licinio’s Portrait of a Young Man with a Skull, a much more traditionalist rendering of the prince and Yorrik.

Publication Data.

The Clarendon was in 1987 and as the copyright page suggests its simply been reprinted since which makes the introduction and version of the text twenty five years old despite the modern covers. But Wells’s has been a life long project only recently completed so this should be seen as part of a body of work rather than the organic changeable thing that the Penguin editions might considered to be.

General Introduction

Hibbard offers a good general survey of the usual play related issues, the sources, the dating, the themes. The text is new enough to encompass the contemporary hindsight that a proportion of the critical history is tainted because the scholars were utilising conflated editions of the play which bore no relation to what Shakespeare intended and that we should tread carefully when considering Hamlet’s procrastination.  Some long held beliefs still enunciated were as a result of Alexander Pope or Lewis Theobald’s well meaning tampering, though due respect is given to all of these early editors for bothering to produce scholarly editions in the first place.

Textual Introduction & Editorial Procedures

A survey of the origins of the three texts. Hibbard pays lip service to the theory that Q1 is a first draft but fall firmly on the side of it being a memorial manuscript further mangled in production which becomes relatively seductive when he notes the similarities with portions of Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (though its too early to include anything on the recent theory that Shakespeare’s hand may have been responsible for the 1602 emendations to that play). Q2 is another mangled manuscript, this time from Shakespeare’s foul papers with some correspondence with Q1 by the compositor.

Hibbard spends most time with F1 which he chooses as the basis for his text on the assumption that it was produced from a clean, revised manuscript of Hamlet by Shakespeare himself, a final revision of the material that increases the pace but also clarifies the story in other places. His argument is sound, but I still prefer the much later Arden 3’s approach of suggesting that all the close textual analysis in the world won’t definitively confirm which of the texts is definitive, so it’s best just to present all three (unless like the RSC edition that was much influenced by Hibbard work, the mission is to reproduce an edition of the folio in particular).

The Text.

F1 presented in a similar format to Arden with textual notes in a two column formation beneath the play. Like the later RSC, the Q2 sections not in F1 appear in an appendix at the back, including “Now all occasions do offend me" and like the RSC it “corrects” what’s actually in F1 and changes “sixteene” to “sexton” in the gravedigger scene as per Q2. No one to answer, but have to ask. How come, if by Hibbard’s argument, F1 is Shakespeare’s final word on his play and filled with revisions and clarifications, no one will be believe that one of his revision or clarifications was to make plain the much younger age of his protagonist?


The afformentioned Q2 passages. A list of alterations to textual alignment and the changing between texts of verse to prose and vis-versa. A synopsis of Der Bestrafte Brudermord, a German adaptation of the play. Manuscripts of music for the songs by Dr Frederick Sternfeld. Some notes on stage directions in 1.2.

How is it, my lord?

Perfectly affable, if very traditional edition which rigidly treats the play as a text rather than a script for production. Although there are images from its theatrical history, Warner at the RSC, Gielgud at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, they’re not named and that whole aspect of the play is kept at arms length. Since this appears to be a choice rather than oversight, it’s hard to criticise it for that.

Hamlet (Oxford World's Classics). Edited by G.R. Hibbard is published by Oxford University Press. £7.99 paperback. ISBN: 978-0-19-953581-1.

John Dorney’s new Doctor Who audio The Wrath of the Iceni

Audio One of the best online flash games in recent years has been Super Mario Crossover, in which various Nintendo characters, from the bloke from Contra through to Megaman, are placed with Marioland with all their special moves intact, allowing players to shoot a turtle in the face to kill them rather than jump on their shell (not that either is a particularly humane way to die). John Dorney’s new Doctor Who audio The Wrath of the Iceni offers similar premise tweaking delights for the Fourth Doctor, dropping him into not just a pure historical, but a pure celebrity historical and a pure celebrity historical about a strong, powerful woman. As Dorney says in the extra features with the kind of embarrassment only a fan can display, such things simply didn’t happen on television in that era and it’s nice to be given the opportunity to redress the balance.

It’s with a single line pitch. Leela meets Boudica. It’s the AD 60s and the queen of the Iceni is cutting a swathe through Norfolk killing as many Romans as she can lay her sword on. Still with his Henry Higgins hat on, the Doctor brings his savage companion to meet her ancestors, recklessly unfortunately because Leela becomes somewhat enamoured by this warrior monarch and her cause and before long he’s knee deep in having to explain to her, just as he has previously to Barbara in The Aztecs and later Donna in The Fires of Pompeii, how for all the bloodshed and genocide which is about the spill across the land, he can’t interfere in established events not least because Boudica isn’t necessarily the noble noble that her image might initially suggested.

If Dorney’s story isn’t doing anything particularly new in franchise terms, this is all very new for the Fourth Doctor. The main trick to keeping it in period is having Tom dial down his personality slightly ala the JNT years so that the performances of Louise Jameson and Ella Kenion (who’s Boudica is turned up to eleven), fill in the gap, swords drawn, shouting about honour, duty and revenge.  The Doctor spends much of the play trapped in tents, which means his companion has to rationalise and realise her mistakes alone. Leela might have been the feistiest even murderous of companions but this is a rare occasion when she’s allowed off the end of the Doctor’s scarf, so that we can at least hear what a warrior of the Sevateem is like in battle (The Face of Evil accepted).

This is full on adventure and about as bloodthirsty as Who’s ever been, heads sent on hiatus from their bodies, horses felled and dismembered and even the implication of sexual violence. Torture is mentioned more than once as a valid form of information gathering and the overall impression is that Dorney remembering the show’s previous Roman holidays is desperate to bring some realism to proceedings. It’s surprising actually that Cardiff signed off on this mayhem considering how some of the spin-off media has been neutered post-2005,  the show becoming a “family” series again after years of growing with its fans. It might even be strong enough for Mary Whitehouse to lurch from the grave with a Marleyesque flourish and rattle her chains around the Maidenhead offices of Big Finish.

But for all that Dorney doesn’t forget that the pure historical was originally designed to be a vehicle to bring the children and us older children a bit of educational content and thanks to the vague arc of Leela’s tutelage we're gifted some wonderful scenes in which the Doctor simply explains to us the heartbreaking history of Boudica, right through to her death. It’s these moments which demonstrate how much was lost on television when it gave into the generic bug-eyed monster syndrome.  As Tom himself suggests out of character at the end of the cd, The Wrath of the Iceni does have a monster in the form of Boudica herself and the play at its most memorable when Kenion’s in full flow clearly relishing the chance to inhabit a woman who had the capacity to be just as murderous, arrogant and fallible as her male counterparts.

Doctor Who: The Wrath of the Iceni from Big Finish is out now.  Review copy supplied.

[The Wrath of the Iceni also has an "interesting" casting connection.  Ella Kenion previously played Harriet, one of the crew members on The Teselecta in Let's Kill Hitler, which also featured Alex Kingston as River Song.  Kingston has also played Boudica in this ITV biopic.]

the Story To Tell event at Liverpool One's Waterstones organised by Pencil Trick Productions

Books Tonight I attended the Story To Tell event at Liverpool One's Waterstones organised by Pencil Trick Productions, an independent production company which included a Q&A about writing in the modern world with guest speakers Sheila Quigley the crime author, writer and blogger Cath Bore and WEA Creative Tutor Organiser and storyteller, Bernie Kennedy.

Apart from the panel it was mainly an opportunity for local creatives to network which isn't something at which I'm naturally adept but given my situation is something I'm going to have to become unnaturally adept at (if you see what I mean).  I did meet a couple of new people, well one new person and someone I already know from Twitter.  I'm still on the nursery slopes, then.

Each of these kinds of events always seems to elicit at least one interesting thing and here is one of the interesting things which were elicited tonight.  Back in December, during this blog's Review 2011, I was tasked with considering whether the physical book was due to become obsolete (coincidentally with an episode of the BBC's Imagine which did a much better job).

Therein I quoted from a survey which suggested the smallest group buying e-books were the over fifties, the largest the under forties and I set about trying to justify that with talk of portability, publication dates and the death of analogue, which is also roughly what Alan Yentob said a few days later.  He also visited the Internet Archive, lucky sod.

What I found out tonight was that once again I should have listened to my Mother.  When I was researching that blog post, I asked my parents if they'd use a Kindle and although they answered in the negative, Mum described how many of her friends have them.  She also said that they didn't use them much as far as she knew which is why I disregarded the data.

Tonight, Sheila Quigley talked about various platforms and epublishing and described her experiences of book signings and her experience of audiences at book signings was this:  she said that young people tend to want the real thing, something on paper, something (I'm extrapolating) to display on the shelf.

Then she said that most often their (grand)parents or the over-fifties in general would be the ones asking if a book was available electronically.  When she asked why, they explained that it was because Kindle has the option to change the font size.  Just that.  Older readers with poorer eyesight can increase the size of the text so that it becomes more comfortable to read.

Well, of course they do.   I do too, especially if I'm reading literature because it lessens the intimidating burden of turning a paper page and find a mass of words in six or eight point.  When I ran this past my parents, they said it still wouldn't convince them to get a Kindle, but they still like paper books for their tactile nature and still have decent eyesight.

Large print books have generally been available in public libraries but in my experience have boring covers and are displayed away from the rest of the stock.  The ability to buy them as ebooks must remove some of the stigma, I suppose, of admitting you even need a large print books (which are available on Amazon but a quick glance suggests sales numbers are minuscule).

I don't really have a conclusion to draw from this other than that the stereotypical expectation of who's using technology continues to change and that it's oddly amongst older people that practicality outweighs owning the physical object.  Now, will someone explain to me why young people have started buying vinyl again?  Who saw that coming?

"I’m busy watering my vegetables."

TV Radio Times has a lovely interview with Anneke Wills who played one of my favourite Doctor Who companions, Polly. Here she is on the ongoing controversy surround an interview she gave in the 70s, just to prove fans never forget:
"Anneke quit in 1967, but RT tracked her down for the tenth anniversary special in 1973. “It was slightly disturbing for me – my old life coming back. I’d turned left and left it all behind. I was saying, ‘No, I don’t do that any more. I’m busy watering my vegetables. If you want pictures, you’ll have to come here.’ ” [...] When quizzed about Polly by RT in 73, “Unfortunately I said she was a frightened, weedy woman, and ever since I’ve been inundated by fans, saying ‘No, NO!’ If you look back at the stories, she’s right in there, feisty as can be. So I retract that. It was mistake. And I’m sorry, fans.”
Later she says on future projects, “There’s all sorts of secrets going on but I can’t tell you.” She’s bitterly clenching her teeth. “I’m hopeless at secrets."  Again we ask, what the hell's happening next year?


Art As part of FACT Liverpool’s Robot and Avatars exhibition (which I'm hoping to visit shortly), artist Martin Bricelj Baraga created a Public Avatar project in which a human's free will is replaced by that of gallery visitors. One of the participants, C James Fagan has written for Double Negative about the experience. He's a brave man:
"My time as a Public Avatar is drawing near; as I walk through the crowds of people gathered in Liverpool to shop, celebrating St Patrick’s Day, I realise this is my audience. I wonder how they’ll react; I fear a negative/aggressive reaction. Time will tell.

I find myself at FACT, awaiting the arrival of the rest of the team; part of me hopes they won’t turn up. They do of course, and soon they are readying me for my Public Avatar experience. This is it. I am outside FACT, and one of my early instructions is to find a bar to shout out ‘I AM PUBLIC AVATAR’, and sing to a girl along similar lines. The reaction isn’t great; the woman flees fearing I am a suicide bomber.

I quickly leave."
It's probably a good thing I work at the weekend and missed this.  Power corrupts etc.

the announcement of the new Doctor Who companion

TV Come 8:50 am this morning I was a bit out of sorts. It would have been the time I began getting ready for work and although philosophically I'd already dealt with the fact of not working, subconsciously I felt like I should have been cleaning my teeth, changing out of my "house clothes" into my jeans and making sure my portable cd player had enough batteries. Realising I'd have to wean myself out of the routine, I did all of those things anyway then walked to the postbox to send some dvds back to Lovefilm (including the disappointingly disappointing Tin Tin thing) and buy a newspaper.

Being otherwise at home did at least allow me to enjoy the announcement of the new Doctor Who companion in something like real time:  the broken embargo, what amounted by then to a confirmation on the BBC's official Twitter feed, the other news about when Karen and Arthur would leaving us, the amount of episodes this year (which I've added to the old faithful, now nearly a year old), the release of the on-camera interview during the Budget statement (which I also had the misfortune to listen to) and the general hullabaloo.

Jenna-Louise Coleman has me at a disadvantage. Not having seen either Emmerdale Farm in the past few decades or Waterloo Road, I'm not familiar with her work and even having enjoyed Captain America, with my Professor Cronotis like memory I can't place her character, Connie.  But she is currently working on Stephen Poliakoff's next series, Dancing on the Edge according to this remarkable prescient "Why we're watching" column from The Observer a week and a half ago.  It's almost like they knew something.  That page probably requires a Doctor Who tag now.

Inevitably my ignorance means a trip to YouTube which is chockful of examples of her acting including this sliver of her soap career, edited in the style of Talking Points Memo's Day in 100 seconds:

But it's this disturbing monologue produced for an NSPCC campaign that really suggests her potential. Not safe for work by the way, if that's where you are.

Judging by the Lizo Mzimba interview, she seems like a very centred, professional actress, with the usual nerves consistent with having become a household name overnight. She's already got a dvd extras or convention friendly story about receiving the news from her agent, an avocado being the suitably surreal variable.  Plus she's from Blackpool, one of Doctor Who's spiritual homes.  She's going to be excellent, isn't she?

even more of an outlier

Film Woody's next Italy based film has been renamed again. Now called the slightly bland To Rome with Love, it was apparently changed from Nero Fiddled because "while an appropriate and humorous phrase in the US, (it) is not a familiar expression overseas, and many international territories preferred a more globally understood name."

What's interesting about this, of course, is that because of the dramatic success of Midnight in Paris, the studio/distributor actually cares whether Woody Allen's new film even has a commercial title. The shooting title, Bob Decameron was even more of an outlier, but it's not impossible that it would have stuck with that if Paris had done the usual business.

On a related topic, I've been appalled to discover Midnight in Paris hasn't been granted a blu-ray release in the UK yet, even though Warner Home Video will generally put any old crap on the format including bloody Green Lantern, which is why I'd entirely missed its home release.  As ever I refuse to pay £10 for a dvd in this day and age so I'll either have to Lovefilm it or wait and see.

Charline von Heyl’s new retrospective show at Tate Liverpool

Art As I discussed here to a boring degree during 2010's Liverpool Biennial, I’ve always found it pretty indefensible to use the word “untitled” in relation to the visual arts, especially when an artist suggests that it’s so that us humans can make our own connections, interpret the work in our own way. Fiddlesticks. Such things should be inherently obvious in the work, or else outlined in the accompanying text, otherwise it leaves the artist open to a suggestion of copping out or not being sure of their own message. About the only occasion “untitled” can be used with a certain justification is if it’s a representative object and it’s perfectly obvious that we’re looking at a girl, a car or a packet of Skips crisps.

Which probably makes me the least receptive audience for Charline von Heyl’s new retrospective show at Tate Liverpool, which I was gifted a press ticket for today. Collecting forty paintings from the past few decades, von Heyl’s requested that they be presented without much chronology, with minimal accompanying notes and as little guidance on intent as possible so as to reduce as many elements of noise between the viewer and the work. In the brief pieces of text which are included, we’re told that von Heyl doesn’t make studies, doesn’t begin her painting with any pre-conceived ideas other than to “empty the canvas of content” and imbues them with no fixed meaning, style or technique.

So she’s the kind of artist who seems destined to fulfil all my “untitled” prejudices especially since many of the works are titled “untitled” and those which aren’t rarely have a descriptor which encompasses what’s on the canvas. It’s abstract painting for its own sake of the kind which usually dives me emotionally to distraction. I’d like to be able to say I was pleasantly surprised, but my intolerance for everything listed in the first paragraph above clouded my ability to appreciate the sheer chutzpah of everything in the second. This was one of those occasions when I stood in the near empty gallery space and theatrically threw my hands up by their side and gave an exasperated shrug.

But of course, the artist knows what she’s doing. Even a naysayer like me must develop some kind of intellectual framework to justify what they’re seeing, and since, after I’d put my hands back in my pockets, that’s what I did, the exhibition must rank as some kind of success. Spend time with “Pink Vendetta”, and it stops simply being a pink wash in cubist shapes, circles within triangles and begins to suggest a wound, perhaps even the results of medieval torture. The dirty autumnal splatters of “Orpheus” could suggest the mythic hero fighting against some grotesque monster. Even “Untitled (8/95) 11” becomes an alpine scene of sorts with snow topped mountains, pine streets and a log cabin, albeit married to other shapes which relate to nothing at all.

My favourite work is one of the most recent. "Killersmile" is a large canvas covered in thick vertical parallel stripes in various shades of cream and pastel brown painting, intersected towards the bottom by a deep black slice in the shape of a stake or dagger. More than any other of the works, there does seem to be a definite intent to the image, planned out and the title indicates that what we’re seeing is a face which has melted away, rather like the Cheshire cat of the Tate's previous exhibition, leaving this single, rather sinister sneer almost reflecting back to my own reaction to the collection. If Charline von Heyl’s methodology is simply to provoke me, she’s certainly done that.

Until 27th May 2012.  Admission charge.  

[Double Negative has an interview with the artist and the Huffington Post reproduces a statement of intent from Gavin Delahunty, Head of Exhibitions & Displays at Tate Liverpool].

"your cat creeping into a paper bag"

Film The book which dragged me through my MA Screen Studies course and especially my dissertation, Film Art has reached its 10th edition and authors Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell have produced a top to bottom rewrite of the text bringing in some of new techniques they've learnt from writing their wonderful blog this past few years.  They've included an extract and the style is a bit more conversational, grounded, but no less clear or inspirational:
"It helps to imagine that we’re filmmakers too. Throughout this book, we’ll be asking you to put yourself in the filmmaker’s shoes. This shouldn’t be a great stretch. You’ve taken still photos with a camera or a mobile phone. Very likely you’ve made some videos, perhaps just to record a moment in your life—a party, a wedding, your cat creeping into a paper bag. And central to filmmaking is the act of choice. You may not have realized it at the moment, but every time you framed a shot, shifted your position, told people not to blink, or tried to keep up with a dog chasing a Frisbee, you were making choices."
The secret of the book's success is to engage the reader with illustrative examples from new films as a way of drawing readers into exploring the more usual canon, Inglorious Basterds as well as The Bicycle Thieves.

"the American public"

Film WellesNet is running a series of posts gathering the memos sent to Orson Welles during the torturous (some would say criminal) post-production process on his broken masterpiece The Magnificent Ambersons. They've reached the preview process and the first public showing of a rough cut of the film.

For some unknown reason they decided the perfect receivers of Orson's vision would be an audience of cinema-goers in Pomona who'd already enjoyed a screening of The Fleet's In, a Paramount musical starring Dorothy Lamour and William Holden.

By reputation that screening was a disaster, but what WellesNet reveals is that just under a third of the audience provided positive comments on their survey cards, in some cases to the point of predicting the film's on-going reputation and like the best cineastes complaining about the audience's behaviour and the length of the film:
"Yes. The picture is magnificent. The direction, acting, photography, and special effects are the best the cinema has yet offered. It is unfortunate that the American public, as represented at this theatre, are unable to appreciate fine art. it might be, perhaps, criticized for being a bit too long."
Unfortunately, the idea of the "art" film was rarely considered in Hollywood unless the topic was considered worthy enough to receive a "serious" treatment and so the execs went with the majority of that audience and the rest is history.

"a 22,000-mile trek"

Travel On first seeing the headline "Paris or Bust: The Great New York-to-Paris Auto Race of 1908", I wondered how they coped with the massive expanse of water that is the Atlantic. Drive laps around a massive cruise ship? Aqualungs across the sea bed. Um, no, of course not:
"The proposed route would take the drivers across the United States, including through areas with very few paved roads, and then head north through Canada. Next came a left turn at Alaska, which the drivers had to cross in order to arrive at the Bering Strait, which separated the American wilderness from the Russian one. The race’s organizers started it in the middle of winter in the hope that the strait would be frozen. The course then led through Siberia, which no one had traveled by car, before heading into the final stretch: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Paris—overall, a 22,000-mile trek in an age when the horse was considered more reliable than the horseless carriage."
Let's hope Charley Boorman doesn't see this.