Essay: Criticism, Compliment & Courtly Politics in the Court Masque – The Temple of Love

‘With their combination of criticism and compliment’, writes Martin Butler, ‘masques offered one potential model for a politics of accommodation’[2], and whilst this is true, criticism and compliment are only one set of opposing ideas that must accommodate one another in the masque form and style. Masques, like William Davenant’s The Temple of Love, are cornucopias of accommodation. Firstly, between print, to ‘disseminate[…] news of the English court and its artistic and social refinement’[3], and performance, where much of the off-page artistry was confined to courtly portrayals, and in the case of The Temple of Love and its heroine Indamora, performed by Queen Henrietta Maria herself. Secondly, between writer and designer, infamously so in the case of Davenant’s ‘semi-official Poet Laureate […] predecessor’[4] Ben Johnson and their collaborator-in-common Inigo Jones, with Johnson ‘compar[ing] a masque’s audiovisual elements to a transitory and short-lived body and his own printed text to an everlasting soul’[5]. And, thirdly, between masque and antimasque, the means by which order and disorder are embodied.

This analysis will centre on the thematic accommodations in the extract taken from the opening of Davenant’s masque, specifically fertility and chastity, disease and purification, and ‘bodies’ and ‘soules’ (l.56), and what their depiction, coupled with the other accommodations at play beyond the printed account, can disclose about the politics of the Caroline court. Continue reading “Essay: Criticism, Compliment & Courtly Politics in the Court Masque – The Temple of Love”

Essay: Space & Hysteria in The Yellow Wallpaper and Dora: A Case of Hysteria

‘I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in […]’[1] muses Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own; an anxiety of space that arises amidst its advocacy for ‘a woman [to] have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’[2]. Although neither are writers of fiction, the women protagonists of two texts, Sigmund Freud’s Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, are subject to Woolf’s spatial anxiety. Both are locked in and out of literal and metaphorical feminine spaces, acknowledged by feminist critics Gilbert and Gubar as ‘parallel confinements in texts, houses and […] female bodies’[3]. This study will analyse how in their texts – Freud’s a ‘case history’[4] of ‘petite hystérie’ (Freud, p.19) for ‘publication in a strictly scientific medical journal’ (Freud, p.4), Gilman’s a first-person fictional account of a woman’s experience of ‘a slight hysterical tendency’[5] – the writers’ portrayal of these spaces infers the locking in and out of their protagonists. Finally, this study aims to determine, as Woolf wonders, which is ‘worse’: to be locked in, or locked out? Continue reading “Essay: Space & Hysteria in The Yellow Wallpaper and Dora: A Case of Hysteria”

Essay: Kenneth MacMillan – Master Choreographer

Original article: 

Kenneth MacMillan by Donald Southern:ROH 1989

Ballet is no Sleeping Beauty. It’s no art installation, no history in hallowed halls, no artefact kept under lock and key. Steps and concepts can be penned, but can’t be captured in a still frame like film, composed on staves like music or printed on paper like poetry. It’s ephemeral, like theatre, existing only for a moment, but, unlike theatre, that moment – or movement – exists only on the body that embodies it. Ballet lives and breathes.

No one understood this more instinctively, or intensely, than Kenneth MacMillan; a master choreographer of the Royal Ballet and beyond whose life and work is being celebrated by the best of British companies, as well as around the world, to commemorate 25 years since his death. MacMillan had a heart attack backstage at the Royal Opera House in 1992 during a revival of the emotionally arresting Mayerling, but while the creator’s heart may have stopped, the heart of his creations go on beating and breaking on ballet stages around the world as wards of his widow, Lady MacMillan.

Most of the works in the celebration, performed by a mix of dancers from six world-class companies from around the UK, are composed of three short, one-act works to showcase the diversity and depth of his choreographic style. Continue reading “Essay: Kenneth MacMillan – Master Choreographer”

Essay: Violence & the Visitation Drama

Two plays, Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle and Sarah Kane’s Blasted, although written almost two decades apart and dramaturgically different – the former a mid-seventies commission for television broadcast, BBC’s Play for Today, the latter selected for the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs’ 1994/5 season, where as ‘few as 1,100 people in total’[1] saw the original production – both pose a challenge to the cultural norms of their time. The challenge they pose is immediately evident when one considers their initial reception: Potter’s play was banned from transmission by Director of Programmes Alasdair Milne and not broadcast until 1987, with Milne fearing that ‘real outrage would be widely felt’[2] in the absence of communicating ‘a point of serious importance’[3] that would justify the controversy, and Blasted was branded a ‘disgusting feast of filth’[4] – the infamous headline of critic Jack Tinker’s Daily Mail review – and not revived at the Royal Court Theatre until 2001. This study will analyse how these different but equally divisive plays challenge the cultural zeitgeist through two features they share, the loose formal structure of a visitation drama and the depiction of rape, and finally explore just why they’re so challenging. Continue reading “Essay: Violence & the Visitation Drama”

Essay: Fools, Falsity & the Four Tragedies – An Essay on the Tragic Fool

The Gravedigger in Hamletthe Fool in King Lear, the Porter in Macbeth, all RSC

‘By logic and tradition’, writes critic Julian Markels, the ‘fool belongs to comedy’[1]; and yet, one finds a fool-of-sorts – clown or companion, gravedigger or gatekeeper – in four of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies: King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello. The Early Modern fool likely ‘came down from the Morality plays’[2] as a distant, and altogether more comic, descendent of the Medieval Vice. And, as critics have noted, even when relegated to the practical role of court jester, and thus ‘confined […] to what was set down for him’[3], the fool ‘often disturbed the dramatic unity of the piece’[4]. This study, utilising the views of critics who have endeavoured to identify this elusive figure, will aim to theorise the role Shakespeare’s tragic fools are truly playing. Continue reading “Essay: Fools, Falsity & the Four Tragedies – An Essay on the Tragic Fool”