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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Howe to Mayke Bukkenade ...

(whatever in hell that is).

Since love is purely an emotion, it isn't really difficult to figure out which of Shakespeare's plays I love the most: Richard II. (No ... that's not a typo. I mean Richard the Second, not the more commonly performed Richard the Third, now forever and completely associated with Sir Laurence Olivier's controversial version featuring the unforgettably haunting "Now is the Winter of our discontent ...")

Less often performed, for many reasons, R-II brings together a host of characters whose traits I can recognize among those around me. And it has some of the most memorable lines, too. But, I guess, that holds good for most of Shakespeare. So why R-II?

For the oddest of reasons: It was in my High School course (SC '56).

Odd, because I'll be the first to admit that books (in fact, entire subjects) taught at school - however wonderful they may be - can be (and, generally, are) ruined for life! This is because they are taught not for giving you pleasure but to be tested and examined in, tortured by, paraphrased, memorised, referenced, and contextualized in a non-contextual kind of way. Finally, subjected to the mind/language/annotations of a teacher who has had her/his (shouldn't 'hir' do for such cases?) fill of it for years and has ceased to see any joy in it (and we are only talking about 'good' teachers, here), they become things to fear and even hate. Pummelled into a shape that the teacher has wrought - rather than letting your own imagination shape things as you'd like or can comprehend - most great texts are never picked up again for pleasure.

I was among those who had the good fortune of being taught this play by a Mr. Stanley D'Souza (nicknamed 'Gunboat' by students well before my time). Here was a man who loved language and made the most mundane of lines come alive. (Strangely, he was also 'used' by the school to teach Geography but could instill no life into that subject. Chirapoonji's annual rainfall figures can't really hold a candle to to good old Will, even when he is just going "hey Nonny...".)

In a senior class, the year before, I'd witnessed Mr. D'Souza (I wonder if today he'd be called 'Gunboat Sir' in this era of artficial camaraderie among the old and young) walk into class, cover the windows with newspapers and - in the dim light - transform into Lady Macbeth right before my eyes. (Fortunately 'beauty' was not a prerequisite for that role.)

That scene remains etched in my mind almost as vividly as the Romeo & Juliet balcony scene that Henry Fonda and the vivacious, sparkling Susan Strasberg (daughter of Lee Strasberg) played out in Sydney Lumet's Stage Struck, a film that also features a young Christopher Plummer, whom many will remember from The Sound of Music and more. (I adore most of Lumet's work, so I may be prejudiced ... but I'd suggest you see the film.)

'WTF', you must be thinking by now - and rightly so - 'has all this got to do with the strange title of this meandering post?' Aah. Not much, really. Except that among my crazy interests are old non-fiction texts, especially those that provide fun views of the days gone by. Recently the search led me to a cook book, "The Forme of Cury", compiled, about A.D. 1390, by the Master-Cooks of King Richard II. In that book I came across the following delightful recipe (quoted verbatim).

(Lunacy isn't easy to explain, but there is a method to my madness. Or maybe it's just I who think so.)


Take Hennes o˛er Conynges o˛er Veel o˛er o˛er Flessh an hewe hem to gobettes waische it and hit well. grynde Almandes unblaunched. and drawe hem up with ˛e broth cast o˛er inne raysons of Corance. Sugur. Powdour gyngur erbes ystewed in grees. Oynouns and Salt. If it is to to thynne. alye it up with flour of ryse o˛er with o˛er thyng and colour it with Safroun.

( The 'to to' isn't a 'mistayke'. It's the old form of 'too' ... See how much you learn on this blog? ;-) )

By the way, one film version of R-II featured Sir John Gielgud (more about this favourite of mine in another post) in the role of Richard's uncle, John of Gaunt. What a performance!

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Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

'Julius Caesar' was part of the syllabus in the final year of college. But, really got down to reading it... :D

20 March, 2008 23:07


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