20 May 2013: “Grace me no grace, uncle me no uncle”

First thing workout included 15 mn supine dancing and five minutes walking, which has been made somewhat easier by the taller walking stick given to me by physio. Congee (watery but with chunks) and an egg (down the hatch).

Reading Acts 1 & 2 of Richard II which include these marvelously creative lines:

HENRY BOLINGBROKE
My gracious uncle–
DUKE OF YORK
Tut, tut!
Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle:

The use of the nouns “grace” and “uncle” as verbs may be a Shakespearean innovation if I remember my Oxford History of English correctly but that book languishes in my deserted flat. It’s a strikingly modern retort to Bolingbroke here, the future Henry IV who’s broken his terms of banishment.

Richard II reads easily for it’s almost all in verse, typically elegant blank verse with couplets at the end of speeches but many internal and end-line rhymes in the speeches themselves. This reflects the historical and Holinshed Richard II who aspired to be an Italian, Renaissance prince who’d patronize the arts, in a cold and Philistine northern clime where everyone wanted him to be a stud like his grandfather Edward III, and never mind the arts. The unspoken fear of Richard’s actual magnates was the possibility that Richard might be queer as was his grandfather, unmentionably murdered with a lead enema.

This gives Shakespeare’s play resemblances to Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II. Indeed, the plot lines parallel in that the downfall of the queer, and that of the arts patron, is a “death foretold”: both know that they are doomed. The difference being that Edward II claims a right that overrides his behavior, to be king, whereas Shakespeare’s character, like Henry VI, seems all too anxious to abdicate in favor of Hereford/Bolingbroke/Henry IV.

Note that all of Shakespeare’s history plays accurately identify the speaker by his current title or Christian name. Here Shakespeare uses Bolingbroke’s Christian name: but in Henry VI parts 2 and 3, and Richard III, Richard “Crookback” is not identified as Richard York: he goes from plain Richard, to Gloucester when his father is restored to Duke of York by Henry VI, to King Richard III after being crowned.

I checked the folio text (in the eText at the University of Virginia) and Bolingbroke is identified consistently as Bolingbroke, albeit abbreviated based on a variant spelling as “Bul.”…Bullingbrook?

Hmm. Clearly I need all of Shakespeare’s plays in formal grammar format, divided into software objects such as “block of verse”, “block of prose”, “stage” direction and so on. To this end I am using my newly available time in in retirement to key in the 1608 History of King Lear, and the 1623 Tragedy. I shall also write a blog post describing this project in more detail.

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