Shakespeare’s writings: their modern relevance now 400 years young.

(from a speech made to Dorset and later to Wokingham Conservatives)

 

This week we celebrate England’s greatest writer. 400 years ago he died after a phenomenal written output.  He towers over the world literary stage four hundred years after his death. A replica of his theatre has risen on the South Bank where it stood in his time. He is a world brand, a commercial phenomenon, the inspiration for many operas, novels and other works. For many versed in English literature his characters are part of their network of personalities, helping readers to understand human nature better. Many remember Hamlet’s agonies over whether and how to avenge his father’s death.

 

1.Hamlet – Act 3, Scene 1

 

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there’s the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin?

 

 

 

Shakespeare’s genius lies in his ability to capture the timeless in human nature. His characters are immortal, though rooted in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.  We have all met modern examples of the decency of Cordelia, Lear’s one honest but loving daughter. We have encountered the evil of Lady Macbeth, who thought any criminal means were justified by the pursuit of power. We have admired others with the bravery of Henry V. We have witnessed some with the factional strength of Bolingbroke, besotted by the ambition to become King. How many have we met, with the pretensions of Falstaff to be greater and more influential than he was? Whilst Malvolio’s puritanism and dress style are of the sixteenth century his pomposity and absurdity is timeless. They are at one and the same time of their age and of every age.

 

Shakespeare was rooted in England. He was both countryman, living in rural Stratford, and Londoner, living in the melee of the busy and fast growing Elizabethan metropolis. He knew his flora and his fauna, and writes intricately of the seasons, the weather and the harvests. He observed minutely the mores and opinions of the many and varied people that traded, landed and lived in the capital. He wrote of their divergent religions, values, embassies and business.  Today some feminists find The Taming of the Shrew difficult to accept, and some think the Merchant of Venice too harsh. If we look more closely Shakespeare’s women often argue back, manipulate their men or have authority and power in their own right, whilst we are reminded forcefully in The Merchant that Jews and Christians share a common humanity and are of the same flesh and blood.

 

Tonight I want to celebrate both Shakespeare’s stunning achievement as poet and dramatist, and explore his vision and love of England. It is fitting that his  birthday, the date of  his death and St George’s day all fall around the same day  in April, allowing us to commemorate both our country and its greatest writer at the same time.

 

Shakespeare’s England is written into all the plays, whether they are ostensibly set at home or usually in some more exotic location. The Merry Wives of Windsor shows a light hearted mocking reverence for the emerging middle class of contemporary England. Decent Mr Page and Mr Ford represent the comfortable men of some property and business that flourished as England grew more prosperous. We first meet Mr Page talking of eating venison and discussing his greyhounds. Their wives are to outwit the drunken and lewd Sir John Falstaff, who seeks to use his attachment to the court and his knighthood to win illicit favours of moral matrons. The Forest of Arden features in the plot of As You like it, woodlands well known to the author close to the haunts of his Stratford family. When we hear description of the grassy banks and leafy glades in Midsummer Night’s Dream it could as well be set in the rural England Shakespeare loved. Even when Shakespeare wishes to conjure an unkind weather and landscape to reflect the jealousy of the spirits, the English countryside shines through:

1A. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Act 2, Scene 1

TITANIA   Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,   As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea  Contagious fogs; which falling in the land   Have every pelting river made so proud  That they have overborne their continents:  The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,  The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn  Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;  The fold stands empty in the drowned field,  And crows are fatted with the murrion flock; 

The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,  And the quaint mazes in the wanton green  For lack of tread are undistinguishable: 

The human mortals want their winter here;  No night is now with hymn or carol blest:

 

He is often kindly disposed to the beauties of the nature he was used to here at home. He portrays sylvan innocence and plenty in his comedies, contrasting shepherds and country folk, with people from the court. His rural settings have poor people with food to eat and gainful employment alongside the rich and powerful. His portraits of working men capture the variety of Elizabethan society. The mechanics in Midsummer Night’s Dream number a carpenter, weaver, bellows mender, tinker, tailor and joiner. Elsewhere we meet lawyers and constables, justices and soldiers, treated with satire in mind.  Whilst he makes fun of many of them and gives them impediments of speech and understanding, there is often a loving tolerance of their foibles. Falstaff’s little army of Pym, Bardolph and Pistol offers a cynical contrast to the fine virtues many of Henry V’s soldiers display, versed as they are in petty crime and out to avoid personal danger.

The personality of Bottom, ever eager to please and never shy about his own capacities, comes out well as he awakes from his dream and tries to work out how his foray into fairy land had happened:

 

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act 4

Bottom’s Dream

 

When my cue comes, call me, and I will answer. My next is “Most fair Pyramus.” Heigh-ho! Peter Quince? Flute the bellows-mender? Snout the tinker? Starveling? God’s my life, stol’n hence, and left me asleep? I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream—past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had—but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called “Bottom’s Dream” because it hath no bottom. And I will sing it in the latter end of a play before the duke. Peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.

Perhaps the best known and most inciteful of all the pieces by Shakespeare’s fools comes in Jacques Seven ages of man:

 

  1. All the world’s a stage

(From As You Like It Act II Scene VII)

 

Jaques to Duke Senior

 

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

 

 

Between the court and the rest lies the clowns and jesters. Just as today some of the brightest choose to be acerbic media commentators or scurrilous sketch writers, claiming to offer a mirror of truth to power, so in Shakespeare’s time the great and mighty licensed fools to tease and challenge them. The Fools from Lear’s to Costard, from Jacques to the players put up to the role in Hamlet are there to provide a moral commentary and to help the audience understand the choices before the powerful. They are a crucial part of Englishness. England as a country has a long tradition of scatological and irreverent commentary on those who practise government and the law. An anti-clerical country, we have a natural scepticism about those who claim superior wisdom, who claim the right to govern, and those who seek to preserve mysteries beyond the artisan’s understanding. The Fools stand up for the underdogs, ever popular in the English tradition of self-deprecation.

 

So what was this England that Shakespeare so stroked with magical words?  It was a country at peace for a century after being riven by bloody civil wars. It was a country beginning a most extraordinary flowering, as a maritime and trading country, as a centre of great music, drama and poetry, as a power in Europe that could stand up to the superpower of Catholic Spain and work with the Netherlands and the other Protestant forces. England was growing together, was becoming more prosperous. It was a land with more brick homes and more chimneys, more hearths and better food, more trade and more exotic products, more ships and more sheep, more cloth and more technology. London was bursting out, with a population above 200,000.

 

Shakespeare’s history plays have but one enduring hero, England.

 

Henry V Act 2 Prologue, Chorus – “Now all the youth of England are on fire”

PROLOGUE

 

Now all the youth of England are on fire, And silken dalliance in the wardrobe lies: Now thrive the armourers, and honour’s thought Reigns solely in the breast of every man: They sell the pasture now to buy the horse, Following the mirror of all Christian kings, With winged heels, as English Mercuries. For now sits Expectation in the air, And hides a sword from hilts unto the point With crowns imperial, crowns and coronets, Promised to Harry and his followers. The French, advised by good intelligence Of this most dreadful preparation, Shake in their fear and with pale policy Seek to divert the English purposes. O England! model to thy inward greatness, Like little body with a mighty heart, What mightst thou do, that honour would thee do, Were all thy children kind and natural!

 

The plays chart the troubles and dramas which disfigure the body politic, interrupt prosperous commerce and at times overturn the natural order. The plays set bastard against legitimate heir, strong man against weak monarch, faction against faction, north against south, England against France, even father against son. Despite all this England shines through, greater than any King, always present. The plays point crookedly towards a better future. For Shakespeare the histories culminate in an England at peace under a mighty and much loved monarch Elizabeth I. Such is her achievement that the kingdom can pass without dispute to James of Scotland. Shakespeare himself can praise the new King whilst questioning his old kingdom in the dark and very frank account of Scottish politics in Macbeth.

 

Not only do I dwell on the history plays because they are about England. I also draw most from Henry V. The stirring speech of Henry before Harfleur conjures up proud memories of military England.

 

 Henry V Act 3, Scene 1: The Life of King Henry the Fifth

SCENE I. France. Before Harfleur.

 

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage; Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; Let pry through the portage of the head Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it As fearfully as doth a galled rock O’erhang and jutty his confounded base, Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean. Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit To his full height. On, on, you noblest English. Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof! Fathers that, like so many Alexanders, Have in these parts from morn till even fought And sheathed their swords for lack of argument: Dishonour not your mothers; now attest That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you. Be copy now to men of grosser blood, And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman, Whose limbs were made in England, show us here The mettle of your pasture; let us swear That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not; For there is none of you so mean and base, That hath not noble lustre in your eyes. I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

 

Henry V is the nearest we reach to Shakespeare’s vision of ideal kingship. Trained partly in the taverns of Eastcheap, influenced but not ruined by Falstaff and the drinking boys, as a King Henry has the common touch alongside the royal virtues of bravery and moral purpose. Under him England begins to live up to Shakespeare’s expectations as an important power. Shakespeare never wrote a play expressly about the achievement of Elizabeth. The speech from his Henry VIII points to the crowning glory of England’s achievements under the great Queen and has to suffice.

 

Henry VIII Act V, Scene V speech on the birth of Elizabeth “This royal infant….”

SCENE V. The palace.

CRANMER

 

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.

I end with  John of Gaunt’s even more famous romance of our country. It  is sadly coupled to his lament about what a bad king had once done to it, and with laced with premonitions of his own death. England emerges as the true hero,  bruised and battered by bad politicians. We take comfort from knowing that England will recover as the bad Kings and nobles lose their grip on power and then on life itself.

 

 

Richard II Act II, Scene I, John of Gaunt “This royal throne of kings, this sceptre isle….”

 

JOHN OF GAUNT

 

Methinks I am a prophet new inspired And thus expiring do foretell of him: His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last, For violent fires soon burn out themselves; Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short; He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes; With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder: Light vanity, insatiate cormorant, Consuming means, soon preys upon itself. This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands, This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings, Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth, Renowned for their deeds as far from home, For Christian service and true chivalry, As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry, Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son, This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, Dear for her reputation through the world, Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it, Like to a tenement or pelting farm: England, bound in with the triumphant sea Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame, With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds: That England, that was wont to conquer others, Hath made a shameful conquest of itself. Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life, How happy then were my ensuing death

 

Conclusion – England, the once and future country. Devolution for England – John Redwood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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41 Comments

  1. Horatio
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Cameron and his coterie of obliging and mendacious nobles, Hammond, Osborne, Greening etc, should remember John of Gaunt. I had if he hopes for Greening once, but I dislike our foreign aid spending almost as much as our eu contribution.

    I grew up in West Sussex a very conservative, intensely Eurosceptic county. I cannot understand how long serving MPs such as Nick Gibb or Nick Herbert imagine their constituencies will support them after their effrontry and deception. How easy is it to deselect or challenge long standing MPs in safe seats JR? It seems many of our elected representatives fear not the wrath of their constituency associations.

    I have no problem with longstanding europhiles, much as I may abhor their views, they hold to their principles. What this episode exposes most powerfully however, is that many Tory MPs are careerist and self serving, bereft of principle and decency, contemptuously betraying the trust of ordinary voters. These MPs I hold in the foulest contempt.

    Thank you again JR; you are a man of principle and prodigious, tireless work ethic in the service of your country.

    • Horatio
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      *high hopes of Greening. Bloody technology

      • stred
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        Not Justine Greening hopefully.

        • Hope
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          May needs to be nailed down on her utterly stupid comments on Marr this morning. Why have EU criminals been allowed to enter our country and commit further crime including murder if she controls our borders? What monitoring and supervision is taking place of EU citizens who entered the country with a criminal record? Why cannot the public be told the correct immigration figures from NI numbers? Why is immigration at its highest levels after. Seven years of promises to cut immigration to tens of thousands? Why was this not discussed or part of …….Dave’s negotiation with the EU? May needs to resign in her utter failure to implement the Tory manifesto.

          Why is Kent police not telling us (about the alleged crime recently ed)

    • Iain Moore
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps summed up by Shakespeare in Hamlet when he has Marcellus saying ‘there is something rotten in the State of Denmark’.

    • Phil Richmond
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      Horatio – there will be civil war in the Conservative Party. I know a few Tory activists and they are spitting blood at Cameron / Osborne /May/ Hammond and all the quislings who lied to get where they are.
      After we reclaim the Tory Party from these imposters there will be a purge that even Stalin would be impressed with.
      How JR and other Tory MPs have allowed these people to gain control is beyond me. The members will cleanse the body of the cancer. Herbert and co should be very worried!!

  2. agricola
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    You would have made my forays into Shakespeare as a pupil much more interesting than I recall them. I hope the electorate of Dorset and Wokingham found it equally enlightening. Should you ever depart the day job, I’m sure places of learning would welcome you. I am wondering who we can cloak in the mantle of Lady Macbeth from our current bunch of chancers. Sex does not necessarily have to come into it.

  3. M Davis
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Much appreciated, JR, thank you!

  4. Hope
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Very intelligent and articulate. However, you need to reach everyone in a short time. You now need to act like Patterson and Fox in their articles today. It needs to be pointed out quite clearly and succinctly what a traitor Tax dodging Dave is to democratic self government and how he has resoundingly failed to negotiatiete anything manful and that it is dishonest for him to say he has reformed the EU. He dropped all the important points before discussion and acheived nothing of substance which will be enforced by a legally binding treaty. He delivered nothing in his Bloomberg speech and that by 2025 the five presidents report make it clear the 19 Eurozone countries will be the neucleas of the EU superstar with an expectation that the others will join over time. The U.K. Will be an associated member to allow it to be subsumed when the time is right. In the meantime the UK by stealth will not be allowed to take independent decisions and the puppet government will continue to lie and deceive the public that it makes decisions. Overwhelmingly it needs to be hammered home how tax dodging Dave lied over and over again about EU immigration and that some of his cabinet connived with him. He does not have the authority or will to do anything about EU immigration which will soar because of Maas unemployment in the Eurozone countries. Tax dodging Dave will play his part to take these economic migrants and give them UK taxes to be sent home to help their ailing families because of the EU project to create a superstate. In the spirit of Henry iv, country before the Tory party!

  5. fedupsoutherner
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I think I may throw something at my TV right now. Theresa May (may take control of something) is on Andrew Marr going on about how we can have a say if we stay in the EU over immigration. Does she think we’re stupid? Andrew Marr pointed out that immigration from the EU will continue to rise especially with the living wage being brought in. She cannot deny this and yet keeps going on about how we must stay in. She cannot bring herself to say that the EU is the prime source of immigration. She’s going on again now about the Shengen area saying that people are checked. Yes, they may be checked but it doesn’t stop people from the EU coming on. What a farce. It must be advantageous to Brexit listening to the drivel coming from her mouth. Apparently we check people at the border. Well, wouldn’t we if we weren’t in the EU???? The woman is a clown. I have to say Andrew Marr is making a good case for not staying the EU. What a surprise.

    • Iain Moore
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      On Marr Theresa May tried a very Sir Humpries Civil Service redefinition of border controls and immigration, trying to suggest that controlling our borders did not mean we controlled immigration. It was quite bizarre. She also, in attempting to justify her lamentable record of controlling our borders, managed to rubbish Osborne’s Treasury analysis of the economic benefits of being in the EU, for while the Treasury made the economic projections that a further 3 million migrants would enter the country, Theresa May completely dismissed this migrant projection. Both can’t be right.

      • Hope
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        50 EU criminals entered our country and went on to commit further serious crime including murder. If May controls the borders why did she let them in? Moreover she owes an apology to the victims families for her deception to the public today. She cannot have it both ways. Serious offenders in the EU have an absolute right to enter here without monitoring or supervision. If what she says is true why did she not stop them entering? She could not even deport Abu Qatada, he left voluntary, because of the ECHR! Another deceptive response from a career politician out of her depth. After seven years in office immigration figures are at their highest and the govt is preventing the real numbers of immigration being published. The disparity between NI numbers and immigration figures not explained or evidenced by Cameron, May and Osborne. It is reasonable to assume she could have cut immigration to tens of thousands as repeated by “…….Dave. Even by her Dubious figures it is 300000!

        • Lifelogic
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

          It is a blatant lie by Mrs May for her to pretend she/we retain control of our borders to EU migration. She is taking the voters for halfwits and treating them with complete contempt.

          It is even worse than saying a treaty is not a treaty once ratified.

          Similarly to claim we would have to retain open borders in order to trade. It is pure sophistry, dishonesty and deception from her.

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    An excellent contribution. England and Westminster democracy restored please.

    Does Therisa May realise how absurd her line sound on Andrew Marr today. She claimes we have “control of our borders” while remaining in the EU! This as we can stop one or two criminals at the border controls but have to let the other hundreds of thousands come in regardless of merit.

    Also the absurd – “we will have to give free movement in order to trade with the EU post Brexit”. The woman is a complete joke, does she think voters are all very stupid five year olds?

  7. agricola
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I have never been a great fan of Andrew Marr, but this morning he would seem to have had a damascene moment. He decimated Teressa May on the subject on immigration reducing her to flatulent blather, effectively confirming that staying within the EU condemns us to endless years of 250,000 per annum immigration. He also managed to highlight that the Remain project was an establishment stitch up. An establishment that largely isolate themselves from the effects of their wanton disregard of the British people.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Indeed though even here I think he was rather too gentle on her absurd and totally indefensible line. About the fist time I have heard him ask anything much beyond “prey what would you like to say next”.

  8. Iain Moore
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    From what I saw of the Shakespeare celebration on the BBC (I didn’t go out looking for it, just what I happened upon), it seemed like the BBC’s agenda was to de-English the Bard. I saw no celebration to say he was English, but great attempts to peddle him as a global bard, suddenly ‘cultural appropriation’ was to be encouraged, I came across Hip Hop Shakespeare, several times, and the number of Black actors they had playing the characters was less down to chance and seemed to be part of a political agenda.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Well of course that is the BBC and that is always their agenda.

      The BBC is just lots of lefty, second rate, guardian think art grads pushing diversity, magic money tree economics, submission to EU, anti-democratic rule, ever more government, ever more taxation, ever more regulation, ever more envy, ever more enforces “equality”, ever more immigration regardless of quality and ever more green crap.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      I felt it had been designed by luvvies for an audience of luvvies!

  9. eeyore
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood – I beg to confess that, in this and another post, I have given you and your readers false information. On checking, I discover that Charles is recorded as reading a Second Folio (not a first), and not at Whitehall before his execution but at Carisbrook on the Isle of Wight.

    I took my original statements from a book which turns out to be unreliable. Such are the perils of amateur scholarship, and of not carefully verifying information. I would not misinform you or your followers for the world, and you would do them and me a great kindness by deleting these posts.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Shakespeare is arguably the EU’s finest poet and should remain so as long as English is the lingua franca… oh dear !

  11. Bert Young
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Profound and extremely thoughtful presentation John – I am much impressed . Today the world benefits from our past ; the standards we have set and our continuing contributions in so many areas set precedents that others would do well to follow .

    There are no messages we need listen to when our history has already made them ; our place is well established and all we need to do is to keep the high standards alive and kicking . We should never be a part of any system that seeks to water down our influence ; standing alone is the better challenge for us .

  12. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    What, no MacBeth? This tale of what happens to usurpers was well told. What will happen to the usurpers at the head of the Remain campaign who have dethroned truth and crowned spin and mendacity?

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Lindsay, I seem to remember a sharp axe and a block!! Well deserved.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Dan Hodges declares that Airforce One Has Landed Right on top of The Brexiteers (Mail on Sunday.)

    President Obama said that Eurosceptics claimed what American trade deals would be outside the EU and that the British people might, therefore, like to know from the President.

    This is where the now famous “… to the back of the queue” comment came in.

    I’d like to know. Is that to the very back of the queue ? Or is it further back in the queue ? Maybe it’s in the middle of the queue.

    No. I’m pretty certain it’s to the very back of the queue. In other words our people will be punished for voting in a way which displeases the President of America.

    I sense that the all important Daily Mail is turning on this too. On the eve of the referendum I fully expect “We ask readers to hold their noses and vote Remain in the interests of the nation.”

    (Why did BJ have to mention Kenya ?)

    Reply Obama said 3 things that support the Brexit case. We have no free trade deal with the U.S. Inside the EU. we can negotiate one once outside. we will still be best friends either way

    • Margaret
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      What is said John and what tone it is expressed in are two different things . I know you keep building bridges , but the UK will be here for ever and Obama won’t.

    • Know-dice
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Back of the queue is fine if the Remainders think that TTIP is a good trade deal for the EU and UK.

      It’s not !!!

      Only the USA benefits from TTIP. Current “no trade deal” seems to me to be a much better deal…

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      What isn’t being made clear is that “back of the queue” for a special deal only means carrying on with the general WTO deal we are using now, not a complete cessation of trade as is people are being left to wrongly assume.

      But in any case the special deal would only be of marginal economic benefit, on the government’s own projection: a one-off addition of £10 billion to a £1800 billion economy which is expanding by £45 billion a year through natural growth.

  14. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    In my main secondary school, there was one teacher, in one class, in one year, on one occasion, in ones Drama one hour per week in one month, taught us something of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream “. Few took part. I did not. It turned into a pantomime
    No more Shakespeare was taught in the school. No poetry. Not one poem.

    Years later,via a third person and then in person, I discovered the schoolmasters considered the idea of teaching us Shakespeare was and I quote exactly: ” Like casting pearls before swine ”
    An eternal attitude in the British teaching profession where too many teachers fat with wallet,purse, time-off, are poor and blank evidencing they have read only the one book but badly.

    • Margaret
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      I myself have only read thoroughly about 6 plays. The first was ‘As you Like it’ as a youngster which was subsequently performed at the Library theatre in Manchester. I don’t think I fully grasped the language then , but later in life I took a couple of ‘A ‘levels in literature where one particular teacher in Bolton who loved Literature and to my delight classical music, brought it alive . He understood the language perfectly and from thereon I learned to love the sonnets , plays and learn about the different metres in poetry. It just needed this persons’ enthusiasm to rub off on his students.
      I then took a Literature degree whilst my daughter was taking Literature at school . We discussed her school texts and enthused between us. The teachers at her school, when she answered questions from her text accused her of copying from a book and marked her down accordingly . Her answers were better than theirs.

  15. turbo terrier
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if Obama the lame duck President of the USA has ever read Shakespeare? If he had he might have tried to engage the brain before trying to support another lame duck politician in telling the United Kingdom what is best for them regarding the EU. Shakespeare recognised what makes the British people British and over the centuries his words have more than stood the test of time and in times of difficulties the media sometimes ressurect a quote from the Bard’s work to get a point across.

    America always has and always will do what is best for themselves.

    With Hilary Clinton throwing in her four penneth in all one can hope for is that Donald Trump wins the election as if he is to be believed, has always had a soft spot for these islands.

    How many times on American TV do you see Range Rovers, Jaguar and other icons of British industry? The Americans love to have a blacker dog but they have nothing to compete with Rollers and Bentleys. We won’t be able to deal with them? Stuff and nonsense. Quality will always prevail especially with people who have money and live in a high profile bubble.

    When it comes to June in the ballet booth this nation rises up as one and salutes Obama, Cameron and all his cohorts with the two raised fingers of maybe the greatest statesman of all, Winston Churchill who I am sure would have read and understood what Shakespearewas writing about.

  16. Edward2
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    What a marvellous article.
    I am lucky to have lived near to the RSC and so I have seen many plays.
    David Tennant as Hamlet was truly wonderful.
    Anthony Sher in a modern adaptation of the Merchant of Venice was another fine performance.
    My favourite is the Tempest one of his last plays.
    God bless William Shakespeare, our Queen and this fine nation of people.

  17. NickW
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Thank you for that wonderful exposition.

    It should serve as a poignant reminder that the uncultured savages are not those who seek freedom from the EU’s tentacles, but those on the remain side who would see us subsumed into an EU which is a characterless blob without identity or humanity, destroying our culture and heritage in the process.

    History’s judgement will condemn those who would have us remain in the EU.

  18. turbo terrier
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Peter Hitchens in the MoS sums it up very well about the USA isn’t our special friend and he has got it about right.

    Regarding the back of the queue jibe, do we not do about 56 billion dollars of trade with the USA, collaborate with them in scientific and military projects including some parts for their F35?

    In reality in his two terms what has Obama delivered regarding his promises? Three fifths of nothing important. He is preaching to us!! His head is where the sun doesn’t shine.

  19. turbo terrier
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    In some of the press we seem to be getting some very good support against Obama.

    Tim Montgomerie in the Spectator writing on: Obama’s overeach being typical of his arrogance, really puts Obama in his real place “when it comes to self-reverence and sheer hauteur there is no one to beat him”

    Got that about right in one

  20. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    There’s a lot which is difficult to understand in Shakespeare’s language, but like that of the (older versions of) the Bible it nonetheless has a great beauty.

    When we visited the Globe Theatre there was a display of the numerous phrases and sayings which have entered everyday discourse from Shakespeare.

  21. acorn
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Come off it JR. “Shakespeare” as one bloke, never existed! Look through his time line and see all the bits that are missing. There is no actual date of birth to start with; after that the dates and places of his existence are somewhat disconnected.

    “Shakespeare” is an example of the first, and still one of the best ever PR “branding” operations. Only recently paralleled by brand names like “Ford”; “Hoover”; “Google” and “Apple”.

    Reply Don’t be silly. There is plenty of historical evidence of Shakespeare’s life, property and career.

  22. fedupsoutherner
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    All I want to know is when is the British lion going to roar once more? Not much chance of that with a pussy cat in charge! For God’s sake can we find another Churchill to run the country and to give us all self belief once more?

  23. turbo terrier
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    The report in from the Gatestone Institute International Policy Council dated 24/4/16 entitled “Turkey Blackmails Europe on Visa-Free Travel” must prompt the question: Would Obama have fallen for such a five card trick. CMD has and it hardly gets a mention in the media.

    We are being sold completely down the river and Farage in my previous entry has them bang to rights regarding their principles, ethics,honesty and common sense.

  24. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Mr Obama has left. Parting wasn’t such sweet sorrow. More a type one and two diabetic sucrose comatose overdose

  25. Adam
    Posted April 25, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    If enemies ideologies conspire to take away England’s independence then so be it. But at least we will have tried. You can only try.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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