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Hamlets melancholy June 5, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Classic Literature, Shakespeare.
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The Elizabethans inherited from the middle ages a view of man’s body as being composed of a mixture of the four elements, earth, water, air and fire, which were supplied by the intake of food. The liver converted food into four different kinds of liquids, or “humours”, which in turn gave moisture and vital heat to the body.

The four humours were the choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic and melancholic. The melancholic, being cold and dry, was associated with earth. The phlegmatic humour was cold and moist and associated with water. The sanguine humour was located in the blood, which was hot and moist, and the choleric humour was associated with fire and was hot and dry.

Fire = Choleric = Hot and Dry = Bile
Air = Sanguine = Hot and Moist = Blood
Water = Phlegmatic = Cold and Moist = Phlegm
Earth = Melancholic = Cold and Dry = Black Bile

It was the particular mixture or combination of these humours, or elements as they were also called, that informed each individual human being with a particular temperament or “complexion”.

The ideal man would consist of a perfect mixture of the four elements. In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, Anthony describes Brutus as having been just such a man:

His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed up in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world ‘This was a man!’

Few people are blessed with such an ideal mixture and most exhibit a predominant humour or combination of humours.

For example, if someone was said to be of a choleric temperament it was because his character reflected the predominate tendency of that humour; in other words, he was a quick tempered, impatient, bilious sort of chap.

A phlegmatic character was placid and rather indolent, lacking in feelings and tending towards imbecility.

A sanguine character was ruddy of countenance, of a cheerful disposition and a lover of the pleasures of the flesh. Many considered this the best of all the humours.

Finally, the melancholic type was moody, sensitive, reflective, and given to bouts of mania or world-weary sadness or chagrin, like Antonio in The Merchant of Venice:

In sooth I know not why I am so sad,
It wearies me…

It was the melancholic humour that was given the most attention in the Renaissance period because it was the humour that could bring on bouts of madness, ecstasy, fury, and was even linked to divine inspiration.

Socrates and Plato were said to have been melancholic types whose philosophical insights were divinely inspired.

Poets and artists were also thought to have melancholic temperaments, and an attitude of “tristezza” became fashionable among young intellectuals in Shakespeare’s day.

In his Anatomy of Melancholy, Burton remarks that melancholia “advanceth men’s conceits more than any other humour” – in other words, the melancholic type is given to witticisms and has a swift and fertile imagination.

Michel De Montaigne (1533-1592), who popularized the essay as a literary genre, described his natural complexion as being a stable mixture of the sanguine and melancholic, the former keeping the latter in check.

However, when he relinquished his business affairs and retired to his country estate to live the life of a gentleman of leisure, a sudden bereavement threw him into a profound melancholic depression which he feared might develop into full-blown madness. His spirit, usually tempered by the sanguine humour and therefore free of sadness, suddenly “bolted off like a runaway horse” and gave birth to “chimeras and fantastic monstrosities, one after another” (Essays I:8).

If melancholia or any of the other humours takes on excess it corrupts and burns up to become “melancholy adust” and if one’s predominate humour is melancholia, then madness is a real danger.

Montaigne’s solution was to write about himself in the light of classical history, personal experience and anecdotes he picked up here and there. He analyzed and questioned everything that interested him (except the doctrines of the Catholic faith) with the sceptical eye of a student of Sextus Empiricus.

Montaigne’s melancholic humour and his intellectual scepticism are thought to have influenced Shakespeare in his creation of Hamlet, who is the image of a sceptical prince par excellence. Much of the play revolves around Hamlet’s search for evidence that Claudius did indeed murder Hamlet’s father.

Hamlet grieves over the loss of his father and is horrified by his mother’s hasty marriage with his uncle, Claudius, the new king. Hamlet’s melancholy humour is clearly conveyed in his first soliloquy:

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Hamlet’s melancholy has become corrupted and “burnt” with excessive heat, and during the course of the play we see him take on various roles or undergo experiences that might be linked to “melancholy adust”.

He sees a ghost, just as Montaigne reported seeing chimeras; his language is full of poetic conceit and witty inspiration; he apes a lover’s ecstacies; he kills Polonius in a moment of fury and ultimately kills Claudius in a frenzied assault hastened by his knowledge that he too is dying.

And of course, Hamlet feigns madness. But he does it so convincingly that we wonder whether or not he has actually gone mad, or at least whether one would have to be mad in order to choose to feign madness.

Whatever the truth behind the claims that Shakespeare was influenced by Montaigne when he was writing Hamlet, one thing is certain, and that is that Hamlet is for much of the play an excellent model of melancholia.

Classic Literature, The Tempest by William Shakespeare May 30, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Arts & Drama Audio Books, Classic Literature, Dramatizations, Shakespeare.
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Why not listen to this full cast production. The Tempest by William Shakespeare. BBC radio has a unique heritage when it comes to Shakespeare. Since 1923, when the newly formed company broadcast its first full-length play, generations of actors and producers have honed and perfected the craft of making Shakespeare to be heard.

William Shakespeare - The Tempest

Raging storms and rich, beautiful music combine to magical effect in this radio production of Shakespeare’s allegorical last play, where mystical forces work to restore harmony and order to an estranged community.

The play is introduced by Richard Eyre, former Director of the Royal National Theatre, and the accompanying booklet includes a scene-by-scene synopsis, full character analysis, brief biographies of the leading actors and of Shakespeare himself, as well as an essay from the producer on their interpretation of the play.

Revitalised, original and comprehensive, this is Shakespeare for the new millennium.

Written By
William Shakespeare

The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian May 7, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Chronicles of Narnia, Classic Literature, Fantasy, Juvenile Classics.
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C.S. Lewis is the author of the Chronicles of Narnia and on this audiobook you can listen to the fantasy about Prince Caspian.

Narnia … the land between the lamp-post and the Castle of Cair Paravel, where animals talk, where magical things happen … and where the adventure begins.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are returning to boarding school when they are summoned from the dreary train station (by Susan’s own magic horn) to return to the land of Narnia — the land where they had ruled as kings and queens and where their help is desperately needed.

Prins Caspian - C.S. Lewis

Prince Caspian is one of many adventures in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis you can download and listen to in CIRCUM Online Audio Books Store

Shakespeare’s Speeches – Download Audio April 30, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Arts & Drama Audio Books, Classic Literature, Dramatizations, Shakespeare.
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BBC Radio - Shakespeare's Speeches

An Anthology Of Shakespearian Speches Performed By The World’s Leading Actors

BBC Radio Collection – All The World’s A Stage

Romeo & Juliet – Act I, Scene III
“O Romeo, Romeo – wherefore art thou Romeo”. This impassioned speech is beautifully spoken by Fay Compton in this BBC Sound archives recording.

Hamlet – Act III, Scene I
‘To be or not to be – that is the question….’ In this BBC Sound Archive recording, Michael Redgrave stars as Shakespeare’s troubled Prince of Denmark.

Henry V – Act IV, Scene III
‘This day is called the feast of Crispian….’ In one of the most famous and inspirational of Shakespeare’s speeches, Richard Burton’s rich and resonant voice delivers Henry V’s address to his army on the eve of Agincourt!

King Lear – Act II, Scene IV
‘I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad…’ Alec Guinness’s performance as King Lear stirs the listener in this recording from the BBC Sound Archives.

Macbeth – Act I, Scene VII
‘If it were done when ’tis done…’ From the BBC Sound Archives, one of Shakespeare’s most famous and memorable speeches, with Paul Scofield and Peggy Ashcroft as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, bringing these ominous words vividly to life.

Macbeth – Act II, Scene II
‘Is this a dagger which I see before me…..’ With Denis Quilley as Macbeth, this recording from the BBC Sound Archives brings Shakespeare’s memorable words to life..

Richard III – Act I, Scene I
‘Now is the winter of our discontent….’ Ian Holm delivers King Richard IIIs soliloquy, bringing Shakespeare’s wonderful lines, full of pyschological insight, vividly to life.

The Merchant Of Venice – Act IV, Scene I
‘The quality of mercy is not strained….’ In this recording from the BBC Sound Archives, Hannah Gordon is Shakespeare’s wise Portia.

Download and listen to William Shakespeare’s most famous speeches now

Shakespeare Plays April 17, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Classic Literature, Dramatizations, Shakespeare.
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No one would argue that William Shakespeare is the most performed playwright in the world. Shakespeare plays are the cornerstone of the school curriculum in English Literature studies and they have been translated into almost every language. They have been adapted as television series and movies, attracting a younger generation to the text. Some plays have been updated to modern times and modern locations. A famous example is the musical West Side Story, adapted from Romeo and Juliet. The stage productions are mostly performed in the traditional way but some interpretations have been experimental, expressing the vision of the director.

 

Shakespeare was equally adept at writing tragedy and comedy. Tragedies such as Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet and King Lear are powerful tales of betrayal, murder and the quest for power. One of the most poplar comedies is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which also involves a fantasy plot and romance. The long list of Shakespeare plays also include historical themes and royal leaders, such as King Richard III, Henry IV and King John.

 

The plays were performed at the Globe Theatre in London and in Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford on Avon. A large tourist industry revolves around the locations associated with Shakespeare and his family. The early printed texts are also prized, especially the first published volume of 36 plays known as the First Folio. Copies of this are very valuable, one of which is on public display in the British Library in London.

 

Scholars pore over the texts, analyzing sources and plot lines. There are those that dispute the authorship of some or all of the Shakespeare plays but they are in the minority. Of this group, most of them cite the real authors as either Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe. These claims are not taken seriously by the majority of experts.

 

Movie versions of the plays date back to the silent era and there have been many memorable performances. Actors tackling the Bard have included Lawrence Olivier, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Kenneth Brannagh. One of the most popular adaptations of recent times is Romeo and Juliet, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Clare Danes. The direction is fast paced and takes place in a contemporary setting but the script remains faithful to the text and to the spirit of the story.

 

It is inconceivable to think of a time when Shakespeare will not be performed in some form. Schoolchildren sometimes struggle with the text, which is why it is so important to keep the plays alive in stage and film productions. Shakespeare plays are like Mount Everest to every actor and will always remain so.

On audio for download

William Shakespear’s – The Merchant of Venice

BBC radio has a unique heritage when it comes to Shakespeare. Since 1923, when the newly formed company broadcast its first full-length play, generations of actors and producers have honed and perfected the craft of making Shakespeare to be heard.

Love, bigotry, greed and justice are entwined in this clear, fast-moving production, where the precision of radio gives added resonance to the powerful words of the trial scene.

The play is introduced by Richard Eyre, former Director of the Royal National Theatre, and the accompanying booklet includes a scene-by-scene synopsis, full character analysis, brief biographies of the leading actors and of Shakespeare himself, as well as an essay from the producer on their interpretation of the play.

Revitalised, original and comprehensive, this is Shakespeare for the new millennium.

Written By
William Shakespeare

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