Sunday, June 18, 2006

"I will do such things- what they are yet, I know not; but they shall be the terrors of the earth!"

It's all in the delivery, as I've noted below. So too the line above. To be perfectly honest, while I studied King Lear in my senior year of high school (with Mr. Schoenberg, OBM) and have seen it here and there, I don't think I ever really knew that the line above was from there. I have seen it in various contexts, however, like here, and I guess I knew it was Shakespeare. (And not in the "don't know a source of a quote, just say Shakespeare" way.)

On the face, it seems pretty fierce: "Oh, what I'm gonna do to you is so bad, I haven't even thought of what it is yet!" But today, I saw the Boomerang Theatre production in Central Park. I've always liked these outdoor Shakespeare productions: In fact, later in the day, I passed the location of the famous "Shakespeare in the Parking Lot" productions, which I hope are still around, if only for the name. (Update: Yup. Yay!) Sue me, but the idea that Shakespeare is always produced, and in such settings, stirs some deeper parts of my nature.

This production happened to be quite good. And the line of the title of this post was delivered in a way I'd never have thought: Imagine Lear, played here by an older, white bearded actor. They added an interesting touch: Lear has changed from the suit he wore at the beginning of the play to a plaid shirt and chinos while carousing with his men. It was still early on in the play, but I got the thought, as soon as I saw him, of "Damn. He gets thrown out while dressed down like that."

Now he's being thrown out by his daughters, crushed, insisting (against all evidence) that he will "not weep." And he delivers the line: "I will do such things..." And he pauses, and, voice faltering, finally says, "what they are yet, I know not..."

And it's over for him. Oh, he can finish, "but they shall be the terrors of the earth!" And that might even restore a bit of his dignity or authority. But it doesn't really matter. We've seen that he has no power, no idea what to do. Perhaps he never did. And he will have none until he dies.

Whew. Makes you think. As I said, a good production, a good location, a good crowd, a great cast and direction. And what lines!
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune,
often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun,
the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly
compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards,
liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all
that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of
whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!
And then there's something Cecil Adams wrote:
My epiphany happened during my freshman year in college, when I took an
introductory lit class with one of the great teachers, a fellow named Bergen
Evans. One day Evans was lecturing on King Lear. After some buildup about the
sense of despair in this play, he read the famous lines: "As flies to wanton
boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport." The last few words were
said with a sort of quiet hiss. I suppose you had to be there. All I know is, I
didn't question Shakespeare's genius after that.
Not quite the way it was delivered here- more as a shout to the heavens- but I said it along with the actor this time. What truths.

Jam-packed Sunday, as it happens. I got a haircut (saved unimaginable amounts of time and money), and went straight off to the Museum of Natural History, to see their Darwin exhibit. Very well done, and lots to report on that (or based on that), but it'll have to wait for a more decent hour. Then off to Lear, and you've seen about that.

Oh- there've been some good flag-related pieces in the Times lately. Here's one about my dream job, and here's one from today. Regarding the latter, I have to say I approve- especially considering that we know what the alternative is. (Hint: It wears headscarves.)

Anyway, I hope to have more about evolution later. Until then, have a great week, homes!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy Flag Day!

Only a few minutes left to Flag Day (and the US Army's birthday), so I'd better blog about it. Sotheby's today auctioned four Revolutionary War flags; you can read about it here. They were kind enough to extend an invitation to the pre-auction luncheon to NAVA members, so that's where I was this afternoon.

It was a sight to see. I've never been to an auction before, and this one was pretty impressive. The unit that was the original possessor of one flag has been re-established, and there were re-enactors there in full costume.

I took this photo without a flash, before seeing that everyone else was using one and turning mine on. The Dragoons wore horse tails on their helmets, which reminded me of the Rohirrim. (Perhaps Tolkien meant it to be the other way around.)

Also there was the great-great descendant of the British officer who had captured the flags and brought them back to England; they've been in the family since. I think I even heard him mentioning that he was wearing his ancestor's cufflinks. He posed with the unit of re-enactors in front of the flag, which was quite nice. (A bit fuzzy, sorry.) The auction was packed, standing room only. The individual unit flag, the earliest surviving example of a thirteen-stripe US flag, sold for 11 million dollars. The three regiment flags from Virginia sold together for four and a half million. They both went to the same bidder (on the telephone), who, after fees and taxes and all, will pay about 18 million dollars. I do hope they'll be on public display somewhere.

I made sure to thank the auctioneer, who had extended the invitation, and picked up a free catalog. In the cab back to work, I took in the magnificent buildings on Sutton Place. What lovely houses. (Sotheby's, a more- very- modern building, is nothing to sneeze at either.) All in all, a good way to celebrate Flag Day.