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Shakespeare: An Introduction

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SHAKESPEARE UNCOVERED: A TV Series Introducing the Bard
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Shakespeare Uncovered: A TV Series Introducing the Bard

  • Feb 25, 2013
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Shakespeare Uncovered is a documentary series that was transferred from BBC Four in the UK to PBS in America. Though the series focuses on individual plays, cycles, and genres in varying degrees of detail, it would be more helpful to think of these episodes as Shakespeare Introduced. This series, which has just come to Australian television in 2013, would have been an excellent resource when I was a teacher of English literature back in the 1990s.

This series sheds light on some of what is known about Shakespeare’s plays; it provides interesting and enlightening facts and features of the personal connection to the plays held by the hosts of the several episodes, and the many people interviewed during the course of the series.

As one critic put it: “if you were a substitute teacher who had to walk into a middle-school or high-school English class during the Shakespeare unit, these hour-long documentaries would be a godsend”. They would have been a godsend for me: (a) after more than two decades of teaching when I taught a Shakespearean play for the first time, or (b) when I was a student in the early 60s and studying that famous playwright for the first time.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Shakespeare Uncovered, Kevin McFarland, A.V. CLUB, 26 January 2013.

The thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to
before death’s sleep…when I have shuffled-off
this mortal coil…bearing the whips & scorns of
time no more1-----was one way the Bard put it;
and, as one Canadian poet….perhaps Canada’s
greatest 19th century poet, Archibald Lampman
expressed life’s challenge….“the poet must not
cease from the mental effort required to obtain
his renovated vision of external nature and to
return, restored, to the wide-world of men.”2

1 Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, lines 63-70.
2 Archibald Lampman in D.M.R. Bentley, “Watchful Dream and Sweet Unrest: An Essay on the Vision of  Archibald Lampman, Part II,” Studies In Canadian Literature.”

Ron Price
23/7/’06 to 25/2/’13
I’ll add here a prose-poem I wrote more than four years ago, about ten years after retiring from FT work, and after 50 years in classrooms as a student and teacher, 1949-1999.
In Act 2 Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet a speech is delivered by Hamlet praising man's nobility, his reason, his beauty and his angelic quality. But Hamlet goes on in the same speech to say that man is the "quintessence of dust."  Man, human beings, brought Hamlet no delight any more.  Having tasted of this same kind of experience myself from time to time in my life, or had variations on a similar theme in my emotional life, I felt like writing a prose-poem to express the particular nature of my "fighting/That would not let me sleep."

I wanted to express what had often been my desire: "To die, to sleep/No more," with my "native hue of resolution  ……sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."1 In the end, for Hamlet, "the rest is silence."1  For me, for this poet living in the Antipodes, the rest seemed to be, not silence, but endless words. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, The Soliloquy: "To Be or Not To Be.”

I decided more recently
to take up arms against
a world's sea of troubles,
not suffer the same slings
and arrows of outrageous
fortune….to take up arms
differently than I had done
for the previous forty years.
And so I reduced the many natural
shocks that flesh is heir to…..those
whips and scorns of many a year, &
the fatigue, the weariness in which I
did toil, sweat to an unavoidable, and
deal with a narrow, band of woe, woe.
So....when the sleep of death does come,
when I have shifted off this mortal coil
and entered that undiscovered country
from which no man returns; when I do
not have to deal with things contrary to
my wishes, but only with those days of
blissful joy which are assuredly in store  
for me, I can look back and say that this
enterprise of great pitch & moment, when
the native hue of resolution was coloured  
over with the rich cast of thought, and a
quickening wind amplified my perspectives
yielding some consequences of a surprising
poetic potency: yes, perchance a rendezvous  
with my Maker, yes, finally that  rendezvous.

Ron Price
July 2009(circa)

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