Monday, December 27, 2010
The Black Prince was the eldest son of Edward III. He played an important role at the Battle of Crecy and at Poiters captured the king of France. Barber begins his book by presenting the prince’s own letters home and reports from his fellow soldiers. There is also a large section from the fourteenth century chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker, one of the sources used by Froissart for his well-known chronicles. The final section is devoted to Chandos Herald’s poem ‘Life of the Black Prince.’ Through these materials you can trace Edward’s evolution from human to hero to legend.
A good companion piece is ‘Edward III’, a play sometimes attributed to William Shakespeare. More and more experts have added this to his list of works, and their arguments are convincing (one computer analysis seems to indicate that about 40% of it was written by Bill). More importantly (to me, at least): it is a good play and well worth reading. But first, clarify its historical background by reading Barber’s book.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
1) King John (1199-1216)
2) Richard II (1377-99)
3) Henry IV parts 1 & 2 (1399-1413)
4) Henry V (1413-22)
5) Henry VI parts 1-3 (1422-61)
6) Richard III (1483-85)
7) Henry VIII (1509-47)
Also, check out “Holinshed’s Chronicle as used in Shakespeare’s Plays.” The 1587 reprint of Holinshed’s “Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande” was apparently a sourcebook of sorts for Shakespeare, and certain phrases from it are repeated in several of his plays almost verbatim. Editors Allardyce and Josephine Nicoll selected and reordered sections from Holinshed’s vast work, indicating the acts and scenes related to those sections. It’s a fascinating comparison.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Similarly, the journey of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart), has become one of Scotland’s most treasured legends. Heir to the exiled Stuart dynasty, the Prince came to Scotland in 1745 to reclaim the throne. After a bloody defeat at Culloden, King George II’s men hunted the Prince for five months. Hiding in homes and mountain caves, the Prince’s flight led him from the mainland to the far Hebridean isles and back, and finally to France.
For more on Yoshitsune, see Helen Craig McCullough’s translations of the classic Japanese military chronicle “Heike Monogatari” (Tale of the Heike) and “Yoshitsune: a 15th Century Japanese Chronicle,“ a collection of the Yoshitsune legends. On Bonnie Prince Charlie, seek out “Jacobite Memoirs” edited by Robert Forbes and Robert Chambers, a well-selected collection of primary source materials presented in chronological order, covering the Prince’s return, the Battle of Culloden, and the now legendary manhunt.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
1) Earl Birger of Bjalbo (late 1200’s)
2) The Saga of the Folkungs (middle 1300’s)
3) Engelbrekt (1430’s)
4) The Last of the Knights (1512-20)
5) The Regent (early 1520’s)
6) Master Olof (1520’s-40’s)
7) Gustav Vasa (1540’s)
8) Erik XIV (1560’s)
9) Gustav Adolf (1630-32)
10) Queen Christina (1654)
11) Charles XII (1715-18)
12) Gustav III (1789)
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I feel Gibson was clearly, at least in part, inspired by Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. ‘Neuromancer’, like the Divine Comedy, opens in medias res, with its main character, Case, an exile wandering lost in a futuristic and awful Tokyo (with a sky described famously as “the color of television, tuned to a dead channel”). Dreary, menacing and violent, Tokyo (the Inferno) is the books most real area. Case is guided not by the poet Virgil but by (and through) Molly.
Their mysterious hacking mission becomes simultaneously more deadly and less threatening as they pass into (it seems to me) Purgatory. Life becomes more random as Case is channel-surfed from reality to reality. Characters appear then fade. Finally, he is in Paradise, completely abstracted. Distant music, ghost hieroglyphs, translucent lines of symbols…”There was a gray place, an impression of fine screens shifting… degrees of half tone…voices…a plain of black mirror, that tilted, and he was quicksilver, a bead of mercury, skittering down, striking the angles of an invisible maze, fragmenting, flowing together, sliding again….”
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, similarly, the main character is guided through a sinister hell full of monsters and demons and into a purgatory of characters, all with stories to tell. Paradise, their final destination, is an abstraction of symbols and light.
My friend does not agree. I wonder what Gibson would say.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Many of Genshin’s sinners are served with poetic justice. Certain sections of Genshin’s hell even seem somewhat self-serving (the Iron-Plane-Fox-Eating Place, for example, is set aside for “those who have burned the bedroom furniture of priests”). But one never feels in reading the Ojoyoshu that Genshin's own personal animosities had anything to do with the place in which sinners were assigned. In his deeply personal narrative Dante peoples the otherworld with people he calls by name, both fictional and historical, even assigning to the lower hells men of high authority in the church. With the exception of well known Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Genshin does not give a single name. For Genshin, when human beings rise to the stages of existence above the human stage, or when they fall into hell, they cease to be human. In
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Like Dante, Genshin populates his hell with bizarre creatures. In Dante’s the attributes of the Christian Hell are peppered with references to Hades. The second, third and fourth circles, for example, are guarded by Minos, Cerberus and Plutus, and the City of
by the Furies and Medusa. Also present are the Minotaur, Centaurs, and Harpies, and the Titans of Tartarus guard the pit Genshin’s various levels of hell also have their share of monstrosities. There are copper dogs whose eyes are lightning, and whose teeth “are mountains of swords” with “tusks and tongues that are like thorns of iron”. There are serpents whose barking voices are like a hundred thousand thunderclaps. There is an evil bird the size of an elephant called Emba, and in one level (aptly named the Place of No Joy) there are birds with red hot beaks and dogs with jaws of flaming iron. Dis
Both hells are also peopled, as it were, with devils. In Dante’s fifth bolgia are the Malebranche (literally ‘Evil Claws’), a band of antic devils who happily toss public swindlers and grafters into boiling pitch. Similarly, Genshin’s hell crawls with faceless demons that have no faces, as well as “hell wardens” who have sixty four eyes and emit iron balls from the tops of their heads, or have eight oxen heads with eighteen horns attached to each head.
Friday, December 3, 2010
The Realm of Human life, meanwhile, is a cesspool of perdition and corruption, a land without peace. Below us, things only get worse. In descending order, there is the Realm of Beasts, then the Realm of Hungry Spirits, and finally Hell. Like Dante, Genshin gives hell an elaborate architecture with many levels. Hell itself has eight divisions, with such ominous-sounding names as the Hell of Repetition, the Hell of Black Rope and the Hell of the Great Scorching Heat. The tortures of hell increase as you descend, with the first level of hell set aside for anyone committing even the slightest evil, such as the killing of fish or chickens. The eighth level, meanwhile, is reserved for those who have killed their mother and father. Each of the eight divisions has its sixteen minor hells. With such a great variety of hells, there is a place for every sinner, with every sinner in his or her place.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Author’s note: This article, a comparison of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ and ‘Ojoyoshu’, a major Buddhist work by the tenth century religious teacher and scholar Genshin, is the result of what can only be described as an overdose of hell. For eight weeks last spring I, by necessity, contemplated various hells, both Christian and Buddhist, on Tuesdays as an instructor for the class “Samurai Epic and the Traditional Noh Theatre of Japan,” then on Wednesdays as a student of the NCS class on Dante. It is only natural to compare the two works. As Dante did in the ‘Divine Comedy’, Genshin, in his ‘Ojoyoshu’ (Essentials of Birth) gives a vivid description of the glories of paradise and the horrors of hell. In reading the ‘Ojoyoshu’ one is repeatedly reminded of Dante’s immortal work.I came across Genshin’s ‘Ojoyoshu’ while doing research for my class on the traditional Noh drama of Japan. Because the ‘Samurai Epic’ class focuses on the Japanese war tales and the plays they inspired, most of the plays studied feature the ghost of a samurai warrior that disappears at the end of the play, having asked a monk to pray for his soul, which must return to Ashura (the Realm of Furious Demons), where the condemned engage in eternal combat.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
In ‘Atsumori’, the flute is an essential part of the staging, the ensemble and the story. The February performance will reflect multiple influences. Dance sections will require recognizable noh rhythm patterns, and so will be mash-up/hommage to 20th century Japanese composer Takemitsu Toru. Other sections will be more improvisatory. It’s great to be composing again
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Soju Kai Seattle (Kumiko Negishi-Lawrence and Ken Lawrence) is planning its next lecture/demonstration on Japanese traditional theater "Noh". We are featuring the play "Atsumori"（敦盛) which was taken from the Japanese saga Heike Monogatari "The Tale of the Heike"
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
The Story So Far regarding my interest in narratives seems, in hindsight, to be stream-of-consciousness. I can trace it, oddly enough, to a concert I saw in high school. That's when my father took me to see Andres Segovia in concert at the Seattle Opera House. Already so old he could barely walk,
When our kids were old enough to attend school we left
After returning to the
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Many people have expressed enthusiasm for our project. Our list of people to interview includes a supreme court judge (on law in Shakespeare, Dante, and Greek tragedy), a Japanese Noh performer, an expert on Greek myth, a chanter of Kyrghz oral epic, a Shakespearean actor, an avant garde filmmaker, a collector of antique Japanese scroll paintings, a cellist and an expert in Chaucer and Arthurian literature.