Sunday, December 11, 2011

Merry Christmas

After a week of holiday festivities, I am back in California for Christmas. Time is fleeting and I still have three 4,000 essays to write by January, but I think I will have just enough rest and relaxation to enjoy the holidays with my family and friends.

My first paper will be on 1 Henry IV and the four humors. Then I will be writing about Shakespeare and American Sign Language, using the performance history of Hamlet and Twelfth Night as case studies. Finally, for my third paper I will be writing on the early printed texts of Troilus and Cressida, comparing the quarto to the first folio. Needless to say, I have a lot of work to do.

I will be suspending my email and blog updates until after New Year’s. Until then, happy holidays and warm wishes for a wonderful new year!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shakespeare Institute Christmas Party

Tonight was the Shakespeare Institute Christmas party. We all brought food and drink to enjoy together in the Hall. It was fun to see everyone dressed smart (as the Brits would say!). Our director, Michael Dobson, got down on his guitar. We danced the night away until they closed the hall at 11pm. It was a great night and a perfect way to end our first term.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Robin Hood Warms Hearts

The Heart of Robin Hood is the family show this season at the RSC. While the content and dialog of the show is underdeveloped, the visual spectacle of the production are truly remarkable. Reviews among students have been mixed - Let's face it, this isn't Shakespeare. However, the evening watching this play is quite enjoyable. A little too slap-stick at times, this play is charming enough in its tender moments of love and compassion.

It also helps that there are a few merry men, including Robin Hood himself, clad in leather pants, looking surprisingly fit for forest people.

As a slight reversal from the popular conception of Robin Hood, the lovely Maid Marion is the 'good guy' and Robin Hood a little less of a heroic figure. Yet loves conquers all in this entertaining adaptation.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

City of York

As a last hurrah before the Christmas holiday I made a short overnight trip to York with two of my best girlfriends. We made the 3 hour drive in Kristy’s car, parked at the local train station and dropped our bags off at the Ace Hostel located in the historic Micklegate area of York.

The English city of York has, since Roman times, been defended by walls of one form or another. To this day, substantial portions of the walls remain, and York has more miles of intact wall than any other city in England. They are known variously as York City Walls, the Bar walls and the Roman walls.

We began out adventures at Clifford’s Tower, exploring the outer circle and stair wells. It is amazing to me how such a precious piece of history currently stands in the middle of a parking lot on top of a large grassy hill. We made are visit for the bargain price of 3 quid.

York is one of the most important cities in England. The city served as an important base for holding and administering the north and was the site for two of the castles William the Conqueror built in the years immediately following his conquest. Construction for the principal castle was begun in 1068, as part of a campaign to subdue anti-Norman sentiment in the north. Unfortunately the castles were destroyed during a local rebellion the following year, but rebuilt by the Normans after suppressing the rebels and taking harsh reprisals on York. After several rebuilds, the keep was rebuilt in stone in the latter half of the thirteenth century. It was given a quatrefoil plan, of which there is no other example in England. The keep later became known as Clifford's Tower after Roger de Clifford, who was hanged there in 1322.

After exploring Clifford’s Tower, we made our way to York Minster, a beautiful Gothic cathedral in the heart of the city. York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral of Northern Europe and serves as a stunning example of English Gothic architecture. While the first recorded church in the site was built in 627, the construction for the current structure began in 1230 and was completed in 1472.

We attended Evensong (Evening Prayer) and were blessed to listen to the choir. After Evensong we suddenly ran into a young gentleman on the street offering tickets for a ghost tour, which we bought. In addition to his clever sales pitch, he also happened to be walking on make-shift stilts and wearing a turn of the century town crier ensemble.

After an Italian dinner (which was delicious, but unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the restaurant), we proceeded to the ghost tour a little tipsy and full of anticipation. My friend Beth happened to have a fondness for our tour guide, who dragged us around the city chasing supernatural entities in his cheesy costume. Apparently his Northern accent was too much to resist because he slipped him her phone number after the tour and asked him to meet us for drinks.
On the way back to the hostel we stopped to have a drink at the Evil Eye Lounge – a bit of a dive, but swanky bar which served heavy handed drinks (Thank you, Helen, for the recommendation). After getting sloshed on 2 J├Ąger Bombs and 1 Rum&Coke  (MORE rum and less coke), we were pleasantly surprised when the ghost guide responded to our text message and asked to meet us for lunch the next day. Score one for the girls! We then made it back to the hostel and fell into bed.

The next morning Kristy and I were fine. We enjoyed a nice breakfast in the hostel common room. However, Beth was a little bit under the weather. Needless to say, we did not make it to any more attractions, except a quick lunch at the Guy Fawks Tavern with our new friend James (Mr. Ghost Hunter). As it turns out, James is very interested to check out his competition in Stratford, so maybe we will see him again one of these days.

Now we are on our way back to Stratford for our last week of classes before we break for the holidays. With several holiday parties lined up and term papers to start, I am sure this will be a busy week for us all.