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The Spanish Tragedy (Crofts Classics)
The Spanish Tragedy (Crofts Classics)
by Thomas Kyd
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bombast, beauty, and bloodshed, 19 Aug. 2001
T. S. Eliot described, "The Spanish Tragedy, or Heironimo is Mad Againe" (c.1589) as the 'progeny of Seneca'. Certainly, the bombastic discourse of Thomas Kyd's earlier plays, "Gorboduc", "Jocasta", and "Gismund of Salerne" finds new voice amid within the Senecan tradition as the Tantalus, Acheron, Chiron archetypal figures and images are revamped for the Elizabethan stage. However, if "The Spanish Tragedy" is the 'progeny of Seneca' it is equally the paterfamilias of the long tradition of revenge that reaches as far as Henry Glapthorne's "Revenge for Honour" (1640).
Kyd's play opens with the entry of Revenge and the ghost of Andrea who had been slain in the war against Portugal by Balthazar, son of the Viceroy. Andrea's speech relates past events, hinting without mention of a name of his passion for Bel-imperia, niece of the King of Spain. Moreover, Revenge's response provides a proleptic glimpse into the future as the two characters take on a dramatic function akin to the audience: 'thou shalt see the author of thy death, /Don Balthazar the prince of Portingale, /Depriv'd of life by Bel-imperia: /Here sit we down to see the mystery /And serve for Chorus in this tragedy'.
The Heironimo of the sub-title is Marshal of Spain at the time of his country's victory over Portugal. His son Horatio, together with Bel-imperia's brother Lorenzo, have captured Balthazar who seeks to erase the 'blot unto his name' by marriage to Bel-imperia. It is a political match that wins the approval of the King as a means of uniting Spain and Portugal into the beautiful empire implied by the name of the prospective bride. The femme fatale of Kyd's drama, however, determines to 'love Horatio, my Andrea's friend'. 'But wherefore I blot Bel-imperia's name?', demands Balthazar. Pedringano, a servant whom Bel-imperia describes as being 'trusty as my second self' directs the Portuguese prince and Lorenzo towards the couple as canoodle in Heironimo's arbour. 'Come stop her mouth', says Lorenzo of Bel-imperia as they slaughter Horatio and hang his corpse on a tree.
Heironimo, maddened by the discovery of the bleeding remains of his son, determines upon revenge while his wife insists that time is the sole trustworthy authority: 'the author both of truth and right' . A letter from Bel-imperia's informs Heironimo of the murderers' identity, but paranoia leaves him unconvinced. The 'gaps' in his speech-acts with other characters voice his suspicion of all who surround him. Lorenzo, believing that Balthazar's manservant has informed upon them, bribes Pedringano to destroy him. When Pedringano almost pays for his master's crimes with his life, his letter to Lorenzo pleads for help. However, Pedringano knows too much to live. Lorenzo acts the loyal master. He sends his page to the prison, bearing a box said to contain a royal pardon. It is empty. About to be hanged, Pedringano takes his own revenge. 'Bel-imperia's letter was not feign'd', he swears to Heironimo, 'Nor feigned she'.
'Nor feigned she'? In subsequent dialogue with Balthazar, Bel-imperia is self-consciously an actress, albeit too self-conscious of rôle-playing to act well. She agrees to join forces with Heironimo to plot the destruction of her brother and the man to whom she is manacled by the imperialism of Iberian politics and is a ready accomplice when the Marshall conspires to stage a play at the pre-nuptial celebrations. Kyd sets the pace for future dramatists as he rewrites the anonymous text of "Solyman and Perseda" which was itself based on H. Wotton's "Courtlie Controversie of Cupids Cautels" (1578) a 'translation' of J. Yver's "Printemps d'Iver" (1572) 'In Toledo there I studied', explains Heironimo, 'It was my chance to write a tragedy'. He intends each of the actors in his personal, external, tragedy to 'play a part'. Assured that 'it will prove most passing strange /And wondrous plausible', the guilty parties are lured into joining him on stage-- as is Bel-imperia. Note that the climax of the chosen drama is not the death of Solyman but Perseda's suicide! Therefore, as each of Heironimo's cast fulfils a direction to 'act his Part', the plot not only brings about the killing of Balthazar by Bel-imperia as predicted by Revenge, not only the play ensure that Lorenzo meets a fitting end, but it also results in the death of Bel-imperia herself. 'Poor Bel-imperia miss'd her part in this', mourns Heironimo, who was 'Author and actor in this tragedy'.
'Nor feigned she'? The precise interrelationship of the parts of Heironimo and Bel-imperia in plotting revenge continues in ambiguity as the Marshall resolves to 'conclude his part' like 'any of the actors gone before'. 'I end my play', he states, 'Urge no more words, I have no more to say'. Heironimo bites out his tongue and finally stabs himself with the knife offered to sharpen the pen with which he is commanded to inscribe the truth. In "The Spanish Tragedy", the only unvarnished truth is that the play has laid waste all hope of a beautiful empire of Iberia.
Kyd's play is essential reading for anyone studying revenge tragedy, particularly students of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" in which the genre reaches its peak.


Lucifer: A Theological Tragedy
Lucifer: A Theological Tragedy
by George Santoyana
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Devilish deep-thinking, 10 Aug. 2001
When T. S. Eliot delivered the Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1926 he discussed George Santayana's contribution to idealist philosophy as a form of mysticism rather than a coherent metaphysical system. 'It is no accident that the town of Avila near Madrid has two glories', he quipped, 'that of having given birth to St Theresa [sic] and that of having given birth to Mr George Santayana'. In spite of this retrospective irony, it is likely that Santayana was the first catholic intellect to play a part in Eliot's spiritual and intellectual development. I use the word 'catholic' in the sense that it is derived from the Greek 'katholikos'. To be catholic is to think within the wide bounds of 'universal' or 'general' Christianity. Santayana himself expressed something along these lines in his anthology, "Little Essays" (1920), albeit somewhat harshly. Santayana's essays define protestantism as 'vaguely assured' of its 'worldly vocation'. Its 'energies' are as 'pure but unchasened' as those of a 'healthy child'- and 'the barbarian'. Possessed by a spirit of temporal venture, the protestant mind 'rejects the unworldly, disenchanted and ascetic mood of the gospel in favour of worldly success and prosperity'. It is this religious perspective that, two decades earlier, Santayana dramatized in "Lucifer: A Theological Tragedy" (1899), a play he described as a 'philosophy contained in an image'.
Christian orthodoxy depends upon the figure of Satan, whether literal or metaphorical, to account for the presence of evil in a world crested by a God who is wholly good. There must exist an 'Alter deus', or 'Deus inversus' whose deviation from good initiated evil. This adversary is not a representation of evil but its active agent. Santayana reinterprets this perspective to depict Lucifer's sin as born, not out of evil, which does not yet exist, but from out of the nobility of his nature. Lucifer deviates from good because of his overwhelming desire for absolute good. His refusal to tolerate the imperfections of creation leads him to challenge the divine creator who, according to Santayana, is subject to the same lack of moral absolutes. Lucifer's quest for perfection disguises a hubris that condemns him to exist in infernal isolation. Santayana's Lucifer is a figure in the mould of Milton's Satan and Goethe's Faust. This text will find a readership among those concerned with the long tradition of this archetype in literary, religious, or intellectual history.
This book will appeal to students of American idealist philosophy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Noël O'Sullivan has written a straightforward introduction to the philosophy of Santayana for the Thinkers of Our Time series (The Claridge Press). A more thorough critique by Timothy L. S. Sprigge is published by Routledge in The Arguments of the Philosophers series. Readers who wish to learn more of Santayana's impact on T. S. Eliot would do well to purchase "On the Definition of Metaphysical Poetry" edited and introduced by Ronald Schuchard.


Satyricon (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)
Satyricon (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)
by Petronius Arbiter
Edition: Paperback

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tall stories from the Court of Nero, 7 Aug. 2001
If like me, you have never quite recovered from the tedium of school Classics lessons a dose of Petronius will swiftly restore your jaded appetite for the great writers of Greece and Rome. To begin with, I prescribe Paul Dinnage's lively translation of "The Satyricon" (circa 60 AD) which provides a vibrant mosaic of the age of Nero.
Wherever a canon of literature is prized, a sort of literary reflex results in parodial imitations. In "The Satyricon", Petronius parodies "The Odyssey", weighing the journey of Homer's Odysseus against the picaresque adventures of Encolpius, the bisexual yet impotent narrator, while the wrath of Poseidon is set against that of Priapus. Petronius alternates verse and prose in an explicit exposé of literary form by interpolating short tales of sex, superstition, and lost legacies. Indeed, this internal story telling is developed to such a degree that the poet not only parodies "The Odyssey" but also satirizes the external narrative of Encolpius so that the parallel with Homer's Odysseus is doubly parodial.
One of the principle narratives, 'Dinner with Trimalchio', introduces the reader to the archetypal self-made man whose intellectual pretentiousness and general vulgarity is a model for many great comic characters of world literature and TV situation comedy. This section of "The Satyricon" establishes the poem as a text intriguing in its 'modernity'. Trimalchio, boasting of his improbable encounter with the Sibyl of Cumae, supplies T. S. Eliot with his epigraph to "The Waste Land" at the same time as enticing the reader into "The Odyssey" of Homer, Virgil's "Aeneid", and the "Metamorphoses" of Ovid. Petronius's character brags of meeting the Sibyl for only a few lines but this is enough to forge an intertextual association, indeed a metatextual commentary on the earlier Greek and Latin texts.
The Sibyl of Cumae, famed for her beauty and prophetic power, attracted the sexual advances of Phoebus, god of the sun. Aeneas, before beginning his descent into Hades, hears how the eloquent deity sought to lure her with grandiose promises of eternal youth. The seer continued to spurn Phoebus's lust until he vowed to grant her anything she asked without condition. Gesturing towards a mound of earth, the Sibyl demanded a year of life for every grain of sand it contained. However, overwhelmed by her desire for longevity, she failed to use her great gift of foresight. This, the most renowned of all classical sibyls, had forgotten the future and her need for youthfulness to accompany age. Aeneas and (supposedly) Trimalchio see the Sibyl caged in a perpetual present, powerless to disclose meaning, longing for death, mumbling in vain as beauty, memory and prophetic powers disintegrate like the old texts Petronius parodies throughout "The Satyricon".
Small wonder Nero dubbed Petronius 'Arbiter of Elegance'! Read this translation and you'll be hooked on Classics and licking your lips for more!
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Clan Fraser: A Brief History, Celebrating Over 800 Years of the Family in Scotland
Clan Fraser: A Brief History, Celebrating Over 800 Years of the Family in Scotland
by Flora Marjory Fraser
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Chief's history of her Clan, 26 July 2001
This book was never projected as a 'comprehensive history' of Clan Fraser. Nevertheless, Lady Saltoun, present Chief of the Name of Fraser, has packed this slender volume with goodies to tempt all who love Scotland. The lively and unpretentious style will attract readers who have yet to discover Scotland, encouraging them to explore the intricate Clan structure that has played a major rôle in the nation's history.
Lady Saltoun tells us that that name Fraser originated in Anjou and Normandy, explaining that the French word for strawberry growers was fraisiers. Later in the book, reproductions of the Saltoun and Lovat arms and the Clan badges of Fraser and Fraser of Lovat reveal the relationship of the name with subsequent heraldic form.
The author traces the first appearance of the family in Scotland to twelfth-century East Lothian and discusses three lines in close detail: the Frasers of Philorth who hold the Lordship of Saltoun, the Frasers of Lovat who hold the Lordship and Barony of Lovat, and the Fraser of Muchalls who held the now extinct Lordship of Fraser. Several pages of genealogical data support Lady Saltoun's explanation of how the Lords Lovat are Chiefs of Clan Fraser of Lovat while the Frasers of Philorth are Chiefs of the Name of Fraser. (Readers likely to muddle the hoard of Alexanders, Simons, and Hughs that swarm across Fraser country will turn to these genealogies again and again!) We learn that Fraser of Lovat Chiefs are dubbed MacShimi in that they descend from Sir Simon Fraser who was killed at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333. However, the Philorth line is the senior, descending from Sir Simon's elder brother, Sir Alexander Fraser, 1st Laird of Cowie and Lady Mary Bruce, survivor of the grotesque cruelty of England's Edward I who had this sister of his Scottish rival imprisoned in a cage on the battlements of Roxburgh Castle when his forces took Kildrummy in 1306. Fraser history is red in tooth and claw!
Lady Saltoun supplies photographs and brief word-sketches of Castle Fraser and Beaufort Castle, seats of the Lords Fraser and Lovat respectively. A more detailed history is provided of Cairnbulg Castle, the only Fraser seat still to be occupied by the family. It was Sir Alexander Fraser, 3rd Laird of Cowie, who acquired the Castle and lands of Philorth by marriage with Lady Joanna, younger daughter and co-heiress of the Earl of Ross in 1375.
Readers will enjoy the pictures and vivid descriptions of Frasers past and present. We meet Sir Alexander Fraser, 8th Laird of Philorth who founded Fraser's Burgh by Royal Charter in 1592, and built Fraserburgh Castle, now Kinnaird Head Lighthouse Museum. Lady Saltoun's discussion of Fraserburgh introduces us to the legend of the Wine Tower, an ancient three-storey remnant of a fort about fifty yards east of the Castle. The old family legend, and the nineteenth-century ballad, have doubtless kept many generations of Frasers entertained on cold Scottish nights and perhaps kept them awake in the hours before dawn. We hear how the parsimonious King James VI wrote to Sir Alexander in 1588, asking for a loan of £1,000. He wrote again in 1596 to request the gift of his subject's prized gyrfalcon. 'No doubt he got his hawk!' Lady Saltoun quips. Also pictured is the 9th Laird, another Alexander, who wed Margaret Abernethy, daughter of the 7th Lord Saltoun, through whom the Frasers would inherit the Saltoun peerage. Here too are portraits of 'Waterloo Saltoun' who served alongside the Duke of Wellington. The book includes several pictures of the author, as a small child in a family 'conversation piece', on her wedding day, and in the gardens of Cairnbulg Castle with her eldest daughter and grandson. The late Lord Lovat is portrayed as a handsome bridegroom and, later in life, as the author of "March Past". His grandson, the present Lord Lovat, looks every inch the Highland Chief as he opens a game of Shinty, a sport with a record of Clan rivalry.
Neil and Marie Fraser contribute chapters on Highland dress. It seems a pity that George IV did not have the benefit of their advice before he visited Scotland in 1822, the first British monarch to travel north since James VI inherited the English throne. Lady Saltoun tells us that Margery Fraser of Ness, wife of the 15th Lord Saltoun attended the Ball given in His Majesty's honour at Edinburgh. The author relates how the obese monarch wore his kilt too short and with flesh-coloured tights rather than the traditional tartan hose. When one guest commented on the royal apparel, Marjory Saltoun remarked, 'Well, since we see him so seldom, we may as well see as much as possible of him when we do.' Marie Fraser warns that Highland dress 'is a minefield for us lassies'. However, the author and her contributors succeed in exposing a good deal of the pretentiousness that lies beneath the tartan. Lady Saltoun archly dismisses the question as to how and over which shoulder clanswomen, wives of Chiefs and women Chiefs ought to wear their sashes. She and the late Countess of Errol, Lord High Constable of Scotland and Chief of Clan Hay, would sometimes wear them round their waists!
The book concludes with down-to-earth advice for readers contemplating tracing their own ancestry and I feel sure many will decide to make a start. (Anyone who enjoys this book would do well to purchase "Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland", edited by John Keay and Julia Keay, "The Book of Scottish Clans" by Iain Zaczek, Neil Grant's "Scottish Clans and Tartans", or "Clans and Families of Scotland" by Alexander Fulton.) As Lady Saltoun's lively narrative testifies, the study of Clan history leads to the study of genealogy and heraldry and vice versa. Moreover, combined with a measure of good humour it is never dull. This is stuff to stir the blood!


Queen Victoria's Family: A Century of Photographs 1840-1940
Queen Victoria's Family: A Century of Photographs 1840-1940
by Charlotte Zeepvat
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent collection of royal photographs, 21 July 2001
"Queen Victoria's Family: A Century of Photographs 1840-1940" is a treasure trove of over three hundred pictures, the majority from Charlotte Zeepvat's personal hoard. The author's introduction traces the relationship of family and photography. The young Queen, newly married to Prince Albert, took a keen interest in the imaging process pioneered by Louis Daguerre. William Henry Fox Talbot was soon to patent the Calotype method that produced the first negatives making it possible for multiple images to be created from a single exposure. Henry Collen used this process to take the first known photographs of the Queen in 1844 or '45. A decade on, the Calotype was surpassed by the novel technique of André Diserda. Ms Zeepvat explains how Diserda's means of taking several different exposures on a single plate to produce a sheet of small images popularised and commercialised royal photography as the first carte-de-vistes were followed by the cabinet photograph and the postcard. This book is testimony to frequent close encounters of court and camera. Ms Zeepvat's readers observe the development of the family from the infancy of Vicky and Bertie, the future Kaiserin Friedrich and King Edward VII to the babyhood of Daisy and Tino, the present Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and the exiled King Constantine II of the Hellenes. Page after page, even the most avid royal history enthusiast will come across something unseen in any previous publication.
Ms Zeepvat's introduction emphasizes the network of royal relationships depicted in the photographs that follow. The personalities in each picture are identified in the accompanying text, which often includes detailed descriptions, apt character sketches, and the most telling of anecdotes. The author keeps the personalities in the photographs in the context of a widespread family by including a full index and three double pages of genealogical data. It is perhaps pernickety of me, but I regret Ms Zeepvat's equally pernickety decision to exclude the names of siblings born after 1940. For example, Queen Sofia of Spain and King Constantine of the Hellenes are included but their younger sister Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark is not. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and his youngest sister, Princess Christina, are omitted from the branch that includes their older siblings. The younger sisters of Queen Margrethe of Denmark are likewise pruned from the family tree. These omissions seem likely to mislead readers unfamiliar with every branch of Queen Victoria's family. Anyone who wishes to know more of the genealogy of the personalities in Ms Zeepvat's book would make a wise purchase in "Queen Victoria's Descendants" by Marlene A. Eilers where they will find a wealth of data and other riches.
Ms Zeepvat shows us Queen Victoria's family amid the white lace and promises of engagements and weddings and, such is her eye for the minutiae of royalty, we peep into little-known relationships that never reached the altar. The reader glimpses both the formality and the hurly-burly of royal life in what Ms Zeepvat presents as a working family peopled with writers, painters, sculptors, and musicians, nurses, sportsmen and soldiers as well as the 'full-time' royal. The sections on illness and death and the Great War are poignant in their depiction of the royal haemophiliacs, sufferers of porphyria, and the young victims of a bloodstained Europe in which Victoria's family was cruelly divided. The pages dealing with the years of l'entre deux guerres portray the healing of some of the wounds of war with the marriages of the Russian Grand Duchesses Kira Kirillovna and Maria Kirillovna to German princes, a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria and a descendant of her half-sister. Around the same time, we witness four Greek princesses marry into German dynasties, three of which were also part of the Queen's family, raising a new generation before the outbreak of war would tear Victoria's family apart for the second time in the twentieth century and have unanticipated repercussions long after 1940 when their brother married the future Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
"Queen Victoria's Family" is an essential addition to any collection of books on royalty in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and even that statement falls short of defining its worth. This is a book with an appeal beyond royal history. Although Ms Zeepvat's account of photographic history is brief, the book will fascinate anyone with an interest in this area. The combination of stability and change in fashion will catch the eye of the specialist in this developing field of history. It is fascinating to observe the bonnets and crinolines of Victoria and her older daughters give way to the elegant simplicity of the cloche hats and loose day dresses worn by Lady Patricia Ramsay and Queen Helen of Romania in the twenties and thirties. In contrast, children's clothing changed little in the course of the century. The kilt which Queen Victoria's family helped popularize remains in vogue throughout the book, worn by Princes Arthur and Leopold in 1861 and by Prince Arthur's grandson, Alexander Ramsay, in the late twenties Similarly, the sailor suits worn by Princes Moritz and Heinrich of Hesse-Cassel in the early thirties mirror that worn by Bertie, Prince of Wales in 1846. It is only when we reach the end of the thirties that the photographs indicate a shift toward informality. In 1937, Princes Ludwig and Alexander of Hesse-Darmstadt, photographed shortly before their deaths in an aeroplane crash, wear casual jumpers and shorts to drive their model cars. This enthralling collection is polished off with an equally informal image of a prince with a happier future. Royal photographs do not come much more cheerful than that of the future King Harald V Norway as a toothy toddler, well wrapped against the cold, grinning into the lens beneath his outsize bobble-hat.
"Queen Victoria's Family" is the most comprehensive volume of its kind I have come across. It is not only a book to buy for yourself but makes an ideal gift. Treat yourself to this treasure. And treat a friend!


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