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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’, 27 January 2022

... Ralph Ineson, as the injured captain reporting to Duncan after a battle, laughs out loud when the king asks him if Macbeth and Banquo were not ‘dismayed’ by the arrival of reinforcements for the enemy. ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘as sparrows, eagles, or the hare, the lion.’ This is the person the king has called a ...

Kinks on the Kinks

Michael Wood: Plots, 5 May 2016

by Robert Belknap.
Columbia, 165 pp., £22, May 2016, 978 0 231 17782 5
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... The​ king died and then the queen died’ is a story, as E.M. Forster told us long ago. ‘The king died and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot. Another plot, a little more reticent about causality, would be: ‘The king died and the queen married his brother ...

Father-Daughter Problems

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Bad Daughters, 8 May 2008

The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street 
by Charles Nicholl.
Allen Lane, 378 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 7139 9890 0
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... and a nameless son bearing the corpse of the father he has just killed, both of them watched by a king who, having inherited the crown from his never-to-be-equalled father, has now disinherited his own son, thereby occasioning the battle. Outside the obsessively patrilineal English histories, trouble between fathers and daughters seems just as common, whether ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘300’, 26 April 2007

directed by Zack Snyder.
December 2006
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... Memory is a large part of it. Herodotus tells us the name of Leonidas, the king of Sparta who died at Thermopylae in 480 BC, not exactly holding the multitudinous Persians at bay but at least showing how it might be done. Herodotus also says he has ‘learned the names of all the three hundred’ Spartans who fell with their king ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Star is Born’, 25 October 2018

... is old and always violent, and in a favourite modern version acquires a dark particular twist. The king must die but he also has to collude with, even create his assassin. Early on in Bradley Cooper’s first film as a director, a new rendering of A Star Is Born, Cooper himself, playing a crumbling rock/country legend, sings a weary, winsome number about ...


Michael Hofmann, 20 October 1994

... me and what he thought. Was he stuffing a goat, hitting the 3 star, or letters home. Minos, Minos King of Crete. I tried on a Cretan accent, did that all the hair up all the hair down thing they do there. I thought of the word Argive – or were we the Argives? Perhaps if we lost – and how could we fail to lose, how could anyone hold out against him, he’s ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Innocents’, 9 January 2014

The Innocents 
directed by Jack Clayton.
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... swooned over Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember, and sung and danced with Yul Brynner in The King and I. This is a way of saying she wasn’t the twenty-year-old girl of ‘The Turn of the Screw’, had not lived what James called ‘a small, smothered life’, and was most unlikely not to have seen herself full-length in a mirror before she got to the ...

St Malcolm Martyr

Michael Wood, 25 March 1993

Malcolm X 
directed by Spike Lee.
May 1993
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By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of ‘Malcolm X’ 
by Spike Lee and Ralph Wiley.
Vintage, 314 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 0 09 928531 2
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Malcolm X: The Great Photographs 
compiled by Thulani Davis and Howard Chapnick.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 168 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 1 55670 317 1
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... politics. Lee says only whites ask him about the meaning of the two quotations, from Martin Luther King and Malcolm, at the end of Do the Right Thing, and only whites need to ask, he claims, why the uncommitted character played by Lee himself chooses to start a riot by hurling a rubbishbin through the window of the pizzeria. The quotation from ...

Act like Men, Britons!

Tom Shippey: Celticity, 31 July 2008

The History of the Kings of Britain 
by Geoffrey of Monmouth, edited by Michael Reeve, translated by Neil Wright.
Boydell, 307 pp., £50, November 2007, 978 1 84383 206 5
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The History of the Kings of Britain 
by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Broadview, 383 pp., £8.99, January 2008, 978 1 55111 639 6
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... The legend of King Arthur must be the most enduring legacy of the Middle Ages. Everyone knows it: children, scholars, readers of comic books, movie-makers. The scenes and motifs associated with it – Excalibur, the Round Table, the adultery of Guinevere, the return to Avalon – are more familiar than anything linked to real medieval kings ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Gospel According to Saint Matthew’, 21 March 2013

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew 
directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.
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... no stable, no animals. ‘Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,/ Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’ In Pasolini we see more faces: all looking as Italian as Charlton Heston, say, playing Moses, looks ...

The Shinka

Michael Rose, 21 June 1984

... season to restore the throne to him. Turn and turn about, it is the throne that moves and not the king. Five minutes I remained at the foot of the coffin, until I understood how unequivocal was the stillness and the silence. And I the only person in the room. I moved round to the side and touched his hand: toneless clean chilled meat. Another minute gazing on ...


Michael Dobson, 18 November 1993

‘Hamlet’ versus ‘Lear’: Cultural Politics and Shakespeare’s Art 
by R.A. Foakes.
Cambridge, 262 pp., £30, March 1993, 0 521 34292 9
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Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels 
by Brian Vickers.
Yale, 508 pp., £35, April 1993, 0 300 05415 7
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Shakespeare, Poet and Citizen 
by Victor Kieran.
Verso, 261 pp., £18.95, March 1993, 0 86091 392 9
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... It were a delicate stratagem,’ muses King Lear at one point during his great mad scene:                             to shoe A troop of horse with felt: I’ll put’t in proof; And when I have stol’n upon these sons-in-law. Then kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill! R.A. Foakes and Brian Vickers, both approaching retirement after reigning for nearly thirty years in the upper reaches of Shakespeare studies, aren’t feeling entirely charitable towards their heirs either, although on the evidence of their new reflections on the state of that divided kingdom, Foakes is rather less malicious than his Shakespearean avatar, and Vickers rather less stealthy ...

The great times they could have had

Paul Foot, 15 September 1988

Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 419 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 283 99627 7
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The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor 
by Michael Bloch.
Bantam, 326 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 9780593016671
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... there could. He suggests that not long ago the most dangerous agent of a foreign power was the King; and the second most dangerous was the King’s lover. Both were sympathetic to, and possibly active agents for, Mussolini and Hitler at a time when the British Government was about to declare war on Italy and Germany. Mr ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: From ‘Alien’ to ‘Covenant’, 15 June 2017

Alien: Covenant 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... seems to have got the message upside down. In the poem the writing on a ruined monument to the ‘King of Kings’ says ‘Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ The poem then concludes: Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.David sees the dead human population around ...

A Diagram of Power in the Arab World

Michael Gilsenan, 2 October 1997

Master and Disciple: The Cultural Foundations of Moroccan Authoritarianism 
by Abdellah Hammoudi.
Chicago, 195 pp., £30.50, September 1997, 0 226 31527 4
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... invest emotionally in claims by their rulers to powers of blessing, or baraka (Morocco’s King Hassan); to the prestige of holy or sharifian descent from the Prophet Muhammad’s family (Jordan’s King Hussein and King Hassan); to the guardianship of Islam (the Saudi royal ...

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