Sunday, February 15, 2015

Factoid of the week

Cutting the proud and mighty down to size by satire didn't start with John Stewart....

David Warren writes about Shakespeare's subtle satires:

The character Falstaff in the History plays began with the name “Oldcastle.” This created something of a scene, because Sir John Oldcastle was a real historical character, and his proud descendants were prominent at Court — the top one, the seventh Lord Cobham, becoming suddenly Lord Chamberlain, and therefore licenser of plays. (By happenstance he died soon after, or we might never have had MacbethHamlet, Lear,Othello, nor heard much more from Ben Jonson, neither, nor from the effervescent Thomas Nashe, nor other closet Cath-o-licks who’d sharpened their wits on this dull anvil.)Now, Oldcastle was a Protestant “martyr” — an unspeakable Lollard from two centuries before, who’d been hunted down to the Welsh Marches and properly euthanized. And here was Shakespeare depicting him as a charismatic low-life drunkard, a duplicitous liar and compulsive thief. The fan started hitting the apples, and Shakespeare’s company must have told him it was time to stop it. The name would just have to be changed.
So he changed the name to Falstaff, a similar Puritan hero who didn't have any important descendants...

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