“Starting in the early 1940s, Monk became a major architect of the style known as bebop — and, immediately, an iconoclast within it. He helped devise its language of thick harmonies, zipping melodies and steamed-up rhythm. But Monk maintained a rough piano style and wrote tunes to reflect it; his virtuosity worked on a level that was more tonal, and more physical. (In Monk’s musical manuscripts, which Mr. Iverson discovered on eBay and posted to his personal blog, he even invents a more evocative way of spelling a bell sound: ‘Tding tding tding.’)
“Rather than dashing futurism, his bebop was about arrangement and choreography. Each note in his compositions sounds like a weight-bearing limb, supporting the body of the song and leading into the next movement. And those limbs often pause to hold a pose: On a simple, singsong piece like “Rhythm-a-Ning” or a wound-up work like “Criss Cross,” he uses silence more than speed.”
Prince Vladimir Paley, morganatic son of Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich
The religious and mystical play was given in 1913 at the Theatre de l'Ermitage at Petrograd, and it was performed there many times. The whole Imperial Family, the Court, the Embassies, the high functionaries were all invited in turn to see it. The spectacle was produced magnificently, and the piece was acted by amateurs of talent; but the centre of general attention was the author himself, that is to say, the Grand Duke Constantine, who performed the part of Joseph of Arimathoea with much sincerity and piety. This play made a deep impression on Vladimir, and having taken a copy of the text with him to the trenches, he translated it into French in well-rhymed and sonorous verse. M. Paleologue and the Comte de Chambrun read some fragments of his rendering while they were in Russia, and had nothing but praise for the young translator.
The Grand Duke Constantine, already afflicted by the malady which was to carry him off in June, 1915, on learning that Vladimir had translated his drama, invited the Grand Duke Paul and me and our son to come to Pavlovsk to his palace so that he might hear the translation. We found there his sister, the Queen Dowager of Greece; the Grand Duchess Constantine, his wife; the Princess Jean de Russie, their daughterin-law; some of their children; and M. Bailly-Comte, Professor of French at Petrograd. The latter frequently stayed with the Grand Duke Constantine at Pavlovsk.
Being something of a physiognomist, I noticed a certain look of apprehension on the face of the author of the play, but Vladimir had not read more than a few lines when’ I saw the Grand Duke Constantine exchange a glance of astonishment with M. Bailly-Comte, and as the reading continued I observed signs of growing emotion on his sympathetic countenance, ravaged by suffering. On that day Vladimir read the first two acts, and he was overwhelmed with compliments and congratulations. We had to promise to return some days later to finish the reading of the last two acts. My son concluded with a Russian poem addressed to the Grand Duke concerning his work. When he had read it I saw the latter bend his head. Then, showing us his dear face bathed in tears, he said:
“I have had one of the greatest emotions of. my life - I owe it to Bodia ” (a diminutive which the family used for Vladimir and which he had given to himself as a child). “I cannot say any more. I am dying. I pass on to him my lyre. I bequeath to him my talent as a poet, as though he were my son. Then, turning towards M. Bailly-Comte: "I had asked you to find in France a translator for my poem. Be so good, if you please, as to send a telegram to Paris to make it known that I do not wish there to be any other translation. It is impossible to do better.”
Hey guys, it’s time for another lunch break Shakespeare rant!
So, I just saw a good community theatre production of Measure for Measure, and I want to get into the concept of the Duke as a thinly veiled version of King James I, who had recently taken the throne at the time the play was written.
This King James is the same one who commissioned the ‘King James Bible.’ He took over after Queen Elizabeth I kicked the bucket, having previously been King of Scotland. There was some blatant King James pandering in Macbeth (and, some could say, implied disses aimed at him).
But Measure for Measure is in a league of its own. It was actually illegal to portray any living member of the royal family onstage, so playwrights couldn’t exactly set plays in modern day London if they wanted to write about royals. Nonetheless, Measure feels like a traditional London city comedy… just set in “Vienna,” for some reason, where everything seems and sounds a lot like London and character names are a weird mix of Italian and English. And Dukes basically have unlimited kingly power. SO, let’s get into why the Duke feels like a strange parody of the new king.
TAKE ALL OF THIS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT– a lot of this is major reaching.
* He disguises himself as the Friar for a big chunk of the play. King James (again, King James Bible guy) was, as head of state and church, both a political figure and a major religious authority- and he knew how to mingle religion into his politics. Disguised as the Friar, the duke even performs rituals that…. he definitely would not have been allowed to if anyone knew he wasn’t really a member of the church.
* The Duke is portrayed as ostensibly being a helpful guy, but he also has totally unchecked power and authority and has no problem breaking the rules or going against promises for the 'right reasons,’– when he basically TELLS Isabella at the end that he’s gonna marry her, it’s a little scary. King James was all about absolute authority and the divine right of kings (the play refers to the Duke’s 'power divine’) and also really amped up spy activity in the country– you could say he had eyes and ears everywhere. I think the greyness of the play’s attitude toward the Duke,portraying him as seemingly a good guy but definitely a puppetmaster and a somewhat sketchy, is tasteful if it is a critique of the sitting monarch.
* King James once famously showed up at the last minute to pardon people sentenced to death for a suspected plot against him, so dramatically that it seemed like a staged plan. The Duke is pretty good about that in Measure for Measure. Much like how the Duke claims he doesn’t like to 'stage himself’ before crowds, James didn’t show himself publicly a lot, though, being more secretive than Elizabeth– but he knew how to do a well-timed spectacle.
* James’ grandfather, James V of Scotland, was said to have been fond of traveling around the country in disguise as a commoner and interacting with normal people. It sounds like our King James inherited some of this interest in disguise: reports exist of James trying to secretly spy on London merchants at the Exchange, but people found out, so he gave up on the plan. Either way, this would have been known to people watching the Duke do the same thing.
* This is debatable but I find the way this line lands hilarious: at one point, Lucio says that the Duke was given to womanizing, and the (disguised) Duke says, “I never heard the absent duke much detected for women; he was not inclin’d that way.” King James did have relationships with women, but he was also very famously was fond of dudes. George Villiers, in particular, he referred to like a spouse in his letters. He was the first commoner elevated to a dukedom by James, and a secret passage connected his bedroom with the royal bedchamber.
Just a few fun comparisons. Again, a lot of this is probably coincidence, but thought I’d throw it out there. Feel free to throw in more info if you’re a scholar of history or of this play!
“As I Remember It”: For over sixty years, dancer Carmen de Lavallade has performed worldwide in collaboration with legendary artists such as Josephine Baker and Duke Ellington. Still performing in her eighties, Ms. de Lavallade is currently touring an autobiographical show called “As I Remember It.” The production features Ms. de Lavallade performing with projections of her younger self as well as with films featuring some of her significant collaborators. Stories of her years in California dancing with Lester Horton, in New York with Alvin Ailey and her time spent as a member of the Yale Repertory Theatre frame the evening. In this Big Think interview, Ms. de Lavallade recounts the process that led to show’s development.
This year’s Royal Variety Performance will be held on Tuesday, 6th December 2016, at the Eventim Apollo. No word on which royals will be attending the Royal Variety this year, but it will likely either be Charles & Camilla or William & Kate.
"The Evil That Men Do Lives After Them": John Wilkes Booth's Final Performance
“There is no sure foundation set on blood, No certain life achieved by another’s death” – William Shakespeare, King John
Shakespeare killed Kings and Princes and lovers and warriors with beauty and artistry. With eternally evocative words as his lethal weapon, the bard snatched literary lives out of pages and off of stages in nearly every play that he penned. Sometimes he killed out of love, sometimes he killed out of hate, sometimes he killed for power or because of weakness or in spite of strength. When Shakespeare killed, however, he did it with purpose and poetry. In Shakespeare’s work, murder wasn’t simply committed – it was composed and performed; and, in the centuries since that work was created, it has been left up to actors to breathe life into scenes of death. A good actor can convince the audience to believe; a great actor can convince himself.
Contrary to what many people believe, John Wilkes Booth was neither the most famous nor the best actor in the United States when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Booth’s father, Junius Brutus Booth, was probably the greatest actor in the world when he was at his best and when he stayed sober. Of the three sons (all of illegitimate birth) who followed Booth, who died in 1852, into the theater it was his second-oldest, Edwin, who was the most amazing to watch on stage. Edwin traveled the world and not only played all of the parts made famous by his father, but arguably did it better. An Edwin Booth performance was a mesmerizing experience for an theater-goer, and it made him a very wealthy, well-connected man. Junius Jr. was a talented actor, but never quite had his heart completely in the theater, despite his natural abilities. The youngest of the Booth sons, John Wilkes, was determined to be as great as his father and two brothers, but he lacked the talent that seemed instinctive with his father and inherited by his older brothers.
John Wilkes Booth’s determination and ambition, however, drove him to do things on stage that other actors wouldn’t risk. While he wasn’t the most famous or most talented actor in America, John Wilkes was widely considered the most handsome, and women swooned over his appearance, buying stereograph pictures and anything that captured the young actor’s brooding appearance. If John Wilkes couldn’t measure up to his father or his brother’s when reciting his lines, his physicality captivated crowds. Uniquely athletic, Booth would take tremendous risks, performing stunts that stunned audiences and helped hide any defects in his acting ability.
If John Wilkes didn’t play the roles as well as Edwin did, he tackled them with unparalleled energy and was certainly one of the most well-known names in entertainment by the 1860’s. Booth played a multitude of roles, but the role that he felt suited him best – the role that inspired him in so many ways – was that of Brutus in Julius Caesar. Booth saw Brutus in the same light as Marc Antony did in the closing lines of Shakespeare’s masterpiece – a patriot who risked everything to bring down a tyrant, and, as Antony said, “was the noblest Roman of them all”.
The Booths were from Maryland originally, a border state during the Civil War, but the two most visible members of the family – Edwin and John Wilkes – seemed to come from different worlds. Edwin was a Unionist who lived in New York and was a friend to Presidents, Northern politicians, Union soldiers, and captains of industry. John Wilkes was an avowed secessionist and Southern sympathizer. When John Brown was hanged in Virginia in 1858, Booth dressed as a member of a Richmond militia group in order to get a front row seat at the abolitionist’s execution. When the war started in 1861, John Wilkes was open about his support for the states which seceded and formed the Confederate State of America, and his vociferous opinions landed him in trouble in some of the Northern cities that he performed in.
The relationship between Edwin and John Wilkes was never strong, and the younger brother nursed a deep jealousy for the more acclaimed (and more wealthy) Edwin. Their opposing beliefs about the Civil War further endangered their relationship and, at one point, Edwin kicked John Wilkes out of his home in New York when John Wilkes insulted President Abraham Lincoln and praised the Confederacy. At some point, John Wilkes went from a sympathizer to an activist. Booth smuggled medicine to the Southern states and may have been involved in deeper operations as a member of the Confederate Secret Service. Booth’s fame and active career in the theater was helpful, as he was able to travel throughout the country with relative ease.
One thing that is clear about John Wilkes Booth is that he absolutely hated Abraham Lincoln.
The Booths were no strangers to Lincoln. More than anything else, Lincoln loved the theater, particularly Shakespeare, which he often read out loud to guests at the White House. Lincoln had seen Edwin Booth on numerous occasions, and on November 9, 1863 – 10 days before he traveled to Pennsylvania to deliver the Gettysburg Address – the President watched John Wilkes Booth as Raphael in The Marble Heart at Ford’s Theatre, several blocks from the White House. Lincoln was impressed by Booth’s performance, but one of Lincoln’s companions that night, Mary Clay, daughter of Lincoln’s Minister to Russia, remembered a portentous moment. On several occasions, Booth – playing a villain – uttered his lines with anger while seemingly shaking his finger at President Lincoln. Mary Clay recalls saying to the President, “Mr. Lincoln, he looks as if he meant that for you." Lincoln responded, "Well, he does look pretty sharp at me, doesn’t he?" Booth reportedly refused an invitation to meet the President after the performance, but after Lincoln’s young son, Tad, watched in awe as Booth energetically performed in another play, the future assassin gave the President’s son a rose.
A performance that Lincoln certainly would have enjoyed seeing took place on November 25, 1864 in Edwin Booth’s Winter Garden Theatre in New York City. In a special benefit, the three sons of Junius Brutus Booth performed together for the first and only time. Edwin, Junius Jr., and John Wilkes teamed up to perform Julius Caesar, with the goal of raising money for a statue of William Shakespeare – a statue that can be found in Central Park today. While Edwin took the plum role of Brutus and Junius Jr. played Cassius, John Wilkes played the role that would become most unlikely in hindsight: Marc Antony. During the performance by the Booth brothers, Confederate agents set fire to buildings around New York City, including one next to Edwin’s theatre. After a momentary panic in the building, the audience was calmed down and the show went on. John Wilkes Booth had few acting roles left in his career, but by this point, he had decided that his final role would be Brutus.
By the time of the Winter Garden Theatre benefit featuring the Booth brothers, John Wilkes had already been conspiring to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in order to trade the President for a significant amount of Confederate soldiers in Union POW camps and was often meeting with his fellow conspirators such as Lewis Powell, John Surratt, David Herold, George Azterodt, Samuel Arnold, and Michael O'Laughlen at Mary Surratt’s boarding house in Washington, D.C. When Lincoln was sworn in for his second term on March 4, 1865, Booth and some of his conspirators were in the crowd and can be seen in a photo of the Inaugural stand at the Capitol as Lincoln gave his Inaugural Address. Over the next two weeks, the conspirators looked for an opportunity to kidnap the President and hopefully turn the tide for the Confederacy.
On March 17, 1865, Booth and his gang planned to launch their operation when President Lincoln traveled to the Campbell Hospital on the outskirts of the nation’s capital. Unfortunately for Booth, Lincoln’s plans changed and the abduction plot fell through. The next night, Booth gave his final acting performance, as Duke Pescara in The Apostate, at Ford’s Theatre.
"I have no words; My voice is in my sword” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Everything changed for John Wilkes Booth on April 9, 1865, as news reached Washington that Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Two nights later, Booth was in a crowd celebrating at the White House and became enraged when he heard President Lincoln suggest in an extemporaneous speech that blacks would be given the right to vote. That fury multiplied when Lincoln said, “I have always thought ‘Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it…I now request the band to favor me with its performance…[for] it is good to show the rebels that with us they will be free to hear it again." Booth took Lincoln’s words as an almost personal affront. The abduction plan was off the table, but Booth instantly realized that he would kill Lincoln. In his mind, he would be Brutus slaying the tyrant Caesar.
We know what happened next. Shakespeare killed with beauty and poetry – deadly, 400-year-old lines that elicit timeless emotions. There was no beauty in what happened at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. President Lincoln sat in his box watching Our American Cousin. Booth slipped into the theatre – his famous face a passport for entry. The actor crept into the room behind the President. The crowd laughed at a line delivered on stage and a shot rang out. A .44 caliber lead ball slammed into the back of Lincoln’s head. Skull fragments carried by the the bullet sliced through the President’s brain. Lincoln slumped forward, almost certainly brain dead already. Booth brandished a dagger and slashed Lincoln’s guest in the Presidential box, Major Henry Rathbone, and performed one last leap on to the stage – one last acrobatic move to stun an audience. However, in an unusual move for Booth, he stumbled, caught a leg in the flags draped in front of Lincoln’s box, and landed awkwardly. Booth’s tibula cracked and he limped off the stage, dragging his broken leg behind him. With fire in his eyes, the youngest member of the Booth acting family turned to the crowd, and with one last act of stagecraft yelled "Sic Semper Tyrannis!”. The line wasn’t part of a play; it was Virginia’s state motto and it meant “Thus Always To Tyrants”. Some witnesses remember hearing Booth add, “The South is avenged!”.
Lincoln was carried across the street and his 6'4" frame was laid diagonally on a bed in William A. Petersen’s boarding house. The powerfully-built President survived longer than most humans would survive a point-blank gunshot wound to the back of the head – even with today’s medical advancements. At 7:22 AM on April 15, 1865, Lincoln stopped breathing, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton uttered the famous words, “Now, he belongs to the ages.”
Over the next 10 days, John Wilkes Booth rode through the war-torn countryside of Maryland and Virginia. Shooting pain from his broken leg made every step and every breath excruciating, even after the injury was set by Dr. Samuel Mudd. With his fellow conspirator David Herold, Booth hid from the biggest manhunt in American History, as bloodthirsty Union troops, many just back from the battlefields of the Civil War, chased the man who killed the President that guided them through that crisis.
For 26-year-old John Wilkes Booth, there was a deeper pain. It wasn’t just the broken leg or the hunger or the exhaustion of evading an entire army. It wasn’t the lifelong envy of his more successful older brother, or the fact that his fellow conspirators failed in their assignments as Booth accomplished his. For Booth, who idolized Brutus and saw himself as the Southern, if not American version of Caesar’s assassin, the pain was due to the fact that he wasn’t being celebrated for removing a “tyrant”. John Wilkes Booth was used to seeing his name on posters that advertised his appearance, but now, his name was on wanted posters offering a $100,000 reward for his capture. Even the South mourned the loss of Lincoln, who looked forward to a gentle reconciliation and reconstruction with the former Confederate States. Booth’s assassination wasn’t seen as a heroic act against a raging tyrant. Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America that Booth so deeply supported would later say that “Next to the destruction of the Confederacy, the death of Abraham Lincoln was the darkest day the South has ever known.”
Instead of Brutus, Booth was seen as one of the murderers of the the Scottish king Duncan, who told Macbeth:
“I am one, my liege, Whom the vile blows and buffets of the world Hath so incens’d that I am reckless what I do to spite the world”
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth
In his final days, as he was being hunted down in the woods of Virginia, and before he was cornered in a burning barn and shot to death, Booth came to the bitter realization that the assassination didn’t lead him to the glory he had always sought. As always, though, John Wilkes Booth felt that it wasn’t his fault – that it was the world that let him down. On the run, before he was killed, Booth scrawled a few lines in a diary that was found on him when the Union troops finally caught up to him on April 26, 1865:
“Until today nothing was ever thought of sacrificing to our country’s wrongs. For six months we had worked to capture, but our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done. But its failure was owing to others, who did not strike for their country with a heart. I struck boldly, and not as the papers say. I walked with a firm step through a thousand of his friends, was stopped, but pushed on. A colonel was at his side. I shouted Sic semper before I fired. In jumping broke my leg. I passed all his pickets, rode sixty miles that night with the bone of my leg tearing the flesh at every jump. I can never repent it, though we hated to kill. Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment. The country is not what it was. This forced Union is not what I have loved. I care not what becomes of me. I have no desire to outlive my country. The night before the deed I wrote a long article and left it for one of the editors of the National Intelligencer, in which I fully set forth our reasons for our proceedings…
After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night being chased by gunboats till I was forced to return wet, cold, and starving, with every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why? For doing what Brutus was honored for? What made Tell a hero? And yet I, for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew, am looked upon as a common cutthroat. My action was purer than either of theirs. One hoped to be great himself. The other had not only his country’s but his own, wrongs to avenge. I hoped for no gain. I knew no private wrong. I struck for my country and that alone. A country that groaned beneath this tyranny, and prayed for this end, and yet now behold the cold hands they extend to me. God cannot pardon me if I have done wrong. Yet I cannot see my wrong except in serving a degenerate people. The little, the very little, I left behind to clear my name, the Government will not allow to be printed. So ends all. For my country I have given up all that makes life sweet and holy, brought misery upon my family, and am sure there is no pardon in the Heaven for me, since man condemns me so…
Tonight I will once more try the river with the intent to cross. Thought I have a greater desire and almost a mind to return to Washington, and in a measure clear my name – which I feel I can do. I do not repent the blow I struck. I may before my God, but not to man. I think I have done well. Though I am abandoned, with the curse of Cain upon me, when, if the world knew my heart, that one blow would have made me great, though I did desire no greatness. Tonight I try to escape these bloodhounds once more. Who, who can read his fate? God’s will be done. I have too great a soul to die like a criminal…”
“O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Cornered in a barn on Pat Garrett’s tobacco farm in Port Royal, Virginia, John Wilkes Booth refused to surrender to the Union troops who had been hunting him for twelve days, even after the soldiers set fire to the barn and Booth’s co-conspirator, David Herold, gave himself up. Limping around in the burning barn, a bullet fired by a Union soldier sliced through Booth’s neck, paralyzing the assassin. Soldiers dragged him from the barn, but the wound was mortal. In the moments before he died, Booth asked to see his own hands because the bullet through his spinal cord had robbed him of the ability to move on his own. When a soldier lifted Booth’s hands to his face, the 26-year-old actor who killed Abraham Lincoln mumbled his final words: “Useless! Useless!”