Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Learning the Hard Way

TY pupils have under a month left to complete their Work Portfolios, and are currently producing various kinds of prose compositions. Here, Lluisa Hebrero Casasayas, who arrived here from Spain at the beginning of the year, writes a powerfully direct and honest piece in English about coming to terms with such a new, different environment, and learning English at the same time.

I don’t know how, but one day I said to myself: if I don’t talk more to people and make things easier, no-one is going to do it for me, and I still have to be here for nine months, so wake up!’ I can’t explain how much did I change, and what a positive mentality I got. I took my cousin’s old translator and I carried it everywhere I went. I was interested in learning English. I was trying to be as nice as I could, smiling when I had to tell people: ‘I’m really sorry. I don’t understand you, could you please repeat it again?’ Being myself.

And here I am. Basically, I’m writing an English essay. I couldn’t have done this a few months ago! People say to me that my English has improved so much, and I’m so happy for that. It’s already April; I’ve been here for seven and a half months, and I actually can understand everything.

Read Lluisa's full piece here.

'Captivation' and 'Serenity'

Amelia Shirley received an award for these poems from her entries to the Junior Poetry Prize:


We knew there must be
More to living.
We'd heard of places where
People laughed with genuine joy.

We knew that lying here in
Metal beds watching
The starless sky
Couldn't be forever.

We would be released
From our solitude,
Shown how to embrace
The moon's glinting hollowness
And tell them...
We survived.


The pure look of understanding
In his eyes burnt a hole
In my heart.

The simplicity of his smile
And contentment of his soul
Screamed out to me through barriers of wickedness.

He had seen life,
Seen death.
He had seen me.

Beckett at Montparnasse

Another expedition leaves early tomorrow - this time a French Department TY trip to Paris. To mark their departure, here's another in the series of famous authors' graves we've visited - that of Irish author Samuel Beckett in the cemetery at Montparnasse. Ronan Swift is our representative. Previously we've paid our respects to Keats in Rome, Gerard Manley Hopkins at Glasnevin in Dublin, and, right, Henry Fielding in the lovely English Cemetery in Lisbon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

'Home' and 'Those Sepia Photos'

Here are two more junior poems, from Opeline Kellett (II form) and Kezia Wright (I form - and she also drew the illustration):-

Home, by Kezia Wright

There, the tree tops meet the sky
And the leaves flutter in the autumn wind as
they bid their tree goodbye.
There, purple evenings are home to the giant moon.
There, snow blankets the land
And icicles drip onto the morning frost.
The land is still when the bitterly cold wind marches in.

There, grasses of green arise from the fields
While sounds of the lamb throng the air.
There, the sun will spread its wings and shine brightly once again.
There, a soft breeze blows through the boiling heat
And gentle waves lap against your feet.
There, the sun will never die and light is everlasting.

Those Sepia Photos, by Opeline Kellett

Those sepia photos in the morning light
reflect memories of many times past.
The débutante ball in 1950,
the young gentleman at my hand.

Those sepia photos show happiness,
a world so simple, so young,
a world without fluster or time,
and laughter at a gleeful song sung.

Those sepia photos show memories
I don't want to leave behind.
What use now is colour in a world left so grey?

Those sepia photos,
Those times were the day.

Off to Pompeii

Good luck to the expedition being led by our colleague Ronan Swift, who early tomorrow morning will set off to the Bay of Naples to indulge in all things classical. Four teachers and 18 Junior Certificate III form pupils will be spending time looking at the many riches of the Neapolitan area. To send them off, here's the link to a poem by former pupil Rowland Cooper we posted in October. It was inspired by Robert Harris's novel Pompeii.

They plan to keep us up to date via the Classics 'Clog', which you can see here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Junior Poetry Prize Winner, 2008

Congratulations to Joanna Tottenham of II form, who has been awarded this year's Junior Poetry Prize for her poem 'Hearts' (which will also be our next Poem of the Week). Mr Canning, the judge, comments on the influence of Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson.

In addition, the English Department awards book tokens to :
III form : Amelia Shirley and Rosanna Young
II form : Opeline Kellett
I form : Kezia Wright.

We will shortly be posting poems from these entrants.

'Hearts', by Joanna Tottenham

Like a time-bomb they tick,
Always running,
Loving, scarlet,

Sweet like syrup.
Tender as an eggshell,
Broken so often yet

By the antidote of others.
Working alone,
No coffee break.
As precious as gold

Carelessly cast away
In the depths of darkness,
Ticking on


Saturday, April 26, 2008

'Place', 'Beach Ball', 'Solitude'

Here are three more poems to add to yesterday's, from I form.

Place, by Kezia Wright

There the treetops meet the sky
And there the leaves flutter in the autumn wind,
As they bid their tree goodbye.

There grasses of green arise from the fields
While sounds of the lambs
Throng the springy air.

There a soft wind blows amidst the boiling heat
And gentle waves lap against your feet.
Daylight never ends
And flies buzz in the sticky heat.

There snow blankets the land
And icicles drip onto the morning frost.
The land is still,
When the bitterly cold wind marches in.

There the sun will spread its wings
And shine brightly once again.
There purple evenings are home to the giant moon.

Beach Ball in the Summer Sun, by Josh Kenny

A beach ball in the sun,
Its bright colours colliding
With the sun’s warmth,
Rolling in the summer’s breeze,
On the sandy surface of the beach.

Bouncing and rolling along the sand,
As though it has a mind of its own,
Until the breeze weakens,
And the ball comes to a standstill
In the warmth of the summer sun.

Solitude, by Josh Kenny

My place of solitude is a field,
Not far from my home.
The air is fresh, the ground is moist
And I can see the mountains perfectly.

In the middle of the field I sit
On the wet green grass
Listening to birds and relax,
Forgetting the past.

My field is a place of joy, relaxation,
Solitude and freedom.

Friday, April 25, 2008

'Light' and 'Driftwood'

Here are a couple of what Mr Swift calls 'a tiny sprinkling' of poems written in his I form English set. More shortly.

'Driftwood', by Jamie Boyd

I started out in life
As a huge and mighty crate,
Filled to the brim
With ammunition for an army.

Till one day tall and powerful waves
Crashed down on our ship
Making it toss this way and that way,
Men shouting orders
Slipping and sliding.

Suddenly a rogue wave hits
And flings me into the raging sea,
I smash open and all the bullets
Sink to the ocean’s bed.

And I begin to drift.
Drift far and wide,
To the edge of the world.
I may get washed up,
But the ever-moving sea
Will pick me up again,
And drift away I will again.

'Light', by Zachary Stephenson

There is a dim light
Glowing in front of us.
What could it represent?
Maybe it is God’s light
Keeping us safe;
Or a signal fire
Looking for help.

Perhaps it is comfort
For those with grief,
Inspiration for an idea,
Courage for the cowardly
Or soothing for the stressed.

As it illuminates our lives
I am certainly glad
There is light.

Scribbling the Cat

Liam Canning recommends a memoir by Alexandra Fuller :-

I left Zambia in 1982 having lived in Africa for the greater proportion of my life. In 1980 Robert Mugabe had been elected as Prime Minister of the new Republic of Zimbabwe. In the same year in June a car near my house in Ndola had three hundred rounds of ammunition pumped into it by a group of Joshua Nkomo’s returning guerrilla freedom fighters. Three young friends of mine had been ‘scribbled’. I recall the ghastly image vividly and have often thought of the waste and pointlessness of the fact that it was the car behind theirs that was then stolen.

Once you have lived in Africa the place runs in your blood like an itch you cannot scratch. Alexandra Fuller describes it as ‘how to belong to a place that does not belong to you’ I returned to Zambia for the first time when I read her acclaimed memoir Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, a child’s eye view of the continent she grew up in.

I am currently reading Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African soldier. It spans the time when Fuller returns to Zambia from the USA as an adult and embarks on a harrowing but ironically hilarious journey into the past. She takes this moral journey with ‘K’, a white African veteran of the civil war. They travel through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique reliving this devastating time in conversation with other war veterans.

‘Scribbling’ is the Afrikaans for killing and it is this casualness to violent death and the irrelevance of human life that strikes home. The book is hard and unforgiving, dealing with race, politics, war and self-justification. Fuller’s prose is clear, unsentimentally honest and strikingly idiomatic and atmospheric. Both of these books must be read in tandem and although they hold a poignant and personal significance for me you will certainly get a unique and realistic feel for the idiosyncrasies of Africa, even if you have never been there.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Baghdad Zoo

Our 25th Poem of the Week is Brian Turner's 'The Baghdad Zoo' (click here for the full text), from his multi award winning collection Here, Bullet, which has just arrived in the Library. It is about the notorious day in 2003 when, following the American invasion of Iraq, the zoo was ransacked and animals ran loose into the city.

Here, Bullet, Turner's outstanding debut collection, is the first strong poetic voice in English to come from the Iraq conflict. He was recently interviewed in a Guardian podcast with Lindesay Irvine here, and on RTE's 'The Arts Show' by Vincent Woods here. Both interviews are well-worth attention. There's a review of the book by H.R.Coursen in the Wolf Moon Press here.

Yesterday Brian Turner took a poetry masterclass at the 23rd CĂșirt International Festival of Literature in Galway.

Letter to a Famous Person

Our Transition Year pupils are currently writing pieces for their Work Portfolio (we'll post plenty in due course), with their course ending in late May. Poppy Vernon has recently written a letter to a famous 'person' in a recent essay :-

I was asked to write a letter to a famous person and as I don’t really have a significant idol who I look up to, I thought I would take this opportunity to write to you. I admit I am going to have some trouble posting this and am proposing just throwing it high into the air and hoping that it will disappear dramatically.

Her full piece is here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

December 26th 2004

In January we posted a piece by Lewis Mathews about the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004; Lewis was in Sri Lanka on holiday when the disaster struck. Now, Ciara O'Driscoll writes about her reaction as she watched the television images helplessly from her home in Singapore :

It didn’t feel like an earthquake which would register 8.9 on the Richter Scale. Tucked up in my bed in my home in Singapore, it felt rather as if an extremely large lorry had rolled past my window.

Read the rest of Ciara's piece here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

William Trevor at 80

There is much on the airwaves and in the press at the moment about our most distinguished Old Columban writer, William Trevor, who will be 80 next month. We are planning our own celebration of this event - more here before long.

On Sunday, John Bowman's RTE Radio 1 Sunday morning programme replayed a clip of Trevor being interviewed by Andy O'Mahony about his book Landscape in Literature (1984).

If you click on the episode from Sunday 13th, you can hear him talk with Mike Murphy about his education, including discussion of St Columba's. He remembers thinking before arriving from Sandford Park that SCC boys would 'speak strangely', but then found that the school was socially 'pleasantly mixed'. He says that, having mocked the school (fairly gently), he now remembers it 'with affection' and thinks 'it was a very good school indeed', largely because during the War 'the staff were interesting men'. He goes on to talk in much detail about the profound influence that the then art teacher, the great Irish sculptor Oisin Kelly, had on his life.

On Thursday at the Mansion House William Trevor will be receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in Irish Literature at the Irish Book Awards. Also, at the weekend the author is the subject of a symposium at the Oscar Wilde Centre in TCD (here).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Willis Shakespeare Prize

This year's annual Willis Prize for Shakespeare exam takes place on Tuesday evening at 6.30pm in Cotton. Further details from teachers ... you'll be asked to write a general essay on Shakespeare's drama (using at least two plays), to analyse one of the sonnets, and to comment on an unseen extract from a play (last year, Coriolanus). All in VI, V and IV who are interested should let their English teachers know.

Of course, Shakespeare's birthday is on Thursday 23rd.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bernard O'Donoghue

In today's Guardian, Caitriona O'Reilly reviews the newly published Selected Poems by one of the most attractive and accessible, yet least feted, contemporary Irish poets, Bernard O'Donoghue. O'Donoghue has lived in England for most of his life, and for many years has taught at Wadham College, Oxford (a medievalist, his version of the great epic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was published by Penguin Classics in 2006).

His own verse is elegant, understated - a slow burn. He can be heard reading his poem 'Tea Dolls' and 'Geese Conversations' on a Bodlean Library 'bodcast' here. O'Reilly says rightly that the poems are 'clever and self-conscious, but blessedly uncontaminated by the abstract language of ideas or by brittle academic rhetoric'.

O'Donoghue was interviewed on this week on Monday's Start the Week (BBC Radio 4) with Andrew Marr (available on Listen Again).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Summer in the Countryside

In his Mock exam at the end of last term, Junior Cert pupil Steffan Davies wrote an evocative prose composition, 'Summer in the Countryside', which starts :

Take a large white canvas. Paint a great blue sea, and dot the waves with white beads. With a flowing motion paint the ripples in the harbour as they lap against the hard grey pier. Scribble in a lighthouse at the end of the quay and children playing around it. Fill the air with the sound of happy voices and the smell of dead fish. Draw the squiggly coastline, snaking its way up north. Dot yellow on the serpent's back, to make the rape seed crops sitting on the side of the hills. Let the smell of freshly cut grass float away on a breeze.

Here is Steffan's full piece.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

'Time', by Fiona Boyd

Our 24th Poem of the Week is by the joint winner of this year's Senior Poetry Prize, Fiona Boyd.


I promise that I can see tomorrows
Yesterdays and Fridays
and I promise to watch out for all the other days
You said would keep coming around.

I promise I won’t forget the months
Even though there are so many
Or how a week can drag on forever
And disappear in the blink of an eye.

I’m keeping track of all these hours
And minutes and seconds
And half moments of hope.

And I’m saving them up
And I’m writing them down
Just so we know
Just so we know.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

'What Was Lost', by Catherine O'Flynn

Catherine O'Flynn's brilliant debut novel (winner of the Costa First Novel Prize) What Was Lost, has just arrived in the Library and is strongly recommended.

'Crime was out there. Undetected, unseen. She hoped she wouldn't be too late.' Our detective from Falcon Investigations is Kate, a 10 year-old heading for her daily holiday surveillance shift at the new local Green Oaks Shopping Centre. Together with her assistant Mickey the Monkey (who she made from a Charlie Chimp the Gangster craft kit), she keeps an eye on the centre's customers, staff, shops, banks ... It is 1984. Not so much Big Brother as Little Girl.

The novel then moves to 2004. Kate vanished twenty years ago (and is seen on CCTV in images reminiscent of the James Bulger story). The story moves to security guard Kurt ('he'd been looking at the same monitor screens for the past thirteen years') and music store assistant manager Lisa, stuck between nightmarish senior management and deranged floor assistants. What follows is a kind of mystery story - what happened to Kate all those years ago, and how are the lives of Kurt and Lisa affected by this?

What Was Lost is both very funny and very moving. Catherine O'Flynn captures perfectly the ferocious seriousness of childhood, and the heart-breaking emotional void below this child's detective role-playing. There are many other vivid minor characters -the sad (and sweet) sweet-shop worker Adrian, the appalling ranting manager Dave, the security guard Gavin (who manages to be both boring and sinister). This is partly a story of lives of quiet desperation, taking place against the background of a post-industrial deracinated Britain: thus the ironically named centre. In the end, it also becomes a love story.

Go to the Daily Telegraph here for a reading by the author, and an interview with Katherine O'Shea.

One further mystery : it was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Only long-listed?


New Library Books

Here's the latest notice from the Library about some of the new books on the shelves at the start of our summer term. Among which are :

In Junior Fiction: Siobhan Dowd's The London Eye Mystery (website here). The author was born in 1960 to Irish parents, but died in August 2007, just as her career as a children's author was taking off.

In Senior Fiction: Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost is described in another post today. Another debut novel is Julia Kelly's With my Lazy Eye from Lilliput Press, described by OC Sophie Grenham as 'heart-warming' : she recently interviewed the author in the Independent here.

Also, there's Denis Johnson's huge new novel Tree of Smoke, reviewed here by Jim Lewis in the New York Times as 'a tremendous book, a strange entertainment, very long but very fast, a great whirly ride that starts out sad and gets sadder and sadder, loops unpredictably out and around, and then lurches down so suddenly at the very end that it will make your stomach flop.'

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Merchant of Venice

This morning our III form Junior Certificate pupils head off to the Tivoli Theatre to see the Cyclone Productions' version of The Merchant of Venice. There'll be a pupil review here in due course.

The publicity says that this is 'A five person cast perform a commedia dell’arte production set in 16th century Venice. This is Shakespeare as you’ve never seen him, with a slapstick, bawdy style brimming with zany comic energy.'

Jenkins and Vivaldi

A reminder to our regular visitors of the Choral Concert in Chapel on this coming Friday evening (8pm). This follows the performances of the Faure and Mozart Requiems in the last two years

This time we present two different works from two different eras - The Armed Man (choral suite) by Karl Jenkins, and Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria. All are welcome. There is no charge in, though there will be a voluntary retiring collection in aid of Habitat for Humanity.

Three English teachers are part of the choir, and another literary connection is that the Jenkins suite concludes with the first two stanzas of 'Hymn Before Action' by Rudyard Kipling:

The Earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath,

The Nations in their harness

Go up against our path:
Ere yet we loose the legions—

Ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the Thunders,

Lord God of Battles, aid!

High lust and froward bearing,
Proud heart, rebellious brow—
Deaf ear and soul uncaring,
We seek Thy mercy now!
The sinner that forswore Thee,
The fool that passed Thee by,
Our times are known before Thee—
Lord, grant us strength to die!

Monday, April 14, 2008

'Transience', 'Apparition'

Here are two more poems from Rachel Acton Filion, joint winner of this year's Senior Poetry Prize.


My skin tingles magnetically against the wind,
The floating element potent, piercing
My stripped fingers, stripped ribs and raw throat.

The perfect ticking of measured time
Carries with it a delirious, self-induced deterioration.

Minuscule seconds click into tiny forms,
Weighted and falling away,
As aspects of my corpse slip invisibly,

Gone but still somehow latching on,
In greedy insistence.


I fell asleep,
Blue darkness bleeding over my eyes.

From the deep shadow
You stepped out,
Light melting silently
Upon your sallow skin.
You looked a little scared.

It seemed more than a grasping
Fabrication of my mind,
Because your voice was
So lucid, so distinctively yours,
Bare and shaken.

A locket dangles in desolate pain,
And will remain forever.
The stony sharp chain
Pleasingly slices the fingers
Which wrap tightly around
Never surrendering to release.

It's so heavy,
What you
Told me.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More Senior Poems

Here are more poems from the candidates for the recent Peter Dix Senior Poetry Prize, by Hanne Grainger, Ellie Russell and Cordelia Mulholland. The themes for the prize were Love and Time.

Matters of Death, by Hanne Grainger

No matter how strong,
no matter how weak,
no matter how tall,
no matter how small,
no matter how beautiful,
no matter how ugly,
no matter how smart,
no matter how stupid,

it takes us all eventually
and never give us back.

It's Your Turn, by Ellie Russell

He used to close his eyes, as he thought out his strategy.
And I never considered his long fingers cold and tired
as he moved to checkmate with a grin.
But now as he lies on this bed,
Each breathe more shallow than the last,
I realize that those times are over
And this smile is different.
It's a wave goodbye.
As he lays his king down,
And leaves the table.

Revelations, by Cordelia Mulholland

You are the composer of my silent prayers,
The cross on which I am fixed.
I clasp your indifference to me
Like a child clutching its most precious possession.

Rosary beads slide through my fingers
As you snake through my mind.
You are my religion, my revelation,
The only faith I could ever cling to.

Friday, April 11, 2008

King Chicken

Ronan Swift is now re-gathering the cast of his successful II form production from the autumn, King Chicken by Allan Mackay, in advance of our visit to 'Ireland's premier one-act schools' drama festival' at East Glendalough School, Wicklow Town, in early May. More in due course.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

'My Deepest Fears' and 'A Winter's Night'

Two more poems now from the entries to the Senior Poetry Prize. Hal Downer receives an English Department book-token for his portfolio, which includes these two poems.

My Deepest Fears

I lie awake,
Tossing, turning in my bed.
It’s dark and quiet.
The night is so silent
Nothing can be heard.
I walk over to the window
And glance across the city.
Each light means something -
Someone lying awake like me
Just pondering,
Waiting for the final call
From the hospital
Where their loved one is,
Upset because they had
Yet another argument
And he left in a storm,
And those like me.
Sweet dreams to all of those
Like me.
You are amazing:
Hold on.

A Winter’s Night

Late at night, the house is asleep.
Not much can be heard,
Except for rattling noises, and the crackling fire.
Except for that, it’s quiet.

Except for that, it’s quiet.
Now is my time, nobody else’s.
There are only two things in use,
The centre light and my wine glass.

The centre light and my wine glass,
Sitting on the oak chest,
The centre of the room bright, the rest dark.
The Aga rumbles slightly.

The Aga rumbles slightly,
A breeze passes through, I shiver.
I walk upstairs,
I walk into my room, into the warm darkness.

I walk into my room, into the warm darkness.
I lie down on my bed.
She breathes lightly, I can feel her warmth.
She is sleeping softly.

She is sleeping softly.
I can see the approaching light.
Darkness is fading.
Night fights, day fights back.

Night fights, day fights back.
Dreaming in the darkness,
The windows rattle, the wind howls.
Late at night, the house is asleep.

Not much can be heard,
Not much can be heard.

The Burial at Thebes

Seamus Heaney's The Burial at Thebes, his 2004 version of Antigone by Sophocles (read an extract here), has just opened in a revival at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin, and is reviewed today in the Irish Times and the Irish Independent. Antigone was our own Junior Play two months ago, as reviewed here. (Neil Corcoran reviewed the original production four years ago in the Guardian here).

In the Irish Times, Peter Crawley says that 'Heaney's graceful, nimble version seems stunningly attuned to the political moment' and that it is 'now honoured as a vivid and supple work by Patrick Mason's focussed production'. The design by Ferdia Murphy renders 'Thebes as a bullet-pocked concrete city'. He particularly praises the acting of Jane Brennan as Eurydice and concludes that this is 'a production worthy of the play; lucid, compelling and forever relevant' (only available online for Premium subscribers).

In the Independent, Bruce Arnold is less positive, criticising Declan Conlon as King Creon, saying that his acting is 'one-dimensional' and finishes by saying that 'Patrick Mason's direction is a transition from slick stage movements, which set the tone at the beginning, and then fail to embrace the tragic carnage at the end.' (full online review here).

Helen Meany's review in the Guardian states that 'While such a deliberate, formal staging and an almost motionless cast draws our attention back to Heaney's language, it seems too reverential to involve us. Setting it in such an iconic historical period removes the play's conflicts from us, too, making them very abstract. While a contemporary setting might be reductive, at least it would have risked something.'

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Path, 5.47 pm

This term's first Poem of the Week is by one of the joint winners of this year's Senior Poetry Prize, Rachel Acton Filion (next week's will be by the other winner, Fiona Boyd).

The Path, 5:47 pm

The sky glows in melting sweeps of orange and violet,
Barricaded by the black, brittle outlines of a bare forest.

My presence visibly affects the atmosphere,
As whispering folds of mist expand from my mouth.

Layers of neon graffiti stand stark against
Cracked, frozen blocks of cement.

The air is glacial and infinite,

And it breezes by

Like tiny frozen metallic particles piercing
And scattering over my skin.

The only corporeal movement that exists
Is the twitching of a minuscule form of crimson feathers.

Altered into an array of chipped glass and porcelain,

The world is menacing in its calm perfection.

Senior Poetry Prize winners, 2008

Congratulations to the joint winners of this year's Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry (senior) : Rachel Acton Filion and Fiona Boyd. We will shortly have here selections from their portfolios, and also over the next few days poems from other entrants, including two candidates who received book tokens from the Department for their work, Hal Downer and Ellie Russell. The Junior Poetry Prize will also shortly feature here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Start of Term

Boarders return tonight, and term fully starts tomorrow morning. We've plenty of very busy weeks ahead of us on this blog, starting with the announcements in coming days of Senior and Junior Poetry Prize winners. We'll post plenty of entries over the coming fortnight or so.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Gentlemen of Verona

Recently, we reported on speculation that Shakespeare might have visited Venice, scene of two of his greatest plays. Another Italian city that features in two plays is Verona, location for The Two Gentlemen and of course Romeo and Juliet. There's even less evidence that Shakespeare ever travelled to this city, but not surprisingly the local tourist board makes as much as possible out of the connection.

Pictured, two gentlemen of our English Department at the plaque and bust marking Shakespeare's influence on the city, beside Piazza Bra, on a recent holiday visit. The main tourist venue is the entirely fraudulent house of Juliet on Via Capelle (thus the dubious connection); the approach to the house (the balcony, below, was added not in 1596 but in 1936) features hideous grattifi-laden walls (bottom). Perhaps more evocative is Romeo's house on Via Arche Scaligere (left), reportedly the ancestral home of the Montagues. It can't be visited and thus maintains some sense of mystery.