Launch & Review

25 09 2013

I name this sheep …

Champagne flowed, cameras blinked, nibbles were nibbled and sighs of relief and satisfaction sighed as the great ship Anne Line: Shakespeare’s Tragic Muse trundled down the slipway of time into the steadily rising ocean of literature that threatens to engulf us all. Barely had the book been officially released than I received notice of a review by that venerable Jesuit, Fr Peter Milward, who, unbeknownst to me, had been sent one of the pre-release copies. He has now emailed me his piece and as it is not yet published I have an excellent excuse for only quoting the nice bits (with his permission). Fr Peter is the author of Shakespeare the Papist and numerous other books and articles, many on related subjects. An Englishman who studied literature at Oxford in the days of C.S. Lewis one can imagine him slipping in and out of other worlds with the ease of making a slice of toast. He is currently emeritus prof at Sophia University in Tokyo and chairman of ‘The Renaissance Bulletin’.

Peter Milward’s Verdict

On the biography of Anne Line:

Indeed, the author has gone to great pains to find out all that can be found out about Anne Line … he leads us on a fascinating journey into the highways and byways of Essex, especially … to the South of Maldon, … in a region of England with deep historical roots in the capital city of Camulodunum (since corrupted to Maldon) and its ruler in early Roman times, Cunobelin (alias Cymbeline). And so we are led on a line of exploration, not without a Shakespearian pun, from Anne Line to Cymbeline.

Fr Peter’s main interest, not surprisingly is in the Shakespeare connections. He remarks:

It may be said that the author is well in line with the thought processes of the Bard, as when he sees in ‘more rare’ a pun on the Latin orare, when he relates the name Posthumous in the play to the fact that Roger Line had long since died in exile before his wife’s martyrdom, and when he detects in the words of Jupiter to his eagle, ‘Mount, eagle, to my palace crystalline,’ an allusion to Lord Monteagle, the recipient of the letter of warning which was said to have revealed the Gunpowder Plot to the English authorities. Such puns only elicit a series of tut-tuts from academic readers, but they are so characteristic of the playwright no less than of the author. After all, in interpreting the plays of Shakespeare, one has to adapt one’s mind to that of the Bard – in his own age no less than ‘for all time’.

Fr Peter appears to accept the key part of my thesis – ‘the heroine Imogen is indeed frequently characterized in terms of Anne Line’ – but he wishes to emphasise that ‘in the plays there may be a plurality of identities implied in the characters.’ Moreover, ‘his interpretation might well be richer by looking beyond this one play of Cymbeline to the plays composed about the same time and in the same jet of inspiration.’ No doubt. But the book is first and foremost a biography of Anne Line, and it is in Cymbeline, not The Winter’s Tale or King Lear, that I believe we find Shakespeare’s clearest portrait of the ‘neat-herd’s daughter’.

See ‘Addendum’ post for various other points of clarification supplied by Fr Peter.


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