Friday, December 23, 2005


To want something now seems a little selfish, to exercise a desire which is suggestive of action and force and demand.
In the line quoted above it is different: It is a lack of something - a thing needed, a thing not just expected but necessary.
The full effects of last winter on the farm are still emerging. It was an exceptionally long and cold one. The plum trees all lost their blossom to frost and the walnuts suffered equally.
So what?
Well, the year before we made well over 100 euros on the walnuts and were able to make over 30 litres of tuica (plum brandy to you).
100 euros is a whole lot of money in Romania - well over a month's income and more than enough to pay the annual taxes on the land. A signifficant amount of the walnuts are used to make cakes for Easter and Christmas - and add a lot to the local diet.
The tuica is what we drink to cheer us through the winter!
When Titania says this line - she knows its import.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rotten Corn

The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard;

One result of the rains this summer in Romania has been the rotting of the corn - maize now, unlike the wheat of Shakespeare's day.
It is hard for all of those people who live in towns and cities to grasp the significance of this.
The corn is used for two purposes - feeding the chickens and livestock through the cold winter, and as a staple of the human diet. Bread is a luxury in many villages and there is nowhere to buy it anyway.
The traditonal wooden containers found in many farmyards, usually full at this time of year, are empty. The stalks of the maize plants are still standing - barren. Animals will have to be slaughtered, and chickens will go hungry, get smaller, lay fewer eggs.
People are going to go hungry, their diets will be limited and various degrees of malnutrition will set in.
This is the reality hidden in the words - a true horror to those who still live this life all over the world.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Titania's Speech

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come from my experience of the rain (previous post) is a realisation of just how physically real this speech is.

As we approach 2007 - the year when over half of the world's population will be classified as urban - connecting our personnel experiences with the natural elements of Shakespeare is becoming increasingly difficult.

I suspect, in Shakespeare's time, listening to Titania's speech was a much more powerful experience - it certainly is for me now - and physical/tactile rather than intellectual. There is an overwhelming sense of uncontrolled energy - an energy against which we are impotent.

My understanding of this is not now in terms of psychology - it is in terms of a concrete feeling based, as it must have been for the vast majority of Shakespeare's original audience, on being forced to endure a real storm.
Pelting rain is no longer just uncomfortable, it is a force to be reckoned with.
And this is not an extreme event (as it is sometimes suggested by people who have lived in the closed world of the ivory tower) - my experience was only on the edge of the really serious flooding that devestated parts of Romania.

Just as in the politic world of Theseus/Hippolyta, Egeus is being allowed to break the harmony and sends out the forces locked in the lovers; so in the natural world of Oberon and Titania, a dispute unleashes considerable natural forces, normally held in check.