LONDON

WE FEW, WE MERRY FEW

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Well, it’s Saturday. And I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon. But you know what? I’m not too sad about it. I think I’ve had my fill of London for now and all I can say is that I hope I’ll be back someday.

Granted, this trip wasn’t the life-changing experience I was hoping for, but I was forced out of my comfort zone many times, which was good. I got to act, I got to read Shakespeare and I finally fulfilled my dream of seeing productions at the Globe. I went to museums, saw Keats’s house and saw amazing musicals and brilliant plays.

I’m just very grateful. But as long as the people I love are in California, that is where I belong. I will miss London, and I’ll miss Shakespeare, but it’s time to go back. I do think that this was good for me – one last passionate fling with Shakespeare was exactly what I needed. But, honestly, it doesn’t need to be the last fling. It’s just going to be one of those things that never, ever ends.

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It isn’t good-bye just yet, though. I’m still seeing Richard III tonight (SOMEBODY SAVE ME) but when that’s over – arrivederci, London! We will meet again!

LONDON · SHAKESPEARE · THEATRE

LET’S TALK OF GRAVES, OF WORMS AND EPITAPHS

 

“For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground,
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
How some have been depos’d, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos’d;
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping kill’d;
All murdered – for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king,
Keeps Death his court: and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp;
Allowing him a breath, a little scene
To monarchize, be fear’d, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit –
As if this flesh, which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable – and, humour’d thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall,  and – farewell king!”

Then: applause! I did this speech for the performing part of our course. We had to memorize a passage and perform it in front of the class. My hollow crown was simply a crown of flowers that I had bought previously. I sat down (even though people had told me not to because it’d be boring) and said, “For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings.”

Everybody was silent and almost in awe. I was in awe of myself because I managed such a perfect delivery – my voice wavered and I was panicking because I was starting to feel the pressure that Richard II was feeling. Only seven people got votes for the best performance and, even though I didn’t win because one girl sang a song and she won by default, I was one of the people who got votes. Because the more I spoke, the more I felt like crying and the more I resented the crown that I had taken off of my head and had placed in my lap. And it just made me think: God, I love acting! And, most of all, I love acting out Shakespeare.

I was told that I had stage presence, a great voice for acting and all sorts of lovely compliments that I brushed off.

But I’m so happy that I managed to do it. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to give Richard II the performance he deserved, scared little thing he is, but I did. It just got to the point where I surprised myself – how was I suddenly feeling so resentful of my crown of flowers and how was I suddenly filled with fear? I kept thinking, Henry IV is going to kill me, I know it.

It wasn’t that I was scared of being up in front of people – I’ve done stage acting before. I don’t care about people watching me. It just came down to the fact that I finally found what my drama class was always yelling about: my inner creative self or whatever. It sounds cheesy, but it was so exhilarating!

And I’m just so glad.

LONDON

CALL IN THE MESSENGERS SENT FROM THE DOLPHIN.

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You can ignore the title of this entry. I have my book opened to a page from Henry V and Hal’s talking crap about the Dauphin, except he’s too British to use the word Dauphin and says Dolphin instead. I’m meant to be writing an essay about his ‘positive masculinity,’ but I’m having a hard time so I thought I’d write a Tower of London entry instead.

It was a bit of a disappointment. For one thing, a lot of the billboards were semi-blaming Richard III for killing the Princes, even though that was NEVER PROVED. But people love to hate Richard, so I don’t really blame them.

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The real problem with the Tower is that they don’t really take advantage of the fact that so many gruesome and terrible things happened there. I would seriously FILL the place with exhibits on Anne Boleyn, the Princes, Richard II and even Richard III. But no – most of it is empty and/or filled with Henry VIII’s armor which is not impressive because all I could tell was that he was very, very fat.

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Quite possibly the worst thing was the gift shop. I bought postcards of dead monarchs, which was probably a bad idea because the minute I put them on my wall at home I can almost guarantee that they’ll all stare me down (I’m looking at you, Richard). What was terrible was that they were selling a set of Christmas ornaments. To be specific, a set of ornaments called, HENRY VIII AND HIS WIVES. Which is in rather bad taste because he had most of them beheaded. (“Do their heads twist off?” was asked by one of the girls in my program, but I was too horrified to laugh).

One thing I did love was seeing Henry V’s (or Hal’s, because we’re at the point where I can quit calling him Henry) ceremonial sword. After that, it was all Henry VIII.

NOBODY LIKES YOU HENRY VIII.

Anyway, back to my essay.

LONDON

AND SURE IN LANGUAGE STRANGE SHE SAID — ‘I LOVE THEE TRUE.’

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Here’s to another day rolling around in the grass at Kensington Gardens. If I could do one thing for the rest of my life, it would be to lie in the sun with a Shakespeare play.

I watched Richard II on BBC yesterday and it was fantastic. I always get so emotionally invested in characters from Shakespeare’s histories. It’s such a problem. If you are interested:

No matter where. Of comfort no man speak:
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth;
Let’s choose executors, and talk of wills:
And yet not so — for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives, and all, are Bolingbroke’s,
And nothing can we call our own but death;
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground,
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
How some have been depos’d, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos’d;
Some poison’d by their wives, some sleeping kill’d;
All murder’d — for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king,
Keeps Death his court: and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp;
Allowing him a breath, a little scene
To monarchize, be fear’d, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit —
As if this flesh, which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable — and, humour’d thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and — farewell king!

Sheer poetry from a raving lunatic. Only you, Shakespeare. Only you.

LONDON

WAS IT A VISION, OR A WAKING DREAM? FLED IS THAT MUSIC: DO I WAKE, OR SLEEP?

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Today I finally took the tube to Hampstead and visited Keats’s house. It’s funny – once you get off the tube, you’re struck by the sight of this bustling little town. But the second you turn the corner on Keats Grove, it’s dead silent and all you can hear are the birds. It made me understand why Keats felt so at one with nature.

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Shakespeare, of course, was everywhere. He seems to pop up in every single corner, harassing me to read all of his plays and sonnets.

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A tiny little bit of Keats’s room, which was relatively small and plain. I was absolutely freaking out, though, because the air in there felt a bit haunted and they had his death mask in a glass case. So obviously the first thing I thought was, “GHOSTS!”

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Fanny’s room, in all it’s fashionable glory.

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And here’s the house.

Oh, it was such a lovely, perfect visit. I read poetry and wrote in my journal until closing time, then I sloped my way back to Metrogate before the rain.

I wish we lived by Hampstead so I could walk there every single day. I’m definitely going back with a picnic and a flower or two for Keats.

LONDON

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S STORM

ImageWell, I’m sick. Yesterday we went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park. Of course, it rained all over us and I’ve successfully developed a sore throat and a runny nose. I’m very upset and I wish I had a thermometer.

It’s occurred to me that I am not prepared for this terrible weather. No rainboots, no heavy coat, nothing. I had to buy a fleece blanket yesterday from the theatre to wrap myself in. Thank goodness, because it protected me from the rain. They eventually ended up canceling the last two acts of the show for fear that the actors might have slipped and died.

Now I am laying in bed and everybody is making plans to go out. I think I shall stay in today and try to recover – it’s supposed to rain almost all day and I would rather not expose myself to the cold at all. In fact, I’d rather stay here and analyze the living hell out of Henry V.

I was meant to visit Keats’s house and go to Hampstead Heath today, but with the rain, I think I’m going to have to wait a while. You can’t have a picnic in the pouring rain! I mean, you can, but it’d be very uncomfortable.

Oh, cripes.

LONDON

FLOURISH. ENTER CHORUS.

ImageToday, I indulged my inner art geek and headed over to the Victoria & Albert museum. A bunch of other girls came with me, but I wandered around for the most part, sometimes alone and sometimes with one of my roommates.

ImageThe Rape of Proserpina was the first sculpture that stopped me in my tracks. I stood there and gawked at it for a good five minutes while the rest of the group moved on. It was sculpted by Vincenzo de’Rossi and was absolutely breathtaking. I took a ton of pictures of it and almost died every time I lowered my camera to get a really good look at it.

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This is either a sculpture of Apollo or Adonis. That little smirk is making me think Adonis, though, so let’s go with that. It was in a hall full of ancient Roman sculptures. There wasn’t anything deathly gorgeous about it, but I enjoy messing around with the zoom function so whatever.

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Here’s another sculpture that just about killed me. Neptune and Triton by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. That’s right, I saw a goddamned Bernini sculpture. How about that!

There was also a series of tapestries by Raphael. Freaking Raphael! It would have been so inappropriate to faint, but I was about to. But it just wouldn’t do to pass out in front of tapestries of the Lord.

Afterward, one of my roommates and I went to Kensington Gardens and I talked her ear off as I tend to do. The garden was beautiful, though, and the birds were chirping. John Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale was stuck in my head.

We walked past Royal Albert Hall again, and I declared my love for it and told my roommate that I would marry it if I could. Currently, I’m sitting in my bed with the intention of reading Henry V.

LONDON · THEATRE

PISH FOR THEE, ICELAND DOG.

Today, we went on both a walking tour and a bus tour. The bus tour was rather uneventful – I didn’t waste any time trying to take any pictures, because I knew there would be an obnoxious glare. The walking tour was absolutely perfect and I bored everybody with my historical knowledge and also with my facts about Shakespeare. I actually did see a tiny bit of the Globe during the bus tour, and I almost expired from excitement. Even though everybody else is here for a vacation, I can’t wait to spend every single second of the next coming weeks just falling in love with Shakespeare all over again, the sly, dirty dog that he is.

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The changing of the guards.

We managed to catch the changing of the guards, which is a very long, tedious process complete with a band and horses. I have very little interest in things to do with royalty and their traditions, so I wasn’t nearly as excited as everybody else was. I was busy trying not to laugh because, honestly, they looked so silly in their hats. And they all looked like they were cursing the very day of their births. It was pretty interesting to see, strict rules and all.

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Royal College of Music.

The Royal College of Music and I have a very long, unfortunate history that began while I was in either the fifth of sixth grade. I took piano exams through the Royal Board, so you can understand when I say that I felt a strong desire to walk in and declare my hatred for all things related to the Royal Board. However, I was too busy looking for an IV to keep myself from dying, because right in front of me was Royal Albert Hall, the very same concert hall where they held the 25th anniversary showing of The Phantom of the Opera.

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Details on Royal Albert Hall.

Prince Albert was a great lover of the arts, so I spent most of the day basking in my new-found adoration for him.

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Entrance to Royal Albert Hall.

We spent a great deal of time around the Hall, so every time we stopped to discuss something or another, I turned around to stare longingly at the very first theatre I’ve seen so far. I very seriously considered moving out of Metrogate and into the lobby of the Hall, because it was just that beautiful. Plus, you know how I am about theatres.

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Prince Albert Memorial.

And here is the art-loving prince himself! This memorial was right across the road from the main entrance to the Hall. After Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria had a great many things put up in his honor. True love never dies – she had them lay out his clothing every day until she herself passed away.

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Stained glass in what I believe was St. Mary’s Church.

I went to my first church! Beatrix Potter, who wrote Peter Rabbit, was christened at this church. Our tour guide, an old woman named Katie, was very excited to tell us all about Beatrix Potter and her life, but then a woman came over and basically told her to shut up – couldn’t she see that people were praying? As we walked out, Katie apologized to the praying woman who shot her a very dirty look. I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t have appreciated it at all.

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T.S. Eliot’s house at Kensington Court Gardens.

I’ll keep this short and sweet – I almost died on the spot when I saw T.S. Eliot’s house. I just cannot imagine what I’m going to do when I finally make my way to Keats’ house. Somebody will probably have to call an ambulance for me.

After the walking tour, we went to a series of bookstores. I bought a book of poetry (Keats, because I’m a terrible hoarder), a book entitled Not Hamlet – Meditations on the Frail Position of Women in Drama, and The Little Prince. All in all, it was a really pleasant day and I managed to ignore the fact that nobody gives two hoots about history and literature.

And that was day two!

LONDON

SO THIS IS THE GLORIOUS SUMMER RICHARD WAS TALKING ABOUT

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Tower Bridge, opened in 1894.

So it appears that I am the only person in this entire program who is here for Shakespeare. I was quite bothered by this yesterday, because every time I asked someone which of the plays was their favorite, they shrugged and could barely recall last time they had even picked up one of them. I am far less bothered about it today, as I’ve come to accept the fact that this is merely a vacation for most people rather than a learning experience.

After spending huge chunks of time in the airport, where I saw a bunch of band kids form a chain and massage each others backs, and even bigger chunks of time in airplanes, I finally arrived at Heathrow. Thankfully, I wasn’t harassed by customs at all – they simply asked me what I was doing in London and so I told them. The woman who was dealing with me seemed rather excited about it, and I played along even though I was exhausted. I took the Heathrow Connect train to Paddington and then I took a taxi to Metrogate, which lies on Queen’s Gate Terrace, a very posh part of Kensington. I was sure that I was going to die on the taxi ride over because the cabbie was driving, talking on his phone and reading the newspaper at the same time. When we finally arrived at Metrogate, he told me that I was the sweetest thing he’d ever seen, carried my bags to the front steps, patted me on the back and wished me luck. There was a blonde girl at the front gate, trying to get in. She actually ended up being one of my three roommates, all of whom are very nice. When I say very nice, you know I mean that I can tolerate them and that is a good thing since I’m very bad at tolerating people.

We went out to the pub later, where every single one of them got drinks. Of course, this happened:

“Why didn’t you get a drink?”

“I don’t drink,” I said flatly.

They all hummed about this newly discovered fact.

“It’s okay that you don’t drink. It doesn’t matter,” said my nicest roommate. People had been humming about the color of her hair all day and it had been making her uncomfortable, so she seemed to understand.

So while they drank, I had a sandwich. An old man came to our table.

“Where are you girls from?” he boomed. He looked at one of my roommates. “You must be Irish!”

He said this because of her hair.

“I’m a shamrock,” she replied pleasantly.

“Where in Ireland are you from?” he yelled.

“Oh, I’m from nowhere in particular,” she said, playing along.

He turned to all of us.

“WHO HAS A DEGREE HERE?”

We all stayed quiet and eventually replied, “Well, we’re all in the process of getting degrees, so –“

“I HAVE THREE.”

We all nodded and made noises that showed him that we were impressed. Of course, the degrees ended up being in music and he eventually left, but not without yelling about the fact that he didn’t believe we were English at all.

There was a girl at our table who, to put it simply, was absolutely drooling over every Englishman who walked by. Presently, she is very excited about the French boys who have moved in. She’s a little much to handle, so I’m a bit indifferent toward her.

Another girl at the table, a freshman, claimed to be buzzed after taking a few sips of her drink, and spent most of her time loitering around the bar, hoping for some attention. A football game was on, however, so any woman could have walked by naked and they would have just shooed her along.

After we returned to the room, I sat in my bed with Henry V, which needs to be read by Tuesday. I have never fallen in love with a city before, but I did fall in love with London. Hemingway called Paris a moveable feast – so I thought to myself, “Well, then, London must be a semi-moveable feast,” hence the clever name of my blog. But London is bordering on being a moveable feast, if you ask me. It is just perfect, and I am always aware of the fact that every footstep I take has been taken before by somebody hundreds of years ago.

That was yesterday, though. I’ve rambled on a bit, so today will get a brand new post, seeing as how we actually did things today!