This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Saturday, November 27, 2010

This Week in History...

November 20, 1591 - Christopher Hatton, a favorite of Elizabeth I, died at Ely Palace, penniless and childless.

1947 - The future Elizabeth II and Philip of Greece married at Westminster Abbey.

November 21, 1272 - Edward I is crowned King of England. He had been on his way home from crusade when his father, Henry III, died.

1620 - The colonists sign the Mayflower Compact.

November 22, 1428 - Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, is born. Warwick would become known as the "Kingmaker" for his role in helping Edward IV gain the English throne.

1515 – Marie of Guise, wife of James V of Scotland and mother to Mary, Queen of Scots, was born.

November 23, 1499 - Henry VII hanged Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be the younger of the Princes in the Tower, Richard, Duke of York, at the Tower of London.

1503 – Margaret of York, wife of Charles I, Duke of Burgundy and sister to Edward IV and Richard III, died in Burgundy.

November 24, 1273 - Alfonso, Earl of Chester, son of Edward I, was born in France. At the time, he was his father's only surviving son.

1541 - Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, sister of Henry VIII, and wife to James IV of Scotland, died of a stroke in Scotland.

1859 - Darwin publishes his On the Origin of the Species.

November 25, 1120 - William the Aetheling, Duke of Normandy, son and heir of Henry I, died when the White Ship sunk off the coast of Normandy. This death resulted in the succession crisis between his sister Matilda and their cousin Stephen.

November 26, 1326 - Hugh le Despenser (the Younger) was tried and executed for treason by Queen Isabella (wife of Edward II, mother of Edward III) and her lover Roger Mortimer.

1504 - Isabella I of Castile, wife of Ferdinand of Aragon and mother of Catherine of Aragon, died in Spain.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Emmas

I have fallen in love with Jane Austen's novel Emma and ever since reading it I have watched two versions of the story: the 1996 Miramax movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma and Jeremy Northam (sigh) as Mr. Knightley and the 2009 TV mini-series starring Romola Garai as Emma and Johnny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley. Both had their good points and both are a joy to watch but I have to say that my favorite is probably the 1996 version (mostly likely because of Northam's presence!). That being said, both movies had things I really liked, making it difficult to say for certain which was the better movie. Here is a run down...

Emma - The title character is played in the 96 version by Gwyneth Paltrow and by Romola Garai in the 09 mini-series. I can't say that I feel either of them are the "perfect" Emma Woodhouse. While Paltrow had the easy grace and dignity I would have expected from a lady of Emma's situation, I found myself liking Garai's personality a bit more. Paltrow just came across as a bit too haughty for the part and I have never felt Emma was haughty. Neither really "looked" like I have always pictured Emma, either; Garai didn't seem quite good looking enough and Paltrow seemed a bit too ... ethereal. Though in the end I think I'd pick Paltrow's Emma because, on occasion, Garai's seemed a bit ... clownish.

Mr. Knightley - I'm sorry but for me there can be no other Knightley except Jeremy Northam. Johnny Lee Miller played the role in the 09 series and he did a fine job but for me, Northam IS Knightley. Everything about his performance says "Regency British Gentleman." The manners and behaviors of a 19th century English gentleman come so easily to him that you would think he was born in the time period. Miller's portrayal, while good, seemed a bit too rough and stiff for my taste.

Harriet Smith - This was really a toss up for me. Toni Collette played the part in the 96 movie and Louise Dylan had the role in the 09 mini series. I actually liked both of these ladies but for different reasons. Dylan's Harriet looked more like the Harriet I envision from Austen's description but I positively LOVE Collette's portrayal of the character. Dylan's portrayal just got on my nerves occasionally and Collette just didn't LOOK like Harriet. If I could mesh the two I think we'd have the perfect Harriet Smith.

Jane Fairfax
- Again, this was a bit of a toss up for me but I think in the end I actually prefer Polly Walker's Jane in the 96 movie over Laura Pyper's portrayal in the 09 version. To me, Walker had the beauty and grace that Jane is said to have had (over and over and over), though she seems a bit old for the role. Pyper's personality was very sweet and genteel, like I would expect from Jane, but she just didn't have the beauty that Jane was supposed to possess.

Miss. Bates - Hands down I prefer Sophie Thompson's (did you know she's Emma Thompson's sister?) Miss. Bates in the 96 movie over Tamsin Greig's in the 09 series. Thompson's portrayal was spot on in my opinion. She had the sweetness and silliness of the character down perfectly. Greig's version did not have the lightness about it and it really left me a bit cold. In fact, in the famous scene where Emma insults her at the Box Hill picnic, my heart aches for Thompson's Miss. Bates while I feel absolutely nothing for Greig's.

Frank Churchill - Chalk one up for the 09 series here! While I like Ewan McGregor, his portrayal of Frank in the 96 movie is almost so bad it hurts. I don't know if was just the way the part was written but it really was laughable (though there are some scenes that I really loved). And what in the world did they do to his hair?? Rupert Evans did a good job with the part in the series. He looked the part for one and his personality seemed to fit, and while there were a few times when his attitude really annoyed me, he had the charm I'd expect from Frank.

Mrs. Weston - I really can't say which of the two I liked more. Greta Scacchi's version in the 96 movie really had the "motherly" aspect I see in Mrs. Weston and her age seemed more appropriate, though I do think she may have been a bit too good looking to have been "just a governess." She also had a grace and dignity I would expect from a lady who had been paid to teach a young girl how to be a lady. Jodhi May did a fantastic job and she looked much more like I envisioned Mrs. Weston but to me she seemed a bit too young to have been a governess for seventeen years.

Mr. Elton - I think to pick a favorite here will depend on the type of Mr. Elton you envision. If you like a slightly arrogant but slightly comical Mr. Elton, then Alan Cumming's portrayal in the 96 movie will be to your liking. Cumming did a wonderful job with the role though his version is much more humorous and you can't quite take him seriously sometimes (I LOVE the scene where he sits between Emma and Knightley at the Christmas party). However, if you would prefer Mr. Elton to be oozing arrogance and come across as almost creepy, then Blake Ritson's version in the 09 series is right up your alley. I honestly think I prefer Alan Cumming's Mr. Elton for the main reason that I find Ritson's just too creepy to watch! His arrogance is sickening while Cumming can make you laugh at him.

Mrs. Elton - While both actresses did a fine job with the role, I'm going to have to go with Christina Cole's version in the 09 series over Juliet Stevenson's more comical portrayal in the 96 movie. While I LOVED Stevenson's comical Mrs. Elton I think Cole's portrayal is much more accurate in her arrogance and bossiness. She does a splendid job as coming across as an overbearing, arrogant, selfish Mrs. Elton, which I always envisioned when I read the novel (I could use a much more colorful adjective to describe how she appears in the movie, which is spot on for Mrs. Elton, but I never know who might be reading my blog!). Cole's Mrs. Elton also has the look and age I would expect.

Scenery - This goes to the 09 series because it just shows so much more. The scenery in the 96 version were beautiful - what little you actually saw - but there is just so much more included in the 09 series. I really loved seeing more of the homes where the different characters lived; Donwell Abbey in the 09 version is exactly what I would have pictured (though I did prefer the Hartfield that is shown in the 96 movie). I think showing more helps a modern audience grasp the times so much better.

Storyline - I believe I have to give this to the 09 series simply because it shows so much more of the story than the 96 movie. Yes, I know the 96 movie had to fit the whole story into two hours, and they did a fine job with it, but there was so much that was left out that is just fun to read in the novel. The mini-series was able to include so much more of Austen's original story and gave some characters (which had been virtually left out of the 96 movie) new life, namely John and Isabella Knightley. I do have to say that some of the individual lines from the 96 movie were fantastic (Northam's wonderful and powerful "Badly done, Emma! Badly done" for one). I also liked the opening of the series where they show how the three "children" (Emma, Frank, and Jane) came to be in their respective situations.

So there you have it. My run down of the two versions I have seen. Looking at it, it seems that I prefer more of the actors and actresses in the 96 version but I like the actual storyline and scenery from the 09 version. I'd say its pretty much a draw for me, though I do think I like the 96 movie better overall. Both movies had good points and bad points and in the end, each viewer is going to have their own reasons for liking or disliking one or the other.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Week in History...

November 13, 1002 - English King Æthelred (the Unready) ordered the killing of all the Danes in England.

November 13, 1312 - Edward III is born at Windsor.

November 14, 1060 – Geoffrey II, Count of Anjou, died.

November 14, 1501 - Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII, and Katherine of Aragon were married at St. Paul's Cathedral.

November 14, 1948 - Prince Charles, son of Queen Elizabeth II, was born at Buckingham Palace.

November 15, 1515 - Thomas Wolsey is invested as a Cardinal.

November 16, 1272 - Henry III died at the Palace of Westminster.

November 16, 2010 - Prince William, son of the Prince of Wales, announces he is going to marry his longtime girl friend.

November 17, 1326 - Edmund FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, is executed by Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, after their invasion of England and the capture of Edward II.

November 17, 1534 - Parliament passes the Act of Supremacy which make Henry VIII the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

November 17, 1558 - Mary I died at St. James Palace. Her half sister Elizabeth became Queen.

November 17, 1558 - Reginald Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, died from an illness only a few hours after his Queen.

November 17, 1796 - Catherine the Great of Russia died in St. Petersburg.

November 18, 1590 - George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, died at home. He is probably best known as Mary, Queen of Scots' long time jailer. She was in his custody for eighteen years.

November 19, 1600 - The future Charles I was born at Dunfermline Palace in Scotland. His father would become King of England in 3 years.

November 19, 1620 - The Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod.

November 19, 1703 - The Man in the Iron Mask, a mysterious French prisoner, dies.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Week in History...

November 6, 1429 - Henry VI was crowned King of England seven years after acceding to the throne when he was only eight months old. He was crowned King of France two years later.

November 6, 1479 – Juana of Castile was born to Ferdinand and Isabella. She was Katherine of Aragon's older sister and gained a reputation for being "mad" later in life.

November 7, 1485 - Henry VII's succession is confirmed when Parliament passes an Act of Succession.

November 8, 2003 - The author of this blog got married!

November 9, 1384 – Isabella of Valois, second wife of Richard II, was born in France.

November 9, 1841 - The future Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, was born.

November 10, 1480 - Bridget of York, daughter of Edward IV, was born. Bridget would eventually become a nun.

November 10, 1483 - Martin Luther was born.

November 11, 1100 - Henry I married Matilda of Scotland at Westminster Abbey.

November 11, 1620 - The Mayflower Compact is signed near Cape Cod.

November 12, 1035 - Canute, King of England, Denmark and Norway died.

November 12, 1094 – Duncan II of Scotland died.

Friday, November 5, 2010

This Week in History...

October 30, 1460 - Henry VI is again King of England after the Earl of Warwick defeats the Yorkists. He wouldn't remain king for more than a few months.

October 30, 1485 - Henry VII is officially crowned King of England.

October 30, 1938 - Orson Welles's radio broadcast of H.G. Wells's "The War of the Worlds" causing panic in the US. Many thought the broadcast was real.

October 30, 1944 - Anne Frank and her sister Margot are transported from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

October 31, 1795 - English romantic poet John Keats was born.

November 1, 1396 - Richard II and Isabella of France married in France.

November 1, 1604 - Shakespeare's Othello is presented for the first time at Whitehall.

November 1, 1611 - Shakespeare's The Tempest is presented for the first time at Whitehall.

November 1, 1765 - The British government enacts the Stamp Act.

November 1, 1894 - Nicholas II becomes the new (and last) Czar of Russia upon the death of his father Alexander III.

November 2, 1083 – Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror, died in Normandy.

November 2, 1160 – Henry the Young King, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Marguerite of France, daughter of King Louis VII, were married in Normandy.

November 2, 1483 – Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, is executed for treason by Richard III.

November 3, 1783 - Highwayman John Austin is the last person to be publicly hanged at Tyburn in London.

November 4, 1470 - Edward V, son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, is born in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

November 5, 1605 - Guy Fawkes was arrested when his plan to blow up Parliament and James I was discovered.