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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: Popular fiction and reputations   Sat 17 Nov 2012, 22:15

Watching some DVDs of Shakespeare's Globe productions, it struck me that for certain historical figures at least, their reputation - whether deserved or not - in the eyes of the general public depends almost entirely on their depiction in works of fiction. Richard III and Henry V are viewed heavily through the lens of Shakespeare's plays (although later writers have made strong inroads into redeeming the former). Admittedly the Bard may have taken his ideas from others (Thomas More's 'historical' work on Richard, for example) but it was largely his work, and later adaptations, that established a particular viewpoint.

The same may be said for some others - Julius Caesar, arguably, and certainly Macbeth - but not for all. Few if any today will have had their opinion of King John shaped by the play of the same name, with its rather sympathetic viewpoint. To some extent this is perhaps because it's not a commonly performed one these days; I've only come across one performance that I recall: an amateur group in Jersey doing their annual Shakespeare show, and even then (if memory serves) they'd chosen it because it was 2004, when the Island was commemorating 800 years of loyalty to the English Crown, something with John played a large role in. Instead, it is probably the various incarnations of the Robin Hood legends that have done most to shape the popular image of John.

But it's not all about the plays. Arguably these days films and TV fulfil the role Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre once did more than a lot of modern theatrical productions, and they certainly have an influence. On more than one occasion I've seen a film - such as, alas, Kingdom of Heaven - described by a reviewer as a "history lesson". Novels, too, doubtless play their part. In the last couple of years there has been a proliferation of historical novelists of variable talent and accuracy. How many people are having their views of historical figures shaped by the likes of Wolf Hall or the Emperor series about Julius Caesar? Or, to go back a little further, does Wellington's popular image owe much to the Sharpe novels and TV adaptations, or were they just confirming an existing view?

Who else from history is there who perhaps owes their modern reputation - for good or ill - to plays old or new, literature or the screen?
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Sun 18 Nov 2012, 12:52

I don't know if there is an equivalent of the Richard III Society in Scotland for Macbeth but he certainly seems deserving of one. That said - David Greig's 2010 play Dunsinane (which turns Shakepeare's interpretation on its head) itself seems to be equally suspect.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Sun 18 Nov 2012, 14:15

I wonder if people remember Forever Amber, an enormously popular novel about Restoration England? Amber's story was interwoven with the story of Charles II, his court and his many mistresses (Amber, of course, became one).

The book seemed to me (but I was very young when I read it) to have been well-researched. Charles came across as cynical, lazy and damaged, but a cunning and astute ruler, a man determined never "to go on his travels again". I believe that's a pretty accurate description of this king.

And the chapters on the plague and the Great Fire were excellent.



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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Sun 18 Nov 2012, 14:28

I never saw the film that was made of the book (before my time!), but if this image is anything to go by, it was probably highly suspect.



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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Sun 18 Nov 2012, 21:43

Another historical character much maligned by popular culture is Lieutenant William Bligh of HMS Bounty fame. Anyone interested in a good historical appraisal of Bligh could do worse than reading Captain Bligh - the man and his mutinees (1989) by Gavin Kennedy.

P.S. The replica ship Bounty built for the 1962 Hollywood film Mutiny of the Bounty sank on 29 October this year off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy. The captain Robin Walbridge perished along with crew member Claudene Christian believed to be a descendant of Fletcher Christian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/02/sandy-search-bounty-captain-suspended

RIP
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Sun 18 Nov 2012, 22:27

@Temperance wrote:
I wonder if people remember Forever Amber, an enormously popular novel about Restoration England? Amber's story was interwoven with the story of Charles II, his court and his many mistresses (Amber, of course, became one).

The book seemed to me (but I was very young when I read it) to have been well-researched. Charles came across as cynical, lazy and damaged, but a cunning and astute ruler, a man determined never "to go on his travels again". I believe that's a pretty accurate description of this king.

And the chapters on the plague and the Great Fire were excellent.


Not one I've heard of, I must admit. I suspect Charles's popular image as 'the merry monarch' owes as much to the popular image of the alleged joylessness of the Protectorate as it does to the man himself. Forever Amber sounds interesting, quite a contrast to the usual image of Charles II.

Oliver Cromwell's reputation, I think, has been forged by historical debate (either academic or on a more personal level) more than popular fiction. Cromwell hasn't had a spectacular film career; only two films have focussed on him that I'm aware of. Cromwell, with Richard Harris in the title role, was largely a hagiography (and a frequently wildly inaccurate one at that).The more recent To Kill A King, which centred on the relationship between Cromwell (Tim Roth) and Fairfax (Dougray Scott, IIRC) deviated equally if not more from history, and portrayed Cromwell as essentially a psychopath. There have also been one or two cameos - for example, the old swashbuckler The Moonraker (not to be confused with the James Bond film! Cromwell in space, anyone? Rolling Eyes ) featured John 'Sergeant Wilson' Le Mesurier in the role; although he was nominally a villain, it was an essentially sympathetic portrayal. (The Moonraker, incidentally, also had Charles II in it, albeit in the period when he was still hiding up oak trees. He was a noble figure, but even though the film was about his escape from England after the Battle of Worcester, he was actually an underwritten, secondary character!). None of these, however have had a great deal of influence, I don't think.

On television the Lord Protector hasn't had much of a presence. The Channel 4 miniseries The Devil's Whore had him portrayed by Dominic West; he was demonised partly to contrast him with the Levellers, who were elevated to virtual sainthood. Once again, however, fact was not at the forefront of its production values and the series was mainly memorable for Peter Capaldi (as Charles I) seemingly having a toilet brush stuck to his chin. Several TV critics praised its historical values, although whether their views were influenced by the 'history' shown, or whether it fitted in with their established perception, is a moot point.

It's interesting that he doesn't maintain a strong presence in literature. In Nicholas Carter's Shadow on the Crown series of novels, IIRC he only makes one brief cameo, plus a few mentions here and there. In Lindsey Davis's epic Rebels & Traitors he doesn't appear at all, possibly not even by name!
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Sun 18 Nov 2012, 23:20

I didn't know if was possible not to have heard of Forever Amber, though I haven't read it myself. Big blockbuster of the whenever it was, 60s?

I have read Byron's poetry but feel that most of what I think of Byron has been through how he is portrayed in literature, rather than his own works or any true biographical knowledge.

In some ways it's more Fletcher Christian than William Bligh whose reputation has been made by literature/mythology. Bligh didn't deserve all the condemnation he got and was a superb seaman, obviously, but he didn't show great people skills in his time in Australia either and was deposed there too. Fletcher Christian has generally been painted as a lily-white hero and that doesn't seem quite truthful as a representation of him either.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 09:25

@Caro wrote:
I didn't know if was possible not to have heard of Forever Amber, though I haven't read it myself. Big blockbuster of the whenever it was, 60s?

Forever Amber was published in 1944, and the film was made in 1947.

But it was still considered shocking in the 60s - I read it (secretly) around 1968. It was actually pretty tame by today's standards, but I remember at school we were all agog to know what possibly could have been the "perversion" Winsor hinted that her heroine had indulged in with the Duke of Buckingham and for which she was paid £250.

'While many reviewers "praised the story for its relevance, comparing Amber's fortitude during the plague and fire to that of the women who held hearth and home together through the blitzes of World War II", others condemned it for its blatant sexual references. Fourteen U.S. states banned the book as pornography. The first was Massachusetts, whose attorney general cited 70 references to sexual intercourse, 39 illegitimate pregnancies, 7 abortions, and "10 descriptions of women undressing in front of men" as reasons for banning the novel. Winsor denied that her book was particularly daring, and said that she had no interest in explicit scenes. "I wrote only two sexy passages," she remarked, "and my publishers took both of them out. They put in ellipsis instead. In those days, you know, you could solve everything with an ellipsis."

Despite its banning, Forever Amber was the best-selling US novel of the 1940s. It sold over 100,000 copies in its first week of release, and went on to sell over three million copies. Forever Amber was also responsible for popularizing "Amber" as a given name for girls in the 20th century.

The book was condemned by the Catholic Church for indecency, which helped to make it popular. One critic went so far as to number each of the passages to which he objected. The film was finally completed after substantial changes to the script were made, toning down some of the book's most objectionable passages in order to appease Catholic media critics.'

Amber actually was a startlingly modern heroine - promiscuous, amoral and bold; but the message of the book was still the old one. Amber came unstuck in the end and it was the "milksop" Corinna, who was not just beautiful, but also virtuous and classy (and immensely irritating), who got the man Amber really loved. Being a feisty bad girl always ends in tears.

But the history was good - not just the plague and the Great Fire, but also the description of the theatre of the times, Charles's marriage to the unfortunate Catherine of Braganza and the decadence of men like Rochester.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 09:42

I like the thought of the man in Massachusetts sitting with columns of ticks in categories of sexual intercourse, illegitimate pregnancies etc. How many times do you think he needed to read it to be certain he hadn't missed any?

I suppose Becky Sharp came unstuck in the end, but I doubt she wasted much time on tears.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 10:20

Quote :
Instead, it is probably the various incarnations of the Robin Hood legends that have done most to shape the popular image of John.

And I would suggest, that of 'Good King Richard' as well.

Without wishing to be too controversial (a fib of course), the Bible is chock-a-block with examples and some these have had pretty serious and on going consequences.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 11:12

@ferval wrote:


Without wishing to be too controversial (a fib of course), the Bible is chock-a-block with examples and some these have had pretty serious and on going consequences.

Pontius Pilate is an interesting example.

I wonder if anyone has read Ann Wroe's superb "Pilate: The biography of an invented man"?

This from the blurb:

"Very little is known for certain about Pontius Pilate, the fifth prefect of Judea and the man who crucified Christ. This has not stopped writers in every age, from evangelists onwards, from imagining his life. Each generation has unloaded on to Pilate its own hopes, fears, prejudices and obsessions. Yet he was probably an average, even ordinary Roman administrator...Anne Wroe shows how, in his struggles with fate and free will, Pilate's story has also become the story of ourselves."
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 13:24

The subtext to the Pilatus we can piece together from the little we actually know about him is of a man exceeding his authority. As procurator/prefect in the client state of Judaeah he would have been mainly responsible for revenue collection and was based full time in Caesarea Maritima. The biblical portrayal of him places his administration in Jerusalem, which is highly improbable, but also portrays him dabbling in judicial matters, which although also improbable (such matters would have been the responsibility of his superior, the Syrian governor who was not called a legate for nothing) does in fact square with other commentators' assessment of his inflated opinion of his role. We know from Josephus and Philo that he caused offence at the very beginning of his tenure over the issue of imperial statuary, apparently a gift to Herod which backfired as a diplomatic gesture, and which eventually required intervention from the emperor himself to diffuse the situation. Tacitus puts a question mark over his revenue returns, a serious charge in Rome, and his disappearance from the records during Caligula's reign indicates an official who his superiors eventually tired of.

If it wasn't for the New Testament he would therefore most likely be a rather easy to miss footnote in history, just another example of an incompetent and probably dishonest official who had been appointed through family connections with Tiberius and who was quietly removed once that sponsorship expired. I wonder would he have appreciated the irony in the fact that his historic portrayal as a man of conscience and judicial authority - albeit constructed through necessity by subsequent christian chroniclers - would still be generating speculation and interest in his rather inglorious term of office two thousand years later.

Jonathan Miller once wrote an intriguing article in The New Statesman about the propensity to dishonesty amongst otherwise relatively honest historians when discussing biblical historical claims and used Pilatus as a good example of how the trap is almost unavoidable when the subject as portrayed in scripture contradicts historical probability so fundamentally. To construct a theory regarding his character and actual role which conforms to christian expectations requires ignoring or inflating actual data, normally an indictment of the historian's abilities but for some reason not so when religion has got involved at some point.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 14:12

From the OT, David and Solomon's depictions as kings of a united Israel is not only hotly disputed in academe but also could be said to be ultimately responsible for the bombs and rockets being exchanged in Gaza today.

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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 14:40

@ferval wrote:
From the OT, David and Solomon's depictions as kings of a united Israel is not only hotly disputed in academe but also could be said to be ultimately responsible for the bombs and rockets being exchanged in Gaza today.


Mmm. Clueless in Gaza? The older story of Sarah and Hagar could prove to be important for us all too where that terrible dispute is concerned - the end of the world caused by two women's rivalry and jealousy? Sarah especially has always fascinated me.

Nordmann - I quite agree with you. But then I believe the Bible should be read as great literature, not as a history text-book.

Harold Bloom's brilliant work on Shakespeare is called "The Invention of the Human": for me the Bible should be entitled "The Invention of the Divine". I read the latter - at least, like little Jane Eyre, "bits of it" - with the same awe that I reserve for "Lear" or "Hamlet" or "Macbeth". I'm not too fussed about historical accuracy, to be honest. I think to be so fussed rather misses the point.

And it is a comfort to know I do have Wilde - in your own words "a genius" - sort of on my side - certainly about the four Gospels, those wonderful "prose poems".

And Pilate *is* a brilliant character/invention, you have to admit. His "What is truth?" is a cracking line.

PS Please - nordmann and ferval - do not eat me alive. Caro knows what I mean.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 14:53

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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 15:31

Historical accuracy, I would imagine, is rather important in a thread discussing the reputations of actual historical figures which have been shaped by subsequent literature. I actually agree however that the invented Pilatus is probably an infinitely more interesting creation than the real bureaucrat who most likely lay behind it. The bible account is poor literature in that the author signally failed to realise the dramatic potential of his subject fully, but subsequent authors who have elaborated and expanded the fiction further have more than made up for it. Along with Judas, Pilate is one of the two really memorably complex inventions from that work. Much more rounded and credible than the Jesus one.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 16:02

@nordmann wrote:
The bible account is poor literature in that the author signally failed to realise the dramatic potential of his subject fully, but subsequent authors who have elaborated and expanded the fiction further have more than made up for it. Along with Judas, Pilate is one of the two really memorably complex inventions from that work. Much more rounded and credible than the Jesus one.

Shocked

I am spluttering into my tea.

Too much emphasis on Pilate would not have been appropriate - you can over-egg a pudding after all. John "developed" this subject just enough to get across how the man simply could not - or would not - understand what Christ was saying. To have done so would have brought Pilate's whole world - everything he served and represented and presumably believed in - crashing down around him. But how ironic that this incompetent minor official is just as well known (and discussed) - even today - as Caesar and Antony and Brutus.

And "Ecce homo" is another cracking line.

I certainly agree that Judas is a fascinating character.

Jesus does have his interest too.

However, let us move swiftly on - to the novels of Jean Plaidy. Aways a safe option. Hardly great literature, but she certainly did her history homework (unlike Saint John).
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 16:18

"Ecce homo" was written first as "Idou o Anthropos" which translates rather less dramatically as "Here's the man". It's a classic case of where the literary content and style of the original Greek document has been enhanced considerably through liberal and very clever translation (and I would place the King James English translation as the epitome of how this enhancement can transform a literary work immeasurably through the application of intelligence bordering on genius during the re-write).

But I do accept that one has to have promising material to begin with. No amount of genius could salvage "The Da Vinci Code", for example.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 16:46

Tyndale got it wrong first then - his 1526 translation gives:

"Then cam forthe Jesus wearynge a croune of thornes, and a robe of purple. And Pilate sayd unto them: Beholde the man."

What does the Vulgate give? And how did Erasmus translate it? He produced a "purified" Latin New Testament, I believe, plus his own Greek version.

And Luther's German - what expression did he use?
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 17:08

"Idou" has no universally agreed English translation, though "behold" has traditionally fitted the bill in about half of the 200 or so instances in which it popped up in the New Testament. I have an American modern version in the house which gives the line as "See, but a man!" which in my view is taking terrible liberties with the semantics of the original Greek intention. Matthew seems to be the main culprit for all the subsequent confusion and liberty taking in that he uses the word the most, and uses it exactly as any Greek would at the time, as a sort of verbose exclamation mark. For that reason many of his "idou"s don't even get translated at all. They are simply ignored.

My Norwegian New Testament cheats completely. Pilatus speaks a very polite and stuffy Norwegian right up until the crucial scene when he suddenly lapses into Latin and blurts out an "ecce homo" before switching back to Scandinavian mode again. The translator copped out, in other words.

Erasmus did not translate it. He retained both the Greek and the Latin phrases as they stood. As did the Vulgate; "ut cognoscatis quia in eo nullam causam invenio et purpureum vestimentum et dicit eis ecce homo"
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 17:24

Getting back to more historically attestable subjects, mention of Bligh above as a maligned character in subsequent literature is absolutely spot on, in my view too. If Bligh's reputation had been totally fashioned from his time as boss of Dublin's Port Authority he would be up there with Hausmann, Utson and other great civic architects for his rescuing and enhancement of the city's harbour. I've eaten in his dining room several times - it's now a cosy little restaurant in Howth village.

Fletcher Christian and the rest of the mutineers did not exactly cover themselves with glory in their treatment of the women and slaves they "acquired" and attempted to exploit on Pitcairn. Even by the standards of the day they behaved abominably, and their lack of intelligence also revealed itself pretty promptly and to their fatal detriment early in their attempt to establish a colony. How they became the "heroes" and Bligh the "villain" is an interesting study in social mores of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it is certainly a huge inversion of the truth in my opinion.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 19 Nov 2012, 19:37

It wasn't just the social mores of the time that meant Fletcher Christian became the 'hero' of the story; it was in some regards a good example of how getting your story in first is a very effective tactic. (Children know this from an early age - I well remember ensuring that I got my story to my father before my grandmother's version of events should reach his ears.)

Publicity carefully put out into the community is often what is remembered long-term, and this seems to have been the case here. Christian's family were not backward at getting their 'story' across and making sure everyone 'knew' who was the villain here. But Bligh's later history wasn't one of complete ability in managing people, so he no doubt made mistakes on the Bounty too. But there were frequent attempts at mutiny on ships on long journeys which didn't end in this sort of event. I was reading of one yesterday which somewhat supports my earlier point where the captain's log gives the impression of a completely successful smooth trip, and a passenger's diary shows a mutiny attempt and quite a difficult journey.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 16:39

Catherine de Medici has had a hard time at the hands of the novelists and the film makers.

Thanks to Jean Plaidy she's always been for me "Queen Jezebel" and "Madame Serpent".

Another more recent novel has her as "The Devil's Queen".

Apparently she wasn't actually that bad - just a poor femme sole trying to run a country and control some pretty mixed-up children. Not exactly a lovable person it's true- but then was anyone during the 16th century?
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 16:08

I've been mulling over what makes novelists (and film makers) choose certain personalities from history rather than others as the subject of their work. Seems these days - perhaps indeed it has always been so - you need the mystique and the glamour of the mad, the bad and/or the dangerous to know. Pick a personality who manages to combine all three "qualities" - as with Henry VIII - and you are on to a winner.

No one is interested in boring old Henry VII - or, even worse, Henry VI, who may have been nicely mad, but not mad in an interesting way, being simply a *religious* nut. And who wants to read about Good Queen Anne, William and Mary or, Lord help us, George I or II? They are all so dreadfully *dull*, fat and/or German.

No, in fiction it is the wicked who capture our imaginations. How Hilary Mantel - a writer whom I admire tremendously - manages to make a hero out of Thomas Cromwell I really don't know, but she does. Cromwell remains for me though - despite H.M.'s best efforts - a dangerous thug, a dockside bully with a genius I.Q. But that genius I.Q. is perhaps the secret of his appeal - what makes the fictitious monster so cool and compelling. He simply outwits everyone.

Including poor old Thomas More, of course. Gosh, you have to feel sorry for him these days: he is certainly not a man for our season - who'd want a novel, a play or a film about *him*? Mantel certainly has no time for More. Stubborn devotion to a religious cause, genuine learning and piety and a wonderful sense of irony count for little, I'm afraid. The man is just an embarrassment.

Odd that few *films* have been made about Mary, Queen of Scots - although she has of course been the subject of numerous novels and a Schiller play. Her life story has it all, after all - hubris, sex, death - but I suppose Elizabeth upstages her completely.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 16:25

Have you never come across "Mary Queen of Scots got her head chopped off" by our makar, Liz Lochhead? It's brilliant, once you've got your head round the Scots tongue.

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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 16:35

I haven't, ferval - no.

Now that is something I *can* safely google. Will do so at once.

But it's a play, not a film, I think? It's the lack of *films* about MQS that I find strange. There was a sentimental Hal B. Wallis production starring Vanessa Redgrave many years ago, and, more recently, a rather poor BBC drama (it died a death), but no others that I can think of. Mary, just as wild and controversial a character as Anne Boleyn, has really excited comparatively little attention from the film makers.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 17:55

Poor old Edward III (700 just the other day, and still looking spritely for his age!) has been largely upstaged by Henry V. There's plenty of interest and excitement in his life - the Hundred Years War, his struggle against Naughty Mortie (sometimes known as Roger Mortimer...) and so on. I suppose, though, when you've got Shakespeare as your publicist, you're bound to come out on top.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 18:48

Life is so unfair, isn't it?

Look where being a strong, manly type gets you - nowhere. Edward I and Edward III, proper kings who stood absolutely no nonsense from the Scots, the Welsh or the French get ignored, while tragic, arty, sensitive (but really rather useless) softies like Edward II and Richard II get lots of attention from Marlowe and Shakespeare - and film makers like Jarman love them.

And I'm sure Shakespeare was only interested in Henry V because Hal had been such an interesting delinquent when young. He turns into a bit of a prig and a thug once he's king.

Shakespeare pinched most of his Roman material from Plutarch. Wonder how accurate *he* was?
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Thu 22 Nov 2012, 06:20

I am currently reading about Charles II also an interesting character for all his mistresses and children, but no legal children. It must have affected him to have his Father beheaded and spend years begging for a living in France.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Thu 22 Nov 2012, 16:11

Hi Gran - I think a lot of the men (and women) exiled during the Protectorate were probably badly damaged psychologically by the Civil War and its aftermath.

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, certainly was.

He was a brilliant man, but he managed to offend even the usually easy-going (i.e. utterly cynical) Charles II with some of the viciously witty satires he wrote during the wild Restoration years.

Wilmot was the subject of a film recently: "The Libertine", starring Johnny Depp.

I had to smile - shouldn't have, of course - at the "cause of death" given on Wilmot's Wiki page: syphilis; gonorrhoea; alcoholism.

Says it all, I'm afraid!
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Fri 23 Nov 2012, 11:41

@Caro wrote:
Publicity carefully put out into the community is often what is remembered long-term, and this seems to have been the case here. Christian's family were not backward at getting their 'story' across and making sure everyone 'knew' who was the villain here. But Bligh's later history wasn't one of complete ability in managing people, so he no doubt made mistakes on the Bounty too. But there were frequent attempts at mutiny on ships on long journeys which didn't end in this sort of event. I was reading of one yesterday which somewhat supports my earlier point where the captain's log gives the impression of a completely successful smooth trip, and a passenger's diary shows a mutiny attempt and quite a difficult journey.
Yes - there have been many mutinies over the centuries yet by far the most famous is that of HMS Bounty in 1789. A story re-told in countless films, documentaries and books etc. Yet few people have heard of, say, the mutiny on HMS Hermione eight years later. The Bounty phenomenon is truly remarkable.

A similar phenomenon exists with the story of the RMS Titanic. The question as to why the sinking of the RMS Titanic is re-told almost to the exclusion of other such stories is a valid one. For example there was the 1873 case of the RMS Atlantic which was also a White Star Liner built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast and which also sunk on her maiden voyage to New York with great loss of life. Hardly anyone has heard of the RMS Atlantic or of the many other sinkings which have happened over the years.

For some reason, however, the story of the Titanic has captured the imagination of the public and internationally too.

P.S. I'm loathe to bring up the issue regarding the fierce debates raging over the reputations of the likes of Captain Smith, First Officers Murdoch and Lightoller and White Star Line chairman Bruce Ismay etc as it would just seem to be further fuelling the whole 'Titanic industry'.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Fri 23 Nov 2012, 12:05

The reputation of George Armstrong Custer has swung from one extreme to the other. From the heroic portrayal by Errol Flynn in They Died With Their Boots On made for an American audience preparing for World War II, to the manic Custer played by Richard Mulligan in Little Big Man, made at the height of the Vietnam War.
Custer divided opinion when he was alive, and after the Little Big Horn, when she felt her husband's reputation come under attack, Elizabeth Bacon Custer mounted such a a stout defence of Custer that no serious criticism took place in her life time. Libby lived until 1933, only then did a book potraying Custer in a less than heroic light appear[ Glory-Hunter by Frederic van de Water published in 1934]
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Fri 23 Nov 2012, 16:48

Although not appearing, merely referred to, Custer is portrayed in the Tom Cruise epic The Last Samurai as glory-seeker who fell in love with his own legend and got his men massacred as a result. Part of this angle, I think, is that Cruise's character - a U.S. Cavalry captain - is haunted by the war crimes he took part in against the Native Americans.

Ironically, the film concludes with Cruise, as an act of honour, leading a last stand against overwhelming odds in which all his comrades are massacred. This is portrayed as a good thing. Possibly the film was trying to make a point with this, but I'm not sure what it was.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Thu 29 Nov 2012, 01:07

No matter what the personal shortcomings of Custer were, and I believe there were many, in 1876, when Custer led the 7th Calvary in the Big Horn Valley, his men were armed with the standard-issue service weapon, the ‘Trapdoor Springfield’ which was a single-shot breech loader, with the carbine version being given to cavalry troops.


The Army was aware at the time that the casings for the .45-caliber rifle cartridge expanded in the chamber, and in certain conditions jammed the Springfield ejector system after a few shots. In spite of knowing this, Custer and the 7th Cavalry continued with its mission.


They knew that the Native American warriors they would face were armed mostly with repeating rifles like the Henry and the Winchester. Congress knew of this but decided against rearming the entire army because of the higher cost of those repeaters, and anticipated, probably quite rightly, that the cost of wasted ammunition due to the ease of quick firing and trigger happy troopers would be not only prohibitive but difficult to keep up with supplying outposts with the new ammunition.


The Calvary trooper’s single-shot Springfield, even when it was not jamming just could not compare to the rate of fire from the Native American weaponry. They were simply outclassed.
Congress changed their armaments policy as a result of the massacre.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Thu 29 Nov 2012, 09:08

I suspect the image of Claudius in the popular mind is largely the creation of Robert Graves, and those who lived under his rule would completely fail to recognise him.



A sidelight on Custer and the trapdoor Sringfield - the (single-shot) Martini-Henry that British troops had at Isandhlwana also had ejection problems, especially with the early foiled cartridge that weren't fully resolved until the long-lever Mk IV many years later. It isn't fully agreed how important such problems may have been in the final outcome.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Sat 01 Dec 2012, 03:38

@normanhurst wrote:
No matter what the personal shortcomings of Custer were, and I believe there were many, in 1876, when Custer led the 7th Calvary in the Big Horn Valley, his men were armed with the standard-issue service weapon, the ‘Trapdoor Springfield’ which was a single-shot breech loader, with the carbine version being given to cavalry troops.
...

Normanhurst, I am sorry to show myself as the nit-picking one, that I am, but please look up the difference between 'cavalry' and 'calvary' - the latter always makes me think of the Salvation Army's mounted section, I smile, and the valid points are lost.

Yours is, alas, far from the first time I've seen this mistake, which makes me think of the tune, often mentioned as 'pomp and circumcision'(sp?).
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Sat 01 Dec 2012, 03:57

I did write it both ways me dear, in the hopes I’d get it half right... amazing innit what you can learn here. Even get a spellin leson thrown in fer fun.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 06:42

I found a quote from Graham Greene which addresses this topic and raises a rather insightful point;

"Those of us who [have] known at first hand men whose reputations were to become immense invariably struggle to recognise our acquaintances from their reputations. Good characteristics become great characters, bad become evil, and some characteristics, good or bad, are simply removed from the reputation completely, all the better to construct a reputation that can be commonly accepted as true. Complexity of nature, it seems, is the enemy of credibility, a facet which calls into question the function of belief itself and makes me invariably sceptical every time my morning paper presents me with yet another judgement on a person's actions, be they known to me or not, statesman or binman. Once a reputation has been acquired that is fit for public consumption we can be sure we have already lost sight of the man behind it."

This was in a letter to his close neighbour in later life in the village of Vevey, Switzerland, Charlie Chaplin.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 12:20

Nordmann

'Much more rounded and credible than the Jesus one.'

I can only put this comment down to the level of knowldege of the New Testamant documents you have shown in previous debates! That or prejudice.

I would quote Einstein, not a Christian

‘As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.’
‘No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression which we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus.’
‘No man can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some them have been said before, no one has expressed them so divinely as he.’

Actually knowing you Nordmann, you probably dismiss Einstein as bit of a dimwit!

regard

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 12:22

'I don't know if there is an equivalent of the Richard III Society in Scotland for Macbeth but he certainly seems deserving of one.'

Would anyone have heard of Macbeth though without the play. Just consider how many people know anything about such Anglo-Saxon kings as Edward the Elder, Athelstand or Edgar the peaceful.

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 12:41

Quote :
Actually knowing you Nordmann, you probably dismiss Einstein as bit of a dimwit!



Not at all, Tim. But on the basis of this above I really reckon the great man might have been better advised sticking to the subject in which he was indeed expert, even back in 1929. Comparing Jesus with Theseus! What was he thinking of? As principal characters go in the matter of roundedness he should at least be compared with Gandalf. I'll forgive Einstein on the basis that in 1929 Gandalf had yet to be invented. However he still had Tarzan.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 12:47

'Comparing Jesus with Theseus! What was he thinking of?'

Actually he was contrasting Jesus with Theseus!

However, if you feel competant to pass comment on Jesus then I see no reason why Einstien should not be able to. He had after all received instrcution in the bible.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 12:59

Hi Nordmann

'The biblical portrayal of him places his [Pilate's] administration in Jerusalem'

Can you provide me with your evidence for this?

I agree, by the way, that Pilate's administration was not in Jerusalem but at Caesarea. Howver, at the time of the Passover, which was when Jesus was crucified, the Roman governor left Caearea and took up residence in Jerusalem as Pilate did. The reason why Roman governors did this was because of the increased risk of trouble during the Passover when the city was full of pilgrims. For example during one Passover a group of Samaritans made their way into the Temple and scattered human bones within it so poluting it in the eyes of the Jews.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 14:34

Actually Einstein is another person whose reputation exceeds his actual personality, though in his case it appears to err on the side of exaggerating his genius rather than discrediting him in any way. Unlike other mathematicians who, like Einstein, also produced their best work at ridculously young ages or produced work which fundamentally challenged orthodox scientific views, Einstein lived on into old age enjoying a worldwide reputation as the epitome of genius. Without wishing to detract from the man's achievements at all I would still wonder at how deserved such an unflinchingly adulatory estimation actually was, and one moreover which has not apparently diminished since his death.

On the subject of where the governor (or procurator) may or may not have been at Passover in the early first century CE there is definitely a traditional understanding that he chose to up sticks and travel to Jerusalem for the occasion, but it appears to me that this tradition comes from the story in question. Has anyone else put Pilatus in Jerusalem on the day?

Mind you, I could well understand if he did make the trip. His rather unholy gaff at the outset of his term of office might well have involved licking up to the religious leaders of the day afterwards.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 16:46

Hi Nordmann

'The biblical portrayal of him places his [Pilate's] administration in Jerusalem'

I repeat, can you provide me with your evidence for this from the gospels? I have found, from experience, that you are not the best of people for providing evidence to justify your claims.

Pilate made more than one unholy gaff.

It was not just Pilate but with Roman Governors in general who moved to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover

'but also portrays him dabbling in judicial matters, which although also improbable (such matters would have been the responsibility of his superior, the Syrian governor who was not called a legate for nothing)'

I am afraid that you are also incorrect here as well. The supervision of the Legate of Syria over the governor of Judea was only called for when the governor got himself into serious trouble with the localssuch as happened with Pilate in36AD Cumanus in 52AD and Florus in 66AD.

regards

Tim


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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 17:01

'From the OT, David and Solomon's depictions as kings of a united Israel is not only hotly disputed in academe but also could be said to be ultimately responsible for the bombs and rockets being exchanged in Gaza today.'

Whether or not David and Solomon existed, and recently the archaeological evidence for David has got better than it was, I do not think you can blame then for events in Gaza and Israel. Gaza was after all not claimed as being part of the Davidic Empire. The allied kingdoms of Israel under Jereboam II and Judah under Uziaih controlled between them as much if not more territory than that creditted to David. There was also the Jewish Maccabean kingdom which did include Gaza in its territory.

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 17:16

Quite mal-à-propos this biblical discussion, in which I firmly declare myself unfit to participate because of two things, namely lack of knowledge and lack of interest, at one time and in another place, Tim, you asked when Denmark had abolished conscription?

Actually quite recently almost all the political parties over here have just, within the last week or so, struck a deal which keeps partial conscription for at least the next five years.

The reasoning behind this being both an article in our Constitution which says that this instrument must be kept, secondly that it is seen as a bond between the general public and the armed forces.

That conscription is only partial, is because the present need of 'freshening' of the forces is not being seen to be as serious as during the Cold War, when I served my time.
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Mon 03 Dec 2012, 17:32

Nordmann

'Jonathan Miller once wrote an intriguing article in The New Statesman about the propensity to dishonesty amongst otherwise relatively honest historians when discussing biblical historical claims and used Pilatus as a good example of how the trap is almost unavoidable when the subject as portrayed in scripture contradicts historical probability so fundamentally.'

I assume you are referring to Dr Jonathon Miller, a British theatre and opera director, actor, author, television presenter, humorist and sculptor. Trained as a physician in the late 1950s, he first came to prominence in the early 1960s with his role in the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe. I can find none others who are historians and neither is Dr Miller a historaian. The answer is quite simple that those historians are not necessarily dishonest but that they have mearly studied the evidence in greater detail than Dr Miller and that they are better trained as historians than Dr Miller and that they are correct in their assessment and Dr Miller is wrong. It seems like Dr Miller would be best 'sticking to the subject[s] in which he [is] expert' [to quote yourself] and history is not one of them. He is also a prominent athiest which might explain his view on Pilate and the accuracy of the bibilical account in this case!

I am surprised that you should consider being a theatre and opera director, actor, author, television presenter, humorist and sculptor should make them someworth quoting when it came to History! Michael Grant, for example, is far better qualified as a historian and particularly with regards to the Roman Empire!!

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 15:26

Hi Per

nice to hear from you and thanks for the response. In defence of all the biblical posts, i was merely responding to correct earlier posts.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Popular fiction and reputations   Tue 04 Dec 2012, 19:09

Quote :
I assume you are referring to Dr Jonathon Miller

That's the lad - though not quite spelt that way - and president of the Rationalist Association is one of his bowstrings too which you seem to have forgotten to include. When it comes to sceptically stripping bald assertions bare there is more than just the historical approach, you know. Or maybe you wouldn't. Dialectic approaches to scriptural claims aren't something you have ever given serious consideration to in the past, I would guess. Too big a risk of having to admit that coming back from the dead, turning water into wine and walking on water might be a parlour trick too far for the retention of credibility in a story. As long as you cling to thinking these things really happened dialecticism ain't really your bag.

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