Regarding my previous post “A Way With Words,” I was reminded by a friend that John Chadwick worked with Michael Ventris on the unraveling of Linear B and after Ventris’s death, he wrote The Decipherment of Linear B, the book that introduced the general public to their achievement. I haven’t read Chadwick’s book, which first came out in 1958 and then in a second edition in 1990, but now I’m curious to see if it mentions Alice Kober.
I was also thinking some more about my recent post “Shakespeare in Our Time,” particularly Margaret Atwood’s version of The Tempest, titled Hag-Seed. As always with Atwood, she does something unexpected with the story. It’s not just a retelling of The Tempest, but a story about a teacher using a production of the play as a way to settle old scores. The setting is a prison. It’s a puzzle within a puzzle; quite clever and very entertaining.
That reminded me that a few years ago I saw a film version of Henry IV Part I and II by the Donmar Warehouse with an all-female cast, directed by Phyllida Lloyd. In the film, the play was performed for an audience in a women’s prison. It was unforgettable. If you don’t remember the plot, it’s about Prince Hal, heir to the throne (he will eventually be Henry V), who is more interested in sowing wild oats with the dissolute Falstaff than learning how to be king. He assures his father that he will rise to the occasion when the time comes. (That doesn’t go over too well.) As you can imagine, this tale of sin and redemption resonated with the women prisoners. They were electrified by the play, making the experience memorable for everyone involved, including the audience for the film. Since Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced with all-male casts, this production could be considered a re-writing of theatre history.