Category Archives: history

Our Fair William

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you an amazing playwright, a genius mind, the greatest bard of the Renaissance period… William Shakespeare! But you already know who is he and what is he famous for? Well, what we know about the most famous English playwright is really a lot and really… nothing. Why? Let me show you…

‘What’s in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet.’ (Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2) Continue reading

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My Literary Journey

The people we allow into our lives shape us. They become a part of our identity whether or not we realize it. I look back on the teenage me and am amazed at how little I knew of classic literature. Oh, sure, there were lessons in Shakespeare and a truly painful course on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, but apart from that my interests were average. I spent most of my time reading flimsy clean romances. Continue reading

Frances Burney

While now known through Jane Austen aficionados as one of Austen’s favorite novelists, for a while the world largely forgot Frances “Fanny” Burney. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Fanny’s social satires and comedy of manners were the books to read. Young Jane Austen subscribed to a circulating library to read Fanny’s latest novel. It influenced her enough she borrowed from said works and incorporated them in her own canon. The wealthy man’s pursuit of a social inferior, the buffoonish suitor, vulgar relatives, the name Willoughby, the phrase “Pride and Prejudice” itself—all originated with Fanny Burney. Continue reading

Olympe de Gouges

The history of women in politics has been a long, torrid, even bloody affair. Even women born into positions of power, such as Cleopatra and Elizabeth I, had to fight for their thrones. What about the women who weren’t lucky in the parental lottery? The odds of an ordinary woman gaining access to the political circles before the 20th Century were second-to-none. But even before “feminism” arrived as a concept, one woman dared voice her political opinions. Continue reading

The Dangers of Patriotic Zeal: Taras Bulba

The 1962 film Taras Bulba focuses on a revolution you might never have heard of if you’re not from eastern Europe. It tells the story of a 17th-century rebellion of the Zaporozhian Cossacks against their Polish overlords by focusing on a fictional family. It’s based on a book by Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol, originally released as a short story in 1835. The Tsarist Russian authorities condemned that version as being “too Ukrainian.” Gogol later revised and expanded the story into a novel that pleased those in power. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Cake: The Real Marie Antoinette

No one is more synonymous with the French Revolution than Marie Antoinette. Notorious spendthrift, Austrian spy, and licentious adulterer, Marie became the focus point for everything the French public despised about the Monarchy and the wider Aristocracy. After all, upon hearing the French peasants could not afford bread, she said “Let them eat cake!” Except she didn’t. A vaguely named “Grand Princess” supposedly uttered that statement before Marie Antoinette’s arrival in France. Is it possible many of Marie’s infamous traits were exaggerations, if not outright slander? If so, who was the real Marie Antoinette and what kind of Queen was she? Continue reading

Music Makers: Joseph Plunkett and the Irish Easter Rising

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

When Arthur O’Shaughnessy wrote his famous ode to the power of the poet’s imagination in 1873, he had no inkling how prophetic those words would prove. A poet’s imagination and dreams molded and fired the Easter Rising of 1916—the final catalyst of Irish independence, after four centuries of British oppression. That poet was Joseph Mary Plunkett, and 1916 was his last year on earth. Continue reading