Archive for April, 2011

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‘Julius Caesar’ by William Shakespeare

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Literature, Shakespeare, Theatre on Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and frequently performed plays, though it is rarely given its full title.

Caesar, picture, image, illustration

The assassination of Caesar in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, by C L Doughty

It is believed to have been written in early 1599, partly because it is mentioned by a diarist in September of that year, and also because it shares textual and metrical similarities with other works more certainly placed around that time. It was first published in the First Folio in an excellent text, and indeed is regarded as the most correctly printed of all Shakespeare’s plays. The source for this well-known historical narrative was Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives, but Shakespeare’s genius quickly moves beyond factual detail into the realm of character and destiny, human psychology and historical inevitability, and the potency and fickleness of crowds. The majesty of the poetic language in Julius Caesar gives it as noble a stature as its greater tragic companions in the Folio, and it may be that the power of this peculiarly memorable drama rests largely on its moving depiction of that other tragedy in the play – the story of its chief protagonist, Marcus Brutus, who finds himself torn between the emotional and political demands of personal loyalties and patriotism, which leads to a terrible journey of private anguish and public opprobrium. From the famous warning about the Ides of March to the assassination of Caesar and his agonised cry of “Et tu, Brute?”, the action rolls out across the Imperial stage in many memorable theatrical scenes, none more so than when Marc Antony delivers his stunning funeral oration, beginning with those famous lines:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

Many more pictures relating to Shakespeare and his plays can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Prince Edward marries Princess Alexandra – a Victorian Royal Wedding

Posted in Historical articles, History, London, Religion, Royalty on Saturday, 30 April 2011

The sanctity of marriage is central to the social and moral fabric of all Christian countries, and though attitudes change, it is certainly true that despite varying statistical degrees of success, the institution remains one of the principal foundations of private life and a confident and healthy society.

Edward VII, picture, image, illustration

Prince Edward marries Princess Alexandra at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, by Clive Uptton

In the Catholic and Orthodox churches marriage is considered one of the Seven Sacraments, and in the Anglican Church it may perhaps be said that a Royal marriage has about it a special sacramental element in confirming and strengthening the relationship between Church and State, mirroring as it does, not only Christ’s being wedded to his Church, but on a more political level reflecting the future monarch’s solemn adherence to the Christian faith. So the marriages of future Kings and Queens of England are of considerable significance both in terms of dynasty and of religion. For these weddings are profound Christian rituals as well as splendid occasions for pageant and pomp, and at their heart enshrine and celebrate the enduring Christian traditions and beliefs of our ancient and also very modern  nation. Our picture shows the marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII, to his beautiful Danish Princess, the future Queen Alexandra, the great great great grandparents of Prince William, now Duke of Cambridge.

Many more pictures relating to royalty and history can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Abraham Lincoln: Famous Last Words

Posted in Famous Last Words on Saturday, 30 April 2011

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America and one of the most iconic figures in history, was born at Sinking Spring Farm, Hardin County, Kentucky, in 1809. Lincoln was raised in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

picture, Abraham Lincoln, president, United States of America, slavery, American Civil War

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America

Lincoln worked on a flatboat carry goods to New Orleans, where he witnessed slavery first hand. He subsequently ran a store, served in the militia and began educating himself in law. He also began his political career and was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1846, serving for two years.

He returned to politics in 1854, opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was seen as a concession to the powerful pro-slave South. Lincoln became the Republican candidate for the 1860 election and won by a considerable margin. Many southern states immediately set about seceding from the Union and, shortly after Lincoln took office in March 1861, the American Civil War began.

Lincoln was reelected by a landslide in 1864 but was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on 14 April 1865 whilst attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre. Shortly before his death he had agreed with his friend Joshua Speed, who found him reading the Bible, that he was profitably engaged.

“Take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.

Many more pictures relating to the history of the United States can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Battle of Fontenoy

Posted in Anniversary, Famous battles on Saturday, 30 April 2011

May 11 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Fontenoy, fought in 1745 between the allies and the French Army.

picture, Battle of Fontenoy, Irish Brigade, English army, Duke of Cumberland, Maurice de Saxe

The Irish Brigade fought on the side of the French against the hated English during the Battle of Fontenoy. Illustration by Severino Baraldi

The battle took place during the War of Austrian Succession near Tournai in present-day Belgium. The French armies had begun attacking the Low Countries in 1744 and had won some notable victories. The area of Flanders was under the control of Maurice de Saxe, a Marshal of France, in charge of some 50-60,000 men.

Against him were a coalition of British, Dutch, Austria and Saxony troops under the nominal command of the Duke of Cumberland. Saxe attacked Tournai, a key to the approaches of Ghent and Oudenarde. But the siege had a second motive – to draw out the allied forces before they reached full strength to a place where French defences were strong.

The initial attempts at a flank attack failed but a frontal assault penetrated the French lines. However, constant fire and cavalry attacks forced the British and Hanovarian troops back whilst the Dutch did little to help on the left flank. The French pushed forward and the Allies performed a fighting withdrawal and retreated to Ath, having suffered between 10-12,000 casualties, against the French figure of 7,000.

Many more pictures relating to famous battles can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Byzantium becomes the Roman capital

Posted in Anniversary, History, Legend on Saturday, 30 April 2011

11 May marks the anniversary of the dedication in 330 AD of Byzantium as the capital of the Roman Empire.

picture, Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire

The city of Byzantium. Illustration by Roger Payne

The history of the city is shrouded in legend, supposedly founded by Byzas after consulting the Oracle of Delphi in 667 BC, who called his new city Byzantion. It was a prosperous trading city at the entrance of the Black Sea and was later conquered by the Romans, who rebuilt the city. Its location attracted the Emperor Constantine who, in 330, made the city the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, now known as the Byzantime Empire. The city was renamed Constantinople following Constantine’s death.

Many more pictures relating to the history of the Roman Empire can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Christopher Columbus’s fourth voyage

Posted in Anniversary, Exploration, Geography, Ships on Saturday, 30 April 2011

Although Christopher Columbus is famous for his discovery of America in 1492, he undertook four voyages to what became known as the New World and 11 May marks the anniversary of the last of these, which began in 1502.

picture, Christopher Columbus, New World, America, Native Americans, Indians, parrot, fruit

Christopher Columbus describes the New World and its natives and treasures

Columbus left Cadiz and sailed with four ships across the Atlantic but decided to seek shelter when he realised that a hurricane was brewing. The governor of Santo Domingo refused to let him anchor in the port and disregarded his storm predictions – sending the Spanish treasure fleet into the hurricane with the loss of 29 ships and 500 men, including the governor. Columbus’s ships, meanwhile, survived with only minor damage.

Columbus was himself caught up in a number of storms during the voyage, and his ships eventually beached at St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, unable to travel further. Columbus and his men remained stranded on the island fora year before help arrived and the crew and their captain were able to return to Spain.

Many more pictures relating to Christopher Columbus and his voyages can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Saint Isidore of Seville

Posted in Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion, Saints on Friday, 29 April 2011

Isidore, picture, image, illustration

Saint Isidore of Seville

Saint Isidore of Seville (c.560 – 636) was one of the towering intellectual figures of that last moment of illumination in the first millennium, before the vestigial world of classical antiquity fragmented and lay forgotten during the violence and ignorance of the coming Dark Ages. He was Archbishop of Seville for three decades, during which time he played a significant part in the conversion of the ruling dynasty to Catholicism. He had first helped his brother, Leander of Seville, in this demanding cause, and after his death Isidore continued apace in his efforts to convert the Visigothic Arians. His scholarly bearing and immense learning gave him considerable authority, and at the Councils of Toledo and Seville, he helped to frame the legislative framework for the early Visigothic kingdom, which in essence lay the foundations for representative government in the region. His reputation was so great that he was called “the last scholar of the ancient world”, and all subsequent historical writings of mediaeval Hispania have drawn heavily on his work. He wrote one of the first major attempts at an encyclopedia of human knowledge, the Etymologiae, which undoubtedly inspired later, more successful summae, written in the High Middle Ages.

Many more pictures relating to Saints can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by William Shakespeare

Posted in Actors, English Literature, Literature, Shakespeare, Theatre on Friday, 29 April 2011

Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy which received “sundry performances” before 1600, and was therefore most probably written around late 1598 or early 1599. It has several possible sources, including French translations of Italian tales concerning deceived lovers and confounded intentions, but the most obvious is Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, which had appeared in English translation as early as 1591.

Ellen Terry, picture, image, illustration

Miss Ellen Terry as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing

The play’s action is set in Messina, Sicily, at a time when the House of Aragon ruled that island kingdom; the place is the country estate of Leonato, Governor of Messina. Two sets of contrasting lovers provide the see-saw drama of the play, where on the one hand Beatrice and Benedick are embattled,sarcastic, witty sparring partners, and on the other Hero and Claudio are swooning lovers who live for each other’s every word, look and kiss. The Prince of Aragon, Don Pedro, has returned from the wars, and both he and his captains are ready for happy diversions, to which end there is to be a masked ball. It is his bastard brother, Don John, who puts the sting in this tale; he is a malcontent, that misanthropic type well-known to Elizabethan audiences, who delights in spreading vile rumour and sowing discord which reaps unhappiness, though happily he sows here but to reap his own. In this play he conspires to cast doubts on Hero’s fidelity, so that Claudio rejects her at the altar on their wedding day. The chaotic local watch and constabulary somehow uncover Don John’s plot, notwithstanding the ineffectual muddling by a simple-minded and comically malapropistic Constable called Dogberry, a fine example of the beautifully etched minor characters which people Shakespeare’s plays. Berlioz, a great Shakespearean, took the play as inspiration for his highly original opera Beatrice and Benedict.

Many more pictures relating to Shakespeare and his plays can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The anointing of David as King of Judah

Posted in Bible, Religion, Royalty on Friday, 29 April 2011

After some years of terrible enmity within the court of King Saul, whose bitter jealousy and rivalry swamped the deep affection he felt for David, matters at last reach their climax with the tragic suicide of the King on Mount Gilboa, as he is mortally wounded and devastated by the deaths of his sons.

David, picture, image, illustration

The anointing of David as King of Judah, by Clive Uptton

David, too, is overwhelmed with sadness, but most especially enormous grief for one son, his friend and ‘brother’, the loyal and devoted Jonathan. After a period of mourning he and all his men and their families go to the city of Hebron, and it is there that all the elders of Israel come together and make a covenant with David; they then watch the simple and solemn ceremony in which a priest anoints David as their monarch, and loudly acclaim their young and heroic King of Judah.

Many more pictures relating to the Bible can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

James Buchanan: Famous Last Words

Posted in Famous Last Words on Friday, 29 April 2011

James Buchanan was the 15th President of the United States. Born in Cove Gap, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, he had graduated from college with honours, although at one point had been expelled for poor behaviour.

picture, James Buchanan, President, United States of America

James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States of America

He began his political career in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1814 and later served in four successive congresses between 1821 and 1831. He then became Minister to Russia in 1832-34 before being elected to the United States Senate originally as a Democrat (his time in Congress having been as a Federalist).

It was during Buchanan’s presidency that the southern states began to secede from the United States over the issue of slavery. He lost the following election to Abraham Lincoln, whose appointment in 1861 as president was the final spark that began the American Civil War.

Buchanan only lived a few years longer, believing that history would vindicate his memory, although he is nowadays generally thought to have been the worst US President. He died on 1 June 1868, aged 77, at his home at Wheatland, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, his last words reputedly:

“O Lord Almighty, as Thou wilt.”

Many more pictures relating to the history of the United States can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.