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The James Shirley Project

The Complete Works of James Shirley (1596-1666) An Edition in 10 Volumes

Videos

Death the Leveller: ‘The Glories of Our Blood and State’

‘The Glories of Our Blood and State’ is Shirley’s most famous poem. Originally part of Shirley’s last dramatic entertainment, The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses (pb. 1659), the poem became famous in its own right. It is said to have seized Oliver Cromwell with great terror; many versions of the piece circulated in the seventeenth century, and it has led a rich afterlife ever since in manuscript miscellanies and print anthologies. ‘The Glories of Our Blood and State’ was also set to music, for instance, by Edward Coleman (published by John Playford in 1667).

Death the Leveller

This quirky version is not a project production but too good to be excluded from a site dedicated to Shirley.

© Jim Clark (2010).

‘The Glories of Our Blood and State’

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits

Speakers: Sonia Ritter, Guy Henry, Jo Shirley
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

 

Characters in Crisis: Readings from Plays

How did Shirley’s generation of playwrights stage a crisis? We examined a particular type of crisis scene with these characteristics: (a) it must be short but have sufficient scope; ideally it should be a self-contained mini-scene; (b) it should involve a female character with a substantial share of lines; (c) it should be as intimate as possible, and ideally involve two speakers only.

It is actually not easy to find scenes which satisfy these criteria and lend themselves to filming. Below are examples from tragedies by Chapman and Shirley. These writers are particularly interesting for us since Shirley knew Chapman’s work very well and revised the latter’s tragedy Chabot, Admiral of France (1612) for a Caroline audience. These short clips will, we hope, give viewers an idea of Shirley’s and Chapman’s approaches to crisis.

Other clips feature recordings from Shirley’s last entertainment, The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses for the Armour of Achilles (pb. 1659) as well as a dialogue that has been associated with Shirley’s tragedy The Traitor (1631), and a pivotal moment from Ben Jonson’s Sejanus (c.1603/4).

 

“Sin is a coward” from George Chapman, Bussy d’Ambois (1604)

A scene at dawn. Tamyra has just committed adultery with Bussy d’Ambois, the French king’s new favourite. Her lover having just departed, her husband, the Count of Montsurry, enters and asks her to come to bed. Tamyra works hard to keep her act together. From Act III.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits

Speakers: Sonia Ritter, David Fuller
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Alistair Brown
Recorded in Durham, 21 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“Write!” from George Chapman, Bussy d’Ambois (1604)

At the opening of Act V, the Count of Montsurry has just discovered that his wife Tamyra has committed adultery. He brutally forces her to write a letter to her lover so that he may exact revenge on the latter.
© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, Guy Henry
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“Live but a little longer” from James Shirley, The Traitor (1631)

In this tragedy set in Florence, a conspiracy is afoot to murder the lecherous Duke Alessandro de’ Medici. To further the plot, the character Sciarrha harangues his beautiful and virtuous sister Amidea to act as bait in a fatal rendezvous. When she seems to agree to prostituting herself to the Duke, Sciarrha (who is passionate and unstable) cannot bear the idea and stabs his sister. Their brother Florio erupts on the scene, too late – Amidea tries to reconcile the brothers in her last moments.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, Guy Henry, Jo Shirley
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

The Melbourne Manuscript – a scene from The Traitor (1631)?

The Melbourne Manuscript was retrieved from Sir John Coke’s residence, Melbourne Hall, in Derbyshire and is now lodged in the British Library (MS Add. 88878). John Coke (d. 1644) was the secretary of state of Charles I. The manuscript’s four pages feature a dialogue between Duke Alexander (Alessandro de’ Medici) and Lorenzo (Lorenzino de’ Medici), in which the Duke expresses his concern about an anonymous letter which accuses Lorenzo (rightly) of treason. Lorenzo, though, succeeds in persuading the Duke of his loyalty. Strong verbal echoes suggest that the scene pertains to Shirley’s The Traitor – perhaps it was a working draft – but critics have nonetheless proposed a range of alternative authors, including John Webster, Thomas Middleton, and the Jesuit writer and translator Antony Rivers (see entries for MacDonald P. Jackson and Nigel Bawcutt in the bibliography on this website).

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, Guy Henry
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“H’mh?” from Ben Jonson, Sejanus (1603/4)

From Act III. Sejanus, the ambitious favourite of Emperor Tiberius, tries to persuade the latter to let him marry into the imperial family. Tiberius, who knows his creature all too well, says no. Sejanus was, for many seventeenth-century English authors, the archetypal dangerous favourite; indeed he is mentioned in a prattling, offhand tone by Lorenzo in the Melbourne MS scene.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, Guy Henry
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“My anger melts” from George Chapman, Chabot, Admiral of France (revised 1638)

Licensed 1638 with revisions by Shirley. Queen Scene. Two noble French courtiers vie for the King’s favour: Montmorency, Constable of France, and Chabot, Admiral of France. Due to a court intrigue, the loyal Chabot faces trial. His wife and father-in-law plead with the king, queen, and Montmorency. From Act III.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, Guy Henry, Jo Shirley
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012
Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“He must obey his fate” from George Chapman, Chabot, Admiral of France (revised 1638)

From Act IV. The King expresses surprise that his Queen and Montmorency, who had both been the chief engines in Chabot’s fall, now plead for mercy.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, David Fuller
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Alistair Brown
Recorded in Durham, 21 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“The prunes of Islington” from James Shirley, The Lady of Pleasure (1635)

This smart, racy city comedy might be called James Shirley’s answer to Sex and the City. When the fifteen-year-old rich widow Celestina hits the high life in fashionable London, the whole town is aflutter. Celestina vies with other ladies, notably Aretina, for the finest salon and richest display of wealth. Celestina’s steward advises economic prudence but his admonitions fall on deaf ears. From Act I.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, Guy Henry
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“The prunes of Islington” from James Shirley, The Lady of Pleasure (1635)

The same scene spoken by different speakers. This is a more playful take, affecting odd accents.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Philip Sidney, Jo Shirley
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 21 August 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“Do not I walk upon the teeth of serpents” from James Shirley, The Cardinal (1641)

Duchess Rosaura, a spirited young widow, has spurned the Cardinal’s nephew and instead chosen the courtier Alvarez for her husband, much to the Cardinal’s displeasure. Shirley gives the Duchess some of the play’s strongest lines in a fiery altercation with the Cardinal.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, Guy Henry
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“I’ll rifle first her darling chastity” from James Shirley, The Cardinal (1641)

This clip combines two passages spoken “aside” by the play’s villain, the Cardinal, in Act V. Here he contemplates how he will crush his antagonist, Duchess Rosaura.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speaker: Guy Henry
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Dan Starza Smith and Alistair Brown
Recorded in London, 7 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“I look from the forsaken deck upon the seas” from James Shirley, The Court Secret (before 1642? pb. 1653)

This late romantic tragicomedy boasts pirates, princes exchanged at birth, and a fine sentimental prison scene. Mendoza urges his daughter Clara to revenge her brother’s death at the hands of Don Manuel. Clara, a sensible heroine who fancies Manuel, disagrees, much to her father’s dismay. From Act V.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, David Fuller
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Alistair Brown
Recorded in Durham, 21 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

 

“Stain not the name of eloquence” from James Shirley, The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses for the Armour of Achilles (pb. 1659)

This entertainment was intended to hone the declamatory skills of young gentlemen. Ajax and Ulysses both claim the armour of dead Achilles; a Greek council headed by Agamemnon must decide the winner. Ulysses emerges victoriously from the contest of speeches. Unable to contain his rage and grief, Ajax kills himself. The prophet Calchas has the last lines with ‘The Glories of Our Blood and State’. The clip shows extracts from the speeches of Ajax and Ulysses.

© The James Shirley Project 2012

Credits
Speakers: Sonia Ritter, David Fuller
Director: Barbara Ravelhofer
Recording and editing: Alistair Brown
Recorded in Durham, 21 September 2012

Sponsored by the AHRC, and the Department of English, Durham University

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