Y Blotyn Du (The Black Spot)

One of the things I love about Wales is the language. Unique to any other, Welsh is a language that seems to be taylor-made for poets. Indeed, the national anthem calls Wales “a land of poets and singers”. Though some of the phoenetic sounds can appear very hard and corse, when you understand it, it you really begin to appreciate it’s beauty. I wanted to share this beautiful poem by the famous Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who won the poetry chair at the 1917 Eisteddfod, but had died in the trenches in France before he could claim his prize.

   Nid oes gennym hawl ar y sêr,
   Na’r lleuad hiraethus chwaith,
   Na’r cwmwl o aur a ymylch
   Yng nghanol y glesni maith.

   Nid oes gennym hawl ar ddim byd
   Ond ar yr hen ddaear wyw;
   A honno sy’n anrhefn i gyd
   Yng nghanol gogoniant Duw.

   *  *  *  *  *

We have no right to the stars,
Nor the homesick moon,
Nor the golden-edged clouds
In the endless blue.

We have no right to anything
But the old and withered earth;
That is all in chaos
In the midst of the glory of God.

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Alas, poor Yorick; I knew him, Horatio

Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet (1997)

This famous scene from Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is perhaps one of my favourite scenes in Shakespeare. Hamlet, who having decided to avenge his father’s murder, still is yet to follow through with his plan though he has long since known who his father’s killer is. His undecisiveness is his tragic flaw and downfall.

In this scene he happens on a humble gravemaker who has dug up the skull of the old King’s jester, Yorick, who has been dead for twenty-three years. We then discover that Yorick was also Hamlet’s minder as a boy, whom he was obviously very fond of. I love this scene, because for a moment we glimse a clue as to perhaps why Hamlet is so reluctant to take the plunge and fulfil his father’s burden to him.

Yorick’s skull is in a sense a metaphor for Hamlet’s loss of innocence. Perhaps the reason Hamlet is so reluctant to do his duty as son to a murdered king, is that he never really let go of being a boy prince, having no responsibility all his life as his father was compitent enough to run the kingdom without him.

Watch this scene on YouTube, click here.

A Great Performance

Morgan Freeman as \'Red\' in \"The Shawshank Redemption\"

I’ve been pondering recently what I consider to be the greatest film of all time, the greatest screenplay, the greatest performace, etc. On my personal shortlist of the three above categories one film kept coming up: The Shawshank Redemption. I am yet to meet anyone who has seen this film who considered it to be a less than a superb film.

The screenplay for this film is itself a work of art. I would even argue that the script by itself upstages Stephen King’s novella, but being a screenwriter, I do acknowledge that I am partial to a brilliantly written screenplay and this one is by far the best I’ve ever read.

Morgan Freeman’s performance is one of my personal top ten performances I’ve seen on the screen. An ingenious collaboration between himself and Frank Darabont, the director. Casting a black actor as Red was an ingenious move by Darabont, even though in the novel and the screenplay, the impression is given that Red is more likely to be white, though it never says so. One of the themes discussed in the novella is that to the guards in those days, a con was worse than a negro, therefore to have a black actor in Red’s shoes is a very powerful device.

I think that a great performance by an actor is confirmed when the audience is made to forget they are watching an actor, and most of all, when ten years later you are still unable to imagine anyone else playing that part.

Video: Red’s Rehabilitation in The Shawshank Redemption (1993).