Lectures on Britain - 6 (Lectures on Britain)

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LECTURE № 7FOLKLORE AND LITERATUREThe studies of the British culture cannot stand apart from the research of itsimportant product – folklore. The folklore and folk customs of England developedover a long chain of centuries. Some ancient customs were passed from Celtic toGermanic generations and further on. Invaders and settlers brought with them theirown beliefs, which mixed with older traditions.The main system of values, beliefs and traditions of British nations is mostlyreflected in the ballads and fairy tales. The old ballads make up a very valuablepart of poetical literature. Ballads are a rich source of data connected with history,social life, feelings and values of the people living on the British Isle.Although the subjects of ballads vary considerably, some major classes of theballad can be distinguished— among them the historical and heroic such asBeowulf, King Arthur songs and Robin Hood cycle.Beowulf is an Old anonymous English heroic epic poem.Its creation dates tobetween the 8th and the 11th centuries.

It is long, as there are 3183 lines, devotedto brave and strong hero who fought for the good of his people, killing twomonsters.Beowulf has been adapted a number of times in cinema, on the stage, and inbooks.Another old recorded ballad in the English language is the legend devoted toKing Arthur who was a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6thcenturies. According to medieval histories he led the defense of the Celts againstthe Saxon invaders. The magical sword Excalibur, his castle Camelot, and theLady of the Lake also play great associated with King Arthur. In Arthurian legendKing Arthur had a round table so that none of his knights, when seated at it, couldclaim precedence over the others.Countless new legends, stories, revisions, books, and films have been producedin Europe and the United States about King Arthur and his Round Table (the filmwith R.

Geer)Other ballads printed in the late15th or early 16th centuries aredevoted to “Robyn Hood". RobinHood is a heroic outlaw in Englishfolklore, and, according to thelegends, was also a highly skilledarcher, assisted by a group of fellow outlaws known as his “Merry Men”.Traditionally, Robin Hood and his men lived in Sherwood Forest, wearing Lincolngreen clothes.Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in the medieval period as the one whowas fighting with the unscrupulous sheriff. Robbing the rich he gave everything tothe poor.

The earliest Robin Hood manuscript is “Robin Hood and the Monk’(1450) kept in Cambridge University. The first printed version is “A Guest ofRobyn Hode” (1475).Robin Hood continues to be widely represented in modern literature, films andtelevision.Like ballads English Fairy Tales circulated in England in oral form.

One of theoldest printed fairy tales in England was Tom Thumb. In this fairytale a childlesspoor couple asked Magician Merlin to give them a son even if he were no biggerthan his father’s thumb. Tom Thumb met many adventures. The last of them wasbeing eaten by a fish which was then caught for King Arthur’s table. Tom becamea knight and when he died was mourned by the whole Arthur’s court.The English fairytales were mostly humorous ones, except for the more magicalThree Heads in the Well. Later Victorian collectors found some other oralexamples, including Tom Tit Tot and Cap o' Rushes from Suffolk, the Small-ToothDog from Derbyshire, and the Rose Tree from Devon.In the 18th century English fairy tales were published mainly by French Perrault.Selections from these were quickly translated and cheaply printed.

Such fairy talesas Cinderella, Bluebeard, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Frog Prince, RedRiding Hood, Snow White, and The Little Mermaid were totally absorbed intoEnglish culture, staged and made into numerous films.TheatreTheatre was introduced to the UK from Europe by the Romans.

In the middleAges it was mostly in a street form, concentrating on dance and on the themes suchas Saint George and the Dragon and later on Robin Hood. The plays were retellingold folklore stories. The groups of actors were travelling from town to townperforming not only for money but also for hospitality. There were also religiousplays on Christian themes performed at religious festivals.The difference came during the reign of Elizabeth 1 in the 16th-17th centuries. Theflowering of English drama is associated with William Shakespeare, of course.William Shakespeare wrote about 40 plays that are still performed in the theatersall over the world.His plays include tragedies, such as Hamlet (1603), Othello (1604), King Lear(1605), Romeo and Juliet.

There are also famous comedies, such as A MidsummerNight’s Dream (1594-96) and The Twelfth Night (1602). Among his plays thereare popular historic plays, such as Henry 1V.The Elizabethan age is sometimes nicknamed “The age of Shakespeare” for theamount of influence he held over the era.During the years after the Revolution headed by Cromwell the theater waspractically closed. It was resumed under Charles 11. A lot of new authors andprofessional actors and actresses appeared who attracted the audiences (at the timeof Shakespeare all female roles were played by boys). There even appeared awoman playwright Aphra Benn.In the 18th century Restoration comedy was replaced by sentimental comedy andby overwhelming interest in Italian opera.A restoration and an interest in theatre of drama came in the 19th century withthe plays by the Irishman playwright George Bernard Shaw and English playwriteOscar Wilde.The Irish playwright Bernard Show (1856-190) wrote a great number ofsatirical, witty and psychological plays that became well known not only inBritain, but also all over the world, including Russia.

Among Shaw’s best-knownplays are Heartbreak House, Saint Joan and Pygmalion, based on the Greek mythabout a sculptor who carved a statue of a woman and fell in love with her. Theadaptation of Pygmalion is a very popular musical “My Fair Lady”, successfullystaged in Broadway and many Europeans theaters.Today the West End in London has a large number of theatres, particularlycentered on Shaftesbury |Avenue.

There are over 200 theaters in Britain: 40 ofwhich are situated in London’s West End. The most famous British theaters areThe Royal Opera and Royal Ballet, both based at Covent Garden, the NationalTheatre and the Barbican Theatre.The National is a part of the South Bank Arts Centre, located near the RiverThames. The Centre contains three theatres, cinemas, an art gallery, and concerthalls. The diamond of the National is the 1.160-seat Oliver Theatre, named afterfamous actor and director Laurence Olivier. The Royal Shakespeare Companyperforms at the Barbican in London and in Shakespeare's birthplace Stratfordupon-Avon.A prolific composer of the 20th century Andrew Lloyd Webber dominated theWest End for a number of years, and his musicals travelled to Broadway in NewYork and around the world.

Important modern playwrights include AlanAyckbourn, John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, and Arnold Wesker..

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