The Escorial: Art and Power in the Renaissance By Henry Kamen (Yale University Press, 291 pp., $35) The historian Henry Kamen has spent a distinguished career presenting what he calls a “revisionist” history of early modern Spain.
Maria Stuart may not seem like the perfect project for Ingmar Bergman's biannual exploration of classical texts. Written in 1800, some years after Schiller had completed The Robbers and Don Carlos, it is a typical product of Sturm und Drang--more workable perhaps as an opera libretto than as a dramatic text. Maria Stuart has a lot of strong scenes, particularly the confrontation between the two rival queens and the Machiavellian plotting of the treacherous courtiers.
One consequence of living several thousand miles from the place you grew up and shifting residences every few years is that the people you care for tend to die at a distance. Once a year or so I get a phone call to inform me that someone I had assumed alive and well has suffered a stroke, or shot himself, or neglected to wake up. Upon hearing such news I usually feel a brief but genuine desire to drop whatever I am doing and fly to the funeral. Then I recall the funerals I have attended.