Monday, 22 October 2012

Britain is a country where old men say "Happy Birthday" to and old actor called Derek Jacobi and remember his old Emperor Claudius when he and they were young

Derek Jacobi, veteran actor is 74 years old today.

What you possibly didn't know about Derek, that he :

* was the only child of Daisy Gertrude, a secretary in a drapery store and Alfred George Jacobi, who ran a sweet shop and a tobacconist in Leytonstone, London.

* was born in 1938, a 'Second World War baby' who had a happy childhood and in his teens, went to the County High School and often visited the Old Vic theatre to watch John Gielgud, Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier.

* at 18, won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where he read history and on stage played Hamlet at the Edinburgh Festival.

* was, as a result of his performance of Edward II at Cambridge, invited to become a member of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1960.and had his talent recognised by Laurence Olivier, who invited him to become one of the founding members of the new 'National Theatre', where he played Laertes in 'Hamlet' opposite Peter O'Toole ( right) in 1963.

* had his big breakthrough in 1976 when I was 29 and he was 38, playing the 51 year old, stammering and twitching Emperor in the BBC tv series, 'I, Claudius' and made this magnificent speech to the Senate on being placed in power by the Praetorian Guard :

            Senator: You are not fit to be Emperor.
Claudius: I agree. But nor was my nephew.
Senator: So what difference is there between you?
Claudius: He would not have agreed. And by now your head would be on that floor for saying so.

Claudius: Senators, it is true that I am hard of hearing, but you will find it is not for want of listening. As for       speaking, again, it's true I have an impediment. But isn't what a man says more important than how long he takes to say it?

It's true again I have little experience of government. But, then, have you more? I at least have lived with the imperial family who has ruled this empire ever since you so spinelessly handed it over to us. I've observed it working more closely than any of you. Is your experience better than that?
As for being half-witted: well, what can I say, except that I have survived to middle age with half my wits, while thousands have died with all of theirs intact. Evidently, quality of wits is more important than quantity. Senators, I shall do nothing unconstitutional. I shall appear at the next session of the senate, where you may confirm me in my position or not as you wish. But if it pleases you not to, explain your reasons to them [points to the praetorian], not to me.

Herod [to Claudius]: Trust no one, my friend, no one. Not your most grateful freedman. Not your most intimate friend. Not your dearest child. Not the wife of your bosom. Trust no one.
P.S. Jack Pulman who wrote the script of 'I Claudius' sadly died at the age of 50 in 1979.

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