Five Fascinating Facts about Epicurus

Fun facts about the philosopher Epicurus

1. Much of what we know about Epicurus’ philosophy is wrong. Epicureanism, the name of the philosophy inspired by the teachings of the philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC), is commonly understood to mean seeking out pleasure and then enjoying things to excess – whether it’s drinking too much, eating too much, or having too much sex. But Epicurus himself was, surprisingly, quite a frugal and restrained fellow. A bit of cheese now and then was, by all accounts, the most indulgent his tastes ever got.

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Five Fascinating Facts about the Kama Sutra

Interesting facts about the ancient Hindu text

1. The Kama Sutra isn’t a ‘sex manual’. Or at least, it’s not just that. In fact, only around 20% of the Kama Sutra concerns sexual positions – one section of the seven that make up the whole book. The section that does concern sexual positions discusses the use of nails (fingernails, presumably) in the bedroom, biting, moaning, and much else. One passage denounces oral sex as immoral, before going on to give detailed instructions as to how to perform it! Those wanting a more ‘full-on’ Indian sex manual might try the Ananga Ranga, composed in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. You know, if that’s your sort of thing.

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Five Fascinating Facts about King Lear

Fun facts about one of Shakespeare’s most popular tragedies

1. The original story on which Shakespeare based King Lear had a happy ending. King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s must-read plays. Yet less than a hundred years after the Bard wrote the play, it was given a rather dramatic (as it were) rewrite by Poet Laureate, Nahum Tate. Yet this is not the full truth. It is often said that Shakespeare wrote the tragedy of King Lear and then Nahum Tate rewrote the ending as a happy one. This much is true, but what is little known is the fact that the story of King Lear was originally a happy one, when it first appeared in the chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century. The anonymous play, King Leir, on which Shakespeare based his tragedy also ends on a somewhat more upbeat note.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Rousseau

Fun facts about the life and work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author of Confessions

1. His Confessions effectively invented modern autobiography. Before Rousseau, not many public figures were prepared to spill the beans about the intimate details of their private lives – their regrets, their desires, their deepest and darkest secrets – but Rousseau bared all, or very nearly all, in his Confessions.

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Five Fascinating Facts about The Waste Land

A short introduction to a classic poem in the form of five facts

1. T. S. Eliot’s working title for The Waste Land was ‘He Do the Police in Different Voices’, which he took from Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. The modernist poet T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) is probably best-known for his 1922 poem The Waste Land, but if things had been a little different, the poem might have been published with the less catchy title ‘He Do the Police in Different Voices’, a line spoken by Betty Higden about the character Sloppy in Charles Dickens‘s 1865 novel. The eventual title is a nod to myth, and particularly the story of the Fisher King, the Arthurian figure whose land has been laid waste – hence The Waste Land, a metaphor for modern-day Europe in the wake of the First World War and the Spanish flu that killed millions of people.

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