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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Re: "Versions" of Shakespeare
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 746.  Wed., 10 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   John Mucci <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Nov 93 10:11:55-0500
        Subj:   Versions of Shakespeare
 
(2)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Nov 93  10:48 GMT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 4.0731  Re: "Versions" of Shakespeare
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Mucci <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Nov 93 10:11:55-0500
Subject:        Versions of Shakespeare
 
Concerning various versions of Shakespeare's plays, there certainly is a "core"
of each play with which we are familiar, and whatever textual aberrations are
found hardly shake those well-established centers of what each play is about. I
don't think it's a shattering event to hear Michael Redgrave say "Oh, that this
too too sullied flesh would melt..." in his recording of *Hamlet,* instead of
"solid;" actually, it is rather refreshing to hear some divergences from the
perhaps too-oft repeated performances of the same old interpretation. If you've
seen a "traditional" D'Oyly Carte production of Gilbert & Sullivan, you know
that as pleasant an experience as it may be, the next time you see a G&S you
want something a little less calcified.
 
But in thinking about just how divergent the texts are for Shakespeare's works,
I find it useful to think of the canon as a kind of terminus, if you will, a
sort of literary Grand Central Station, into which flow about forty wonderful
twice-told tales, and out of which branch thousands of re-thinkings of those
same stories.  Berlioz' _Beatrice & Benedict_ would not be as delightful an
operatic work if we didn't have the core of _Much Ado_ to refer to. Even
something as egregious as Polanski's _Macbeth_ is either entertaining or not
depending on how much you know and care about what we have as the original. I
would like to know what instance in textual variations of the canon really
changes the core-knowledge of the story in any of the plays. Forgive me for
saying so, but if we had nothing more than the first quarto of _Hamlet_, we'd
have a grossly inferior product, but we'd still have the recognizable story of
Hamlet. I daresay that version could be enjoyed more than, say, _Gammer
Gurton's Needle_.
 
So far as the historical context of the 16th century goes, I have read the
comments with great interest, but notice that no one has pointed out that every
writer writes about his own time, no matter who or what. Despite setting or
ostensible hostorical context. Thus Arthur Clarke's _Childhod's End_ is about
the 1950's, despite its being set in the future (as all science fiction is
meant to be about today), _Ivanhoe_ is about early 19th century Britain, and
_Henry IV_ is about the last half of the 16th century. How can it be otherwise?
What would the point be, to write about Verona of centuries before for a
contemporary audience?
 
Shakespeare very definitely was writing about issues contemporary to himself.
The question of what those issues were is always up for debate, as I know the
traditionalists believe _Macbeth_ was written to honor the ascent of James to
the throne, and Oxfordians believe it was written to help the case of Mary,
Queen of Scots; but nonetheless, there is too much in that play of a pointed
nature to say it is only a potboiler about an early Scottish king. The theme
inexorably draws one to the last half of the 16th century.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Nov 93  10:48 GMT
Subject: 4.0731  Re: "Versions" of Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 4.0731  Re: "Versions" of Shakespeare
 
Dear Cary Mazer:
 
Eh?
 
Terry
 

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