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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: September ::
Re: Shakespeare, Politics, The Globe, Wanamaker
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 553.  Wednesday, 15 Sept. 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Joseph Lawrence Lyle <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Sep 1993 12:05:14 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare's Politics and Wanamaker's Globe
 
(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Sep 93 16:37:37 +0100
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare's Politics and Wanamaker's Globe
 
(3)     From:   Robert O'Connor <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Sep 1993 12:18:54 +0700
        Subj:   Shakespeare, The Globe, Politics, Wanamaker . . . . . . . .
 
(4)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Sep 93  14:35 BST
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare's Politics and Wanamaker's CBE
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Lawrence Lyle <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Sep 1993 12:05:14 -0400
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare's Politics and Wanamaker's Globe
 
Re James McKenna's observation that "politics" does not seem to exhaust the
experience of Shakespeare:
 
There is a middle ground.  The left (to speak reductively) argues that we are
merely politics; the right (to speak reductively) argues that we transcend
politics.  But politics are not "mere" politics.  The left is correct that we
are largely constructed within certain political circumstances; the right is
correct that we continue to feel, to whatever extent, free, individual,
subjective, singular.  When the politics of subjectivity is argued
intelligently, it neither debases subjectivity nor dismisses politics; rather,
both can be conceived as what we live.  (This argument occurs in a rather
different form in Stephen Fallon's *Milton Among the Philosophers).
 
Tentatively--
Jay Lyle
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Sep 93 16:37:37 +0100
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare's Politics and Wanamaker's Globe
 
>Lastly, reality (to some extent an automatic contradiction in terms, both in
>the theatre and in electronic interactions). In one important sense modern
>practice is to move AWAY from reality.  Shakespeare has very few parts for
>non-White actors or actresses, so now they are accepted in other parts.  We now
>have close blood relatives (say two brothers) totally different colours in a
>production.  Is this closer to 'reality'? -- clearly not.  Does it require a
>new leap in the 'willing suspension of disbelief? -- absolutely.  I admit to
>having had serious doubts about this change myself, on precisely those grounds.
>A first class Ghanaian as Mercutio, in the RST Stratford, changed my views:  I
>would have been the poorer if he had not been allowed to play that role (and
>obviously there are major employment/career implications for any actor/ actress
>who is not White).  So here is one way we have recently (last decade, mainly)
>moved away from reality, and I applaud it.  And Shakespeare himself clearly
>plays with reality, rather than always trying to maximize the audience's sense
>of it:  the play within a play in Hamlet, Chorus in Henry V.
 
How did you feel about Denzel Washington playing Don Pedro in Branagh's
recent *Much Ado...*? I have scene a production at the National Theatre
in London of *King Lear* in which the choice of a black actor to play
Edmund (a bastard) seemed deliberately to make a point. I took the point
to be that Edmund's inferior social position and disinheritance was in
some way analogous to the oppression of black people. Would anyone,
especially those who saw this production (RSC at the National, South
Bank, Brian Cox as Lear, Ian McKellen as Kent, November 1990 I think)
care to say what they make of this? As for Washington as Don Pedro, the
presence of a black man as successor in a legitimate blood-line and
a white man as the illegitimate, struck me as interesting but not
necessarily intended to make a point. Does anyone think Branagh
(assuming it was his decision as director) wanted to make a point
of not making a point? IE that we have reached a point where we
just accept actors as actors and do not notice colour. I agree there
are major employment implications surrounding this subject, and
do not have a firm opinion myself. Since 'realism' generally prevents
women from playing men's roles and vice versa these days, is there a
different principle needed for black people playing white and
vice versa? Does anybody know the ratio of men to women in the
acting profession - there are (I think) more male parts in the
canon than female.
 
Gabriel Egan

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert O'Connor <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Sep 1993 12:18:54 +0700
Subject:        Shakespeare, The Globe, Politics, Wanamaker . . . . . . . .
 
Dear SHAKSPEReans
 
Guilty!
 
An innocent query of mine about the Globe Reconstruction - inspired at
least in part by a recent vist by Andrew Gurr, and Christine Eccles' book -
seems to have set off quite a debate.
 
But I do wonder - with some other correspondents - what the relevance of
the nationality of the chief instigator of the project has, or indeed any
awards he may have garnered.  Isn't this, in the classic phrase, getting a
little far from the text?
 
I recently saw Olivier's 'Henry V' again, for the first time in about five
years, and it bought back to me something that Andrew Gurr said while he
was here in Canberra, namely that none of the people involved in the
project expect it to answer all the questions about Elizabethan staging and
performance, to say nothing of the questions the project itself seems to
have raised.  Olivier's film presented his own (highly amusing, if nothing
else) picture of an Elizabethan playhouse in its hey-day; we all know there
are any number of such pictures idling in the minds of Shakespearean
scholars and historians.  Professor Gurr also suggested that one of the
things the Globe Centre will have to do, once it was up and running, is
spend several years simply experimenting with the stage and the space and
so on.  I for one will be more than happy to learn (and, if I am very
lucky, lost out here in the antipodes, see) the results of these
experiments.  But I don't expect them to settle anything.  Likewise, if
there is anything I have learned thus far, half-way through my PhD, it is
not tom expect any resolution of debates about Shakespeare and politics.
Fascinating, all the same.
 
Irrelevant side-note: having recently moved into a postgrad-only college
here at ANU, I have had a number of people in various fields asking me the
old question: is there anything left in Shakespeare to write about.  I wish
I could have shown some of them excerpts of this debate!
 
    Robert F. O'Connor
    
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    English Department
    Australian National University
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Sep 93  14:35 BST
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare's Politics and Wanamaker's CBE
 
To Kenneth Rothwell:
 
Hallo Ken! Of course I can only share your delight when Commanderships
of the British Empire are doled out to deserving citizens of the US.
My idea that the term 'British Empire' might have a special resonance for
a citizen of the Republic clearly has no historical or material basis.
Silly old me. As for the absurd notion that Shakespeare might -just ever
so marginally- have been used as part of various political strategies from
time to time, well I'm genuinely relieved to hear that the Bard inhabits
a sphere beyond that sort of thing. Thank God no one ever thought of doing
a film, say, of Henry V before the D-Day landings. What a disaster that would
have been! Blair Kelly's mention of the British Imperial Shakespeare
Society can only be inflammatory in the circumstances. Is he some sort
of Cultural Materialist?
 
See you in Stratford!
 
Terry Hawkes
 

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