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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Shylock; Huff-Sommer; *Shrew*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0683.  Tuesday, 19 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Tom Dale Keever <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Aug 94 01:57:06 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0679  Re: Character and Huff-Sommer
 
(2)     From:   Tom Ellis <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Aug 1994 21:33:40 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0679  Re: Character and Huff-Sommer
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH.BITNET>
        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Aug 1994 17:26:40 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Shrew
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Dale Keever <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Aug 94 01:57:06 EDT
Subject: 5.0679  Re: Character and Huff-Sommer
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0679  Re: Character and Huff-Sommer
 
Subject:  Wesker's Shylock, and others
 
Wesker and his reply to Shakespeare came up last spring when the RSC's
production of MERCHANT was brought to the Barbican and the inevitable
controversy followed in its wake.  The Guardian published a debate between
Wesker and, I think, the production's director, David Thacker, about whether
the play was inherently anti-Semitic or could be staged in such a way that the
issue of its racism could be avoided. Wesker insisted that Shakespeare's play
was so marred by bigotry that it was better not to even try to stage it and
suggested that his course, to write a whole new play, was the proper one for
anybody who wanted to revive the story for a post-Holocaust audience.  Thacker
felt that he had succeeded in producing a staging in which the anti-Semitic
elements did not detract from the overall impact of the play.
 
I saw the Barbican staging and felt it handled the play's antiSemitic content
as well as can be expected.  The issue was partially defused not by minimizing
Shylock's negative qualities, but by portraying them as endemic in *The City,*
the modern financial center in which the action took place.  The *Christian*
characters, from the Duke on down, behaved with such meanspirited cruelty their
pious condemnations of Shylock seemed so much sanctimonious hypocrisy.  David
Calder's Shylock carried himself with pride and straight-forward determination
and the the scheming of his antagonists put them on no higher moral plane than
his.
 
The last MERCHANT I had seen, also modern dress,  had placed the action in the
world of modern commerce, too, but this production had been performed by the
Netherlands National Theater Company in Amsterdam.   I wondered how the play's
most controversial issue would be handled in a theater in the Stadsplein, just
down the Prinsengracht from the Anne Frankhuis.  I was surprised to find
Shylock's Jewishness and the play's inherent attitude to it presented with few
punches pulled, indeed with less side stepping than was later apparent at The
Barbican.
 
I regret that my performance schedule in Germany last February made it
impossible for me to see Peter Zadek's new KAUFMAN VON VENEDIG produced under
Heiner Muller's management at the The Berliner Ensemble.  Did anyone out there
get to it?  If so, how did the Germans handle the issue?
 
Who took over from Mostel in the New York production of Wesker's play, Anthony?
 
Tom Dale Keever

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Ellis <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Aug 1994 21:33:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0679  Re: Character and Huff-Sommer
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0679  Re: Character and Huff-Sommer
 
With all due respect, I fail to see what this quarrel between feminists,
neo-feminists, and quasi-feminists has to do with the presumed topic of this
list--Shakespeare. I haven't read Hoff-Sommers nor her detractors, and until
someone comes up with some reliable historical data, speculation on the
provenance of the "rule of thumb" must remain merely idle speculation. So
please: if you wish to carry on this particular discussion, try another list. I
trust I speak for most other SHAKSPERians in preferring that the topic focus
remain at least indirectly related to Shakespeare.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH.BITNET>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Aug 1994 17:26:40 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Shrew
 
Actually, I agree almost entirely with Stephanie DuBois's analysis of
Petruchio's abusive treatment of Katherine. Where we begin to disagree is in
Act IV, scene v. I tend to emphasize Katherine's strength and endurance.
Although she has been deprived on food and sleep, and although she has had to
put up with Petruchio's erratic, violence behavior swings, she is not about to
submit to his nonsense until Hortensio requests her to do so (IV.v.11). I think
her "submission" -- peppered with insults (e.g., 20) -- is actually a courtesy
to Hortensio.
 
Earlier in the scene, she had asserted: "I know it is the sun that shines so
bright" (5 in the Riverside edition), and after the submission, when she is
kidding Vincentio, she asks pardon for her "mistaking eyes,/That have been so
bedazzled with the sun" and, she continues, "every thing I look on seemeth
green" (45-47). Obviously she reasserts her former position, and, if she stares
at Petruchio, when she declares that everything seems "green," then we may feel
that Katherine is hardly submissive.
 
And, of course, I would like to deconstruct her long speech in V.ii., or, at
least, read it as ironic. For example, she makes it clear that she expects
"painful labor" and lack of sleep from the husbands (V.ii.149-50). And, as one
actress told me, she wouldn't make this speech unless she could force Petruchio
to pick up her cap at the end of the scene.
 
Of course, Katherine is being perfectly "sisterly" in this scene. This is the
scene in which Katherine gets her own. So in the sibling rivalry between
Katherine and Bianca, Bianca is the clear winner. She gets to "swinge" her
sister in the room, and then give her a lecture on obedience. And, further,
Katherine finally gets her father's approval.
 
Now I realize there's a downside to this reading. Katherine may have strength
and endurance, but it can certainly be argued that she has joined the males --
or, at least, her abuser, Petruchio -- against her sister and "Hortensio's
widow." And we might be happier with the lines from A SHREW. When Polidor tells
his wife Emilia that she's a "shrew," she replies: "Thats better then a sheepe"
(scene 18, 60).
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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