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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: December ::
Re: The Season; Zefferilli *Ado*; Fate in *Rom*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No.1017. Wednesday, 21 December 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Dec 94 14:13:54 -0500
        Subj:   Seasonal Greetings and Light Reading
 
(2)     From:   Roger D. Gross <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Dec 1994 15:28:10 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Zeffirelli's Much Ado
 
(3)     From:   Daniel M Larner <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Dec 1994 15:21:34 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.1013 Re: Fate in *Rom*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Dec 94 14:13:54 -0500
Subject:        Seasonal Greetings and Light Reading
 
Happy winter/summer solstice to fellow SHAKSPEReans! I wanted to mention a
historical mystery novel I'm in the midst of--*The Slicing Edge of Death: Who
Killed Christopher Marlowe?* by Judith Cook (published in 1993, I believe).
Cook is an investigative journalist and expert in Elizabethan theater according
to the short biographical blurb on the book jacket. I'm finding the novel a lot
of fun so far.
 
Chris Gordon
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger D. Gross <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Dec 1994 15:28:10 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Zeffirelli's Much Ado
 
I've let slip the name of the colleague who has been remembering Zefferilli's
Much Ado for the National.  Sorry.  Anyway, I wonder if the 1965 production
you're remembering with Frank Finlay as Dogberry isn't actually the l967
Zeffirelli version with Frank Wylie as Dogberry.  I saw that glorious
production in 1968 and, as with so many of Zeffirelli's productions, the raw
energy and apparent spontaniety were what made it so attractive.
 
Here are a few more facts to feed nostalgia.  The cast list looks a bit like a
list of superstars-to-be:  Joan Plowright as Beatrice; the incomparable Robert
Stephens as Benedick; Derek Jacobi as Don Pedro; Anthony Hopkins as Borachio
(!).
 
It was very Italian, in a very creative kind of near-modern dress with music by
Nino Rota and a text adapted by Robert Graves.  Zeffirelli, as usual, directed
and designed scenery and this was a case in which he didn't overwhelm the show
with monumentality.  How are we to understand that the costumes were by Peter
J. Hall?  Can this be the same Peter Hall as the later director of the National
Theatre?
 
There was, indeed, a band (trumpet, trombone, clarinet, drum, guitar) and it
was used with charming whimsicality.
 
It was a knockout.  One of Zefferilli's best.
 
I just finished my own production of Much Ado and it was pure delight to work
on.  Sadly, the ability of the audience to recognize a malapropism continues to
deteriorate.  (They feel so insecure with verbal wit generally that they assume
the malapropisms are their own ignorance rather than the characters'.  Beatrice
and Benedick remain in the top ten of "roles actors would kill for".  Because I
had done Romeo and Juliet for this audience last year, I didn't want to repeat
the Renaissance Italian setting.  Looking for a fresh locale that would solve
the main theatrical problem of the show (making the Claudio/Don Pedro
"over-reaction to Hero's apparent disloyalty credible) we chose Spanish
California of ca. 1830.  It worked wonderfully, illuminating every corner of
the play and not distracting or adding unwanted meanings.
 
The show was very happily received by the audience but we had one very
disturbing experience: when we played for high school and junior high
audiences, they cheered for Claudio's abuse of Hero in the wedding scene.  I
never saw a cast so ready to attack an audience.  This fits with a disturbing
pattern I seen developing: young people (mostly young men) love scenes of abuse
more than anything in a show and this response is regardless of the "justice"
of the abuse.  Very troubling.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel M Larner <
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Date:           Tuesday, 20 Dec 1994 15:21:34 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 5.1013 Re: Fate in *Rom*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.1013 Re: Fate in *Rom*
 
Naomi Liebler makes a strong point about Aristotle's views, and an important
way of making a distinction between melodrama and tragedy.  But it's by no
means clear that she's got R&J right, as a social tragedy. Sure, those elements
are present.  But why stick the Friar in as narrator to remind us that the
lovers are "star-crossed,"  (which *does* mean ill-fated, not just unfortunate
[what do you think "unfortunate" means?], if not to prepare us for the usual
pathetic turn of melodrama--namely that people who don't deserve it get smashed
by something beyond their control.  The Friar is delayed in delivering his
message by forces which have nothing to do with *any* of the play's characters,
including the feuding families.  It's often been remarked that but for that
(and, of course, the chorus), R&J is set up as comedy, which, due the errant
message, comes out badly.  It's important, it seems to me, that we understand
this about R&J, because it enables us to luxuriate, the way only melodrama can,
in the intensity of their love, and the pity of its loss. A recent pale
imitation of the psychological effect of this kind of dramatic structure is
Erich Siegel's _Love Story_, in which the heroine is struck down by Leukemia,
which strikes her utterly without regard to reference to either her own or her
husband's actions.  It's just sad, and gives us the opportunity to luxuriate in
the memory of their love.
 

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