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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: February ::
Re: Casting; Protia/Bassanio; Steretyping
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0137. Saturady, 25 February 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Marty Jukovsky <
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        Date:   Saturday, 25 Feb 95
        Subj:   Fwd: Re: Non-traditional casting
 
(2)     From:   Dan How <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Feb 1995 13:18:25 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0132  Qs: Portia/Bassanio
 
(3)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 Feb 95 16:45:22 EST
        Subj:   [Stereotypes]
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marty Jukovsky <
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Date:           Saturday, 25 Feb 95 01:07:42 -0800
Subject:        Fwd: Re: Non-traditional casting
 
I thought the readers of the SHAKSPER list might find this of interest.  It's
from the musicals list.
 
Martin Jukovsky
Cambridge, Mass.

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**************************************************
 
Excerpts from internet.musicals: 23-Feb-95 Re: Non-traditional casting
by Brian M. Vollmer@faraday
> My problem with an all-female 1776 is that, although
> it's fiction, it's based on male characters familiar to all of
> us, and it's set in a time when women largely would never be
> placed in positions of authority like that.  That's the realism
> thing.  Just as you wouldn't have a female Henry V.
 
Unless your production wished to explore something other than the fact that the
real Henry was a man. I think that trying to make a historical play "real" is
quite a futile effort because then all you're doing is reproducing what can be
found in history books, and that's pretty dry stuff. Even plays which are based
on real people and events take artistic liberties in interpreting these events
and accounts. So, in fact, nothing is truly "real". If I wished to explore how
an underdog rises to the top and successfully achieves victory, then casting a
female Henry might achieve an effect or interpretation quite unseen before. It
would be very interesting. I know of a production of "The Merchant of Venice"
which was set in Wall Street and Shylock was played by a woman. It really
brought the play into an '80s context of the "glass celing" which many women in
high-ranking positions face. Suddenly, Shylock's dilemma in a "Christian world"
was equated to that of a woman trying to gain a place in a "man's world". What
an exciting production!
 
Diong Chae Lian
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan How <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Feb 1995 13:18:25 -0800
Subject: 6.0132  Qs: Portia/Bassanio
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0132  Qs: Portia/Bassanio
 
This is in response to Helen Robinson's question, 23 feb 95.
 
I'm not sure what you mean by "...Bassanio but he seems to be hedging." You
said that you thought he was reluctant to give rein to his feelings, but the
opposite is true.  Portia, at the beginning of the scene, does not want
Bassanio to choose NOW.  Her argument is basically, "what's the rush? Why don't
we just hang out together and forget about the caskets for a while?"  If you
look at the disjointed structure of this opening monologue, you can see it's
all pretty much desperate stalling, to keep Bassanio from choosing and perhaps
getting killed.  Bassanio regards being in love with Portia as torture, ln 24:
"...Let me choose, / For as I am, I live upon the rack."  The rack is an
instrument of torture.  The torture lies in the prophecy that only Portia's
true love will open the correct casket. Bassanio's uncertainty lies in the fact
that the only way to know if he was meant for Portia is to open the correct
casket.
 
"Promise me life..." is in response to the first rack/torture reference.
Immediately preceeding "Promise me life..." is ln 32  Portia: "Ay, but I fear
you speak upon the rack, / Where men enforced do speak any thing." Which
basically means, any man would say the same thing under similar (harsh)
circumstances. Bassanio responds, "Promise me life, and I'll confess the
truth".  The rack was commonly used to get someone to confess to a crime, and
Bassanio's statement basically means, "If you help free me from this torture
(of not knowing whether I am the right man for you), I will demonstrate my love
to you."  Portia plays along, saying, "Well then, confess and live."  She is
offering Bassanio his "life" both literally and figuratively, for his
"confession" of his love.  Bassanio responds with, "...O happy torment, when my
torturer / Doth teach me answers for deliverance!"  Which could be interpreted
as, "How ironic, that Portia, for whom I endure the torture of not knowing
whether or not I am her true love, is trying to help me escape the torture she
herself has caused"
 
You'll notice that the song and her subsequent monologue, can be a dead
giveaway, so she is indeed "teaching him answers for deliverance".
 
I hope this doesn't make you even MORE confused than before!
 
-dan
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 24 Feb 95 16:45:22 EST
Subject:        [Stereotypes]
 
Since I commented on the place of stereotypes in Shakespeare's construction I
have read John Gillies, <Shakespeare and the Geography of Difference>.  Gillies
uses the semiotics of early modern maps to explore several varieties of ethnic
stereotypes, exotic (Aaron, Othello, Cleopatra, Caliban) but also European; I
think this a brilliant book in many ways, but the treatment of <Merchant>, and
the exposure of the ways in which the play deconstructs capitalism's
self)destructive need to define itself in its difference from the aliens it
exploits, seem to me not only informative but profoundly true.
 
Geographically,
Dave Evett
 

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