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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: December ::
Re: *R3*: Film and Politics
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0938.  Sunday, 3 December 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Harry Teplitz <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 95 13:49:00 PST
        Subj:   [*R3*]
 
(2)     From:   Thomas Bishop <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 17:36:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0935  Re: Ian McKellen and Richard III
 
(3)     From:   Laura Blanchard <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 23:46:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0935 Re: Ian McKellen and Richard III
 
(4)     From:   Piers Lewis <
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        Date:   Sunday, 03 Dec 1995 09:12:16 -0600
        Subj:   R3
 
(5)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Saturday, 2 Dec 1995 12:03:55 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Politics
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Teplitz <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 95 13:49:00 PST
Subject:        [*R3*]
 
This is my first posting to this list, so please be patient...
 
I was lucky enough to see an advance screening of the Richard III film this
week (one of the perks of living in LA).  While there are good points to be
made against the interpretation itself, I was extremely impressed with the
film, and highly recommend it.
 
I, too, saw the stage version on tour (at UCLA, in a very large theater), and
found it a little disappointing.  The focus on Richard overwhelemed the other
characters, and many of his quirks were difficult to see from the balcony. Both
these problems are solved immediately by the transition to film, allowing the
production to say what it really wants to.
 
The film is remarkably bold in its interpretion; even more so than the play.
Much of the dialogue is rearranged, given to other characters, and outright
invented.  There are some changes I don't agree with, and there are gratuitous
battle scenes, perhaps for market value. I don't want to cover too many details
here so as not to spoil it, but I can safely say that there will be a lot of
objections of the sort that were recently discussed in speculation about
changing Othello.
 
Despite this controvery, the film is brilliant.  Performances are strong by
most of the principals, the imagery is striking, and the music is wonderful.  I
don't know if popular opinion (on this list, anyway) will agree, but I
preferred this version to the Olivier film.  In the traditon of Peter Brook's
King Lear, this film proves that it's worth taking risks with Shakepeare when
bringing it to film.
 
        -- Harry Teplitz
        UCLA Shakespeare Performance Group
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Bishop <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 17:36:00 -0500
Subject: 6.0935  Re: Ian McKellen and Richard III
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0935  Re: Ian McKellen and Richard III
 
Dave Evett's question about ideology motivating coups d'etat in the plays is an
interesting one.  I wonder if, even in the most immediate case, Richard III,
there isnt a partial exception:  Richmond, it seems to me, _is_ intervening for
what he thinks is "the good of the country" and he goes on at some length after
Richard's death, as well as before it, to describe at least in negative terms
what that entails. Among other things, it entails a language of "friends" and,
especially, of the "body of the country" hence a sacramental and corporate
image of England as a national unity, versus Richard's own stirring but much
more aristocrat-based appeal to martial heroism and violence. Likewise in the
Tartan tragedy, even if Malcolm doesnt, Macduff _does_ lament for "Scotland."
And Gaunt (perhaps even York) certainly has something like a political vision
in mind when he warns Richard not to "lease out" the country. It may be
significant that in these latter cases, it is those not directly struggling for
power that have the political vision of national transformation. But then Lech
Walesa is no longer the President of Poland either.
 
Perhaps Rebecca Buchnell has some thoughts here in  _Tragedies of Tyrants_ --
the relevant discourse would presumably be that of tyranny and its
alternatives.
 
On Machiavelli, I suspect the relevant text is not "The Prince" but "The
Discourses" where he discusses at length the processes that generate
constitutional change in the Roman Republic.  The latter is, at least for my
money, his really innovative and important work as historian and political
theorist.
 
Cheers,
Tom
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Laura Blanchard <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 23:46:00 -0500
Subject: 6.0935 Re: Ian McKellen and Richard III
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0935 Re: Ian McKellen and Richard III
 
In a message dated 95-12-01 16:47:02 EST, David Evett writes:
 
> Can SHAKSPER subscribers recommend histories of political thought that address
>the problem?  Have any of you out there thought about it, maybe even written
>about it, and about the ways it might touch on our reading, production, etc.?
 
There's a new collection of essays just out from St. Martin's Press, _The Wars
of the Roses_, edited by A.J. Pollard, which tackles this very problem,
attempting to get at the balance between ambition and principle in the major
players of the Wars of the Roses.
 
As Pollard asks in his introductory essay, "Were the motives of the
participants no more elevated than the pursuit of base self-interest, or were
important matters of principle at stake? And were the wars the reflection of a
deeper crisis out of which the English monarchy emerged stronger and more
autocratic? These are some of the questions explored in the chapters which
follow."  Taken together with the essays in Rosemary Horrox's _Fifteenth
Century Attitudes_, just out from Cambridge University Press this spring or
last fall, the essays in _The Wars of the Roses_ paint a much more complex
picture of the mental, emotional, and moral landscape of the period than we've
witnessed previously.
 
This is a fascinating thread. I look forward to seeing where it goes.
 
Regards,
Laura Blanchard
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Piers Lewis <
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Date:           Sunday, 03 Dec 1995 09:12:16 -0600
Subject:        R3
 
Maybe it's just my natural depravity.  I find Richard amusing--he's a little
like Edmund in that respect.  His wit and energy is particularly obvious
because everyone else is tedious.  He makes the play.  Without him it's
nothing.  He's demonic not thuggish.  That's another reason not to turn him
into a fascist or nazi prototype.
 
Piers Lewis
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Saturday, 2 Dec 1995 12:03:55 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Politics
 
Dear David Evett:
 
I think you're selling Machiavelli short.  There are many references to the
welfare of the citizenry in *The Prince.*  *The Prince* also concludes with a
utopian vision of a united Italy, and what that would mean to the virtue of
Italians.  *The Discourses,* conversely, are concerned from beginning to end
with the value of different kinds of government and governors -- the greatest
goal for Machiavelli, as for WS's Brutus, being virtue itself.  Brutus, I
believe, doesn't want to *change* Rome, but to "reduce" it to its pre-Caesar
condition of republican virtue; as a republican -- Plutarchian, Tacitean, or
Machiavellian --  he must be committed to returning power to the Senate, not to
wresting power for himself.
 
The literature of political theory on the period is for me somewhat
disappointing, probably because the British are still fighting about it as a
contemporary issue (let's hear it for a written constitution already, and a
bill of rights!), and as a result don't quite achieve the clarity my
American-mind would prefer, but indispensable reading has to include Quentin
Skinner, *Foundations of Modern Political Thought,* P.G.A. Pocock, *The
Machiavellian Moment,* Felix Raab, *The English Face of Machiavelli,* and
Johann Sommerville, *Politics and Ideology in England 1603-1640.*  There are
some interesting remarks on *Coriolanus* in Mark Kishlansky, *Parliamentary
Selection,* where Kishlansky argues that Coriolanus's problem is *not* personal
at all, but rather an expression of the dilemma of public voting in Tudor and
Stuart England.  Has anyone else out there responded to what Kishlansky says?
 
Obviously, we cannot expect Shakespearean politicians to speak the language of
benefits in quite the sense that a 20th century politician would be expected to
speak it.  But that doesn't mean that benefits are irrelevant, only that they
are differently conceived, and frequently subordinated to questions of *right.*
 I think you're right, David, to call attention to the moralization of
political language in people like Elyot.  I think we need to be suspicious of
that moralization -- obviously it is hiding something -- but we also need to
respect the idea that political values and benefits are ultimately moral in
character, and cannot simply be advertised as if they were mere commodities.
 
Robert Appelbaum
 

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