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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: July ::
Re: Othello, A & C, Branagh
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0573.  Saturday, 22 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 10:31:15 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.
 
(2)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 13:24:21 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0568  Re: Ant. & Cleo.
 
(3)     From:   Jeff Martinek <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 12:48:24 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.; Branagh
 
(4)     From:   Ron Macdonald <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 1995 15:09:36 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Onstage Shills
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 10:31:15 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.
 
Jan Stirm's comments on race and casting in *Othello* and *A&C* are
interesting, and I can see a reasonable rationale.  But I can't concur.  It
seems to me that a white Othello, for example, might actually serve to
emphasize the racial element of the play: he is clearly the victim of prejudice
from Iago and others, but he would seem for all the world just like everyone
else.  Isn't that the true essence of prejudice, that apparently insignificant
differences between people are magnified?  I'm not advocating this choice, but
I'd buy a ticket to see what happened in the production.
 
Nor can I see too many audiences being "offended" by virtually any casting
choice (or maybe it's that I'm difficult to offend in such ways, and I am
projecting my own views as those of audiences at large).  I would object to
blackface or its equivalent, but I'd be happy to see Emma Thompson play
Cleopatra with or without a wig.  Ah, well...
 
Rick Jones

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 13:24:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0568  Re: Ant. & Cleo.
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0568  Re: Ant. & Cleo.
 
Jan Stirm and Brian Corrigan;
 
Sorry about the mistake in Cleopatra's age. My math skills, never very
good, have got me in hot water again. On second thought you are all
right about her age. As for her color, or rather, Shakespeare's
perception of her color, all the Elizabethans referred to brunettes as
"black". They meant no more by that than dark brown hair. Shakespeare
has Helena in MSND call Hermia "tawny". Rosaline in LLL has "pitchball
eyes", and then there's the dark lady. He's not the only one who calls
brunettes "black". They all did. Not that I hold any brief against
casting a black actress in the role, I just don't think it's all that
p.c.. My original point was a desire to see Branagh and Thompson give us
a roaring good version of A and C.
 
Stephanie Hughes
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jeff Martinek <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 12:48:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.; Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0568 Re: Ant. & Cleo.; Branagh
 
My final comment on the Branagh imbroglio:
 
It's been interesting and sometimes edifying to read the criticisms of Mr.
Branagh's work.  He's been picked apart, second-guessed, disabused of notions
he never knew he held, and accused of crimes ranging from dumming down the bard
for the mall megaplex crowd to outright treason against his
culturally-tyrannized homeland.  This is all very well and certainly in the
spirit of free debate that such forums encourage.  What struck me, however, and
continues to strike me, is Mr. Morgan-Russell's original proposal that somehow
all these crimes of wrong-thinking interpretation ought to be enough to have
Mr. Branagh banned from messing with the bard.  I realize that he has since
claimed that such a suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, or something like that, but
the net WAS cast and what an interesting load of fish it brought in!
 
What this exchange has taught me, I pretty much already knew: that snobbism,
haughty superiority and ressentiment are some of the prime occupational hazards
of academia.  How different is Matthew Arnold's deploring the newspapers and
their "Wragg is in custody" (1864) from the currents condescentions of ivory
tower marxists who code their hypocritical platitudes of noblesse oblige in
fashionable Parisian jargon:  they too know very well that what the people
THINK they want is merely a result of mis-education, a failure to remove--as
the keepers of critical theory have--the distorting glasses of ideology.  What
leaps and summersaults they must perform to stave off the unthinkable:  that
the very education in critical reading, structuralist bricolage,
deconstruction, Foucauldian genealogy, etc. etc. etc. that has allowed them to
claim the right re-educate us all is about as far away from the old notions of
"taste" and "connoisseurship" as is Constantinople from Istanbul.  It would be,
if not enlightening, at least refreshing, to see such flame-keepers step forth,
finally, and admit that they speak for an enlightened, cultivated minority who
lost hope a long time ago of sharing what they treasure with those who watch
"Hee-Haw" and consider Walmart a right friendly neighbor.  Admit also that,
like the Nietzschean--read aristocratic--hero of "The Fountainhead", they'd
rather see Shakepeare's works hunted down and burned than leave them in the
hands of preening movie stars and colonialist running-dog lackeys.  Amen
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Macdonald <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 1995 15:09:36 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Onstage Shills
 
David Jackson's remarks about Branagh's MAAN and what Jackson justly calls "a
very tired and overused method of injecting humor," that is, "walking
laughtracks," the device of having characters laugh or roll their eyes at quips
that are otherwise incomprehensible, reminds me of a skit in the original
"Beyond the Fringe."  This was thirty years ago and more, but I remember a
hilarious parody of a history play consisting of a scene of aristocratic
exchange in blank verse, full of empty sonorities and lists of people and
places (places sounding pretty much like people and vice versa), followed by a
scene of lowlife, two artisanal types, a Master Snot and a Master Puke, as I
recall, engaged in energetic banter.  Remarks on the order of, "Well, Master
Snot, you'll be to Finsbury Fair before you wear out shoe leather, I'll wager,"
produced unrestrained merriment onstage and puzzled silence off, or, rather,
laughter of a very different order.  Somewhere, I believe, there's an LP
recording of that performance, and I may just find it one day.
 
                                     --Ron Macdonald
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