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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: April ::
Re: Subversion; Influence on Directors
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0314.  Wednesday, 24 April 1996.

(1)     From:   Joseph M Green <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Apr 1996 14:33:31 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0307  Re: Subverting

(2)     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Apr 1996 13:37:48 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Visual Interpretation


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph M Green <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Apr 1996 14:33:31 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 7.0307  Re: Subverting
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0307  Re: Subverting

Thanks to Chris Stroffolino for his clarifications.  I agree that Shakespeare
makes fun of bad tragedy or even of the genre but I wouldn't conclude that any
sort of "subversion" is going on (in the strong sense that I deduce) or that
Shakespeare is saying that we are all actors who adopt "roles" and that this
should imply a subversion of identity because identity is presented as a
construct -- another representation.  I'm not sure that, in fact, Chris implies
that all this is so -- and I apologize for any misunderstanding.

But it seems to me that "subversion" is the usual word to describe Shakespeare
doing what we might expect him to do given who we are and when we are writing.
The mechanicals' play is ridiculous just because it is mechanical.  Romeo and
Juliet are pathetic because they, at times, behave mechanically (or are the
victims of Fate) and Friar Lawrence doesn't help by behaving as if he were
someone writing a bad play and if Romeo had only known in time that Juliet was
still alive... both plays present characters who act conventionally and
mechanically and there are differences, of course, and in each play there is
the implication that acting otherwise is possible for persons outside the play.
 What seems to be emphasized is this possibility: if tragedy isn't possible,
then there is no such thing as a bad tragedy and if acting outside convention
isn't possible, then there are no characters who can be seen as limited because
they act conventionally. Whatever is subverted is subverted because there is
something essentially better or truer or more real that is gestured towards. If
this is what Chris means by Shakespeare "building" something, then I agree with
him. But if the ultimate insight is taken to be the usual: that nothing exists
aside from representation taken in the usual sense, then I can't agree.

I also wonder whether tragedy can subvert comedy if comedy can subvert tragedy
and it makes sense to me to think of comedy and tragedy as two genres creating
different expectations and presenting different views of a reality that is not
exhausted by either -- just as both modes are present or implied in a lot of
Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies.  I don't know which has the last word or
whether asking that question helps.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Apr 1996 13:37:48 +1000 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Visual Interpretation

In reply to Scott Crozier's interesting query about influence on directors by
critical approaches, Mnouchkine's _ A Midsummer Night's Dream_ (first performed
in February 1968, prior to the famous Brook production) was also heavily and
explicitly influenced by Kott. There are many other examples, but one clear one
is Jonathan Miller's more-or-less post-colonialist _Tempest_.

I would like to suggest that many of the changing moods/fashions/emphases in
theatre production are linked with developments in critical theory, philosophy
etc. Artaud has had an enduring effect on theatre production (including
Shakespeare) and many of the more unexpected features of many recent
productions can be read in terms of various strands of post-structuralism.
Feminist writing and thinking has had an impact on productions I have seen of
_The Taming of the Shrew_, _Othello_, and many other plays. These are perhaps
vaguer and looser examples than Scott is after, but I can think of many
Australian productions (not usually mainstream) which have been influenced by
specific critics and critical approaches, though few SHAKSPEReans will have
seen them.

Adrian Kiernmander
Department of Theatre Studies
University of New England
 

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