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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: November ::
Re: LEAR; MERRY WIVES; HAMLET; ROMEO AND JULIET
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0878.  Monday, 25, November 1996.

(1)     From:   Steven Urkowitz <
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        Date:   Sunday, 24 Nov 96 15:04:46 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 18 Nov 1996 to 20 Nov 1996

(2)     From:   Helen Ostovich <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Nov 1996 17:20:55 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0874 Q: Merry Wives

(3)     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Nov 1996 16:53:37 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Hamlet, Translated

(4)     From:   Tunis Romein <
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        Date:   Saturday, 23 Nov 1996 09:38:07 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   R&J Rock


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steven Urkowitz <
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Date:           Sunday, 24 Nov 96 15:04:46 EST
Subject:        Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 18 Nov 1996 to 20 Nov 1996

Kott, Quarto, and KING LEAR:

Though Peter Brook may have chosen to eliminate the dialog between two servants
tidying up the stage after the ghastly blinding of Gloster in KING LEAR, and
though he may have been influenced by Jan Kott, the first recorded instance of
this theatrical emergence of cruelty happens in the 1623 First Folio.

Playscripts get altered for many reasons.  Reducing or altering the impress of
minor roles seems to have been one frequent motive behind textual changes found
between Q and F LEAR.  I've argued this in SHAKESPEARE'S REVISION OF "KING
LEAR" (1980).  Any particular change may be argued about indifferently, but
when seen in the context of systematic variations over 3600 lines of text, the
patterns seem important and their impact cumulative.

Most important, however, is the sense that these theatrical documents and all
theatrical productions are not _sub specie aeternitatis_, The Bard's sacred
writs.  They got jumped, juggled, and even junked.  Back then and today.
Shakespeare may have (almost certainly did have) his hands on a lot of those
tranformations we see in the alternative texts.  If we are to understand how
playscripts worked for those early productions, we should look at the changes
that were made on them back then.  And we should look at the changes made just
yesterday and today.

By the way, Brook's production when it was playing in NYC had moments of great
power and moments of sludgy indulgence.  But after the blinding of glocester,
the house lights came up for the intermission while the actors onstage were
exiting, while Gloster stumbled off, in the same light as the audience.  Tough,
smart, hurting theater.  1623 folio version? by happenstance.

Sorry for the length of this note, but those liminal and dangerous edges where
Shakespearean texts oddly dictate variant experiences seem to be where this
particular textual scholar hangs out.

                                  Joy of the revisions,
                                  Steve Urkowitz 
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Helen Ostovich <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Nov 1996 17:20:55 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0874 Q: Merry Wives
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0874 Q: Merry Wives

I'd like to hear about the latin scene.  It's usually cut in performance
because hardly anyone gets latin jokes these days.  But it's easy to get the
obscene things that Mrs Quickly hears, and that's always good for a laugh.  I'd
be interested in hearing how modern productions who use the scene have handled
it.

Helen Ostovich
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada  L8S 4L9

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Nov 1996 16:53:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Hamlet, Translated

Since my server is having difficulty sending stuff across campus, I hope other
list members won't mind if I post my translation of "2B" with a brief comment
or two, for Dr. Mullin's student:

Last year at this time, I transposed and partially translated Hamlet into a
modern version.  It is my belief that Shakespeare does not need to be
"translated" per se, but that certain portions of his scripts could use some
clarification/translation nonetheless.  Certain items of Elizabethan street
slang, turns of phrase, etc., which get in the way of a modern (read:
Shakespeare-hating) audience's enjoyment can easily be converted to something
easier to understand and relate to.

In the case of "2B", I found the bulk of it perfectly clear; only changing
occasional words and phrases where I had found them misunderstood either by my
cast or in other performances of the Dane I had seen.  Here's my result:

        To be or not to be; that is the question;
        Whether it's nobler in the mind to suffer
        The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
        Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
        And, by opposing, end them?  To die; to sleep,
        No more; and by a sleep to say we end
        The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
        That flesh is heir to, it's a consummation
        Devoutly to be wished, to die, to sleep;
        To sleep, perchance to dream; Ah, there's the trouble;
        For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
        When we have shrugged off all our mortal struggles,
        Must give us pause; there's the respect
        That makes life such a long catastrophe;
        For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
        The oppressor's wrong, the proud, contemptuous taunts,
        The pains of despised love, the law's delay,
        The insolence of office and the spurns
        That patient merit takes from the unworthy,
        When he himself might make his peace
        With a bare blade?  And who would bear his load,
        To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
        But that the fear of something after death,
        The undiscovered land from whose cold shores
        No traveller returns, puzzles the will
        And makes us rather bear those ills we have
        Than fly to others we know nothing of?
        So conscience does make cowards [*]
        And so the native hue of resolution
        Is sicklied over with the pale cast of thought,
        And enterprises of great power and moment
        With this in mind their currents turn awry,
        And lose the name of action.

* - I much prefer the 2nd Quarto reading of this line, and personally believe
this speech to be a contemplation of action (RE:  the assassination of
Claudius, and hence the risks involved) rather than suicide.  After all, the
last word in this piece is "action", not "Death".

Those who would pillory me for this effort, keep in mind I didn't do it with
present company in mind; it was part of an entirely different project, designed
to re-create the Eastern European experience of Hamlet as a modern poetic hero.

Andy White
Urbana, Illinois

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tunis Romein <
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Date:           Saturday, 23 Nov 1996 09:38:07 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        R&J Rock

I sympathize with the teenage point of view concerning the new "Romeo and
Juliet," namely that the film is wonderful except for the Shakespearean
language. The language is distracting at best, confusing at worst.

Perhaps the film would have been more coherent if the speeches had been
translated into expressive modern English. After all, the screenwriters must
have cut the R&J text by 90%, so why not go one small step further and
eliminate it entirely?

If nothing else, this would have discouraged the next couple of generations of
high school teachers from using this film to "teach" R&J to millions of ninth
graders. If students are going to watch a movie rather than reading the play,
it might as well be Zeffirelli.

Tunis Romein
Charleston, SC  USA
 

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