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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Shrew; Branagh's HAMLET; Shakespeare's
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0206.  Wednesday, 12 February 1997.

(1)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Feb 1997 12:12:05 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 8.0186  Q: Shrew

(2)     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Feb 1997 18:27:13 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0188 Re: Branagh's HAMLET

(3)     From:   Paul Hawkins <
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        Date:   Thursday, 13 Feb 1997 09:02:58 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Starving Biafrans and Shakespeare's Transcendence


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Feb 1997 12:12:05 -0500
Subject: Q: Shrew
Comment:        SHK 8.0186  Q: Shrew

Dear JoAnna Koskinen: Your suggestion that Kat (as you deftly term her) in
Taming of the Shrew is not Baptista's child strikes me as fascinating. Have you
ever considered that she might be one of Lady Macbeth's misplaced offspring? It
would explain a number of that poor creature's syncopated remarks (e.g.1,7,44).

T. Hawkes

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Feb 1997 18:27:13 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.0188 Re: Branagh's HAMLET
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0188 Re: Branagh's HAMLET

Well, I "endured" Branagh's *Hamlet*.  The term is not meant as an entirely
negative criticism, but as an objective statement.  After "enduring" a near
nasty Sunday matinee throng in the lobby of Chicago's Fine Arts theater, we
were seated by 2 pm (the announced starting time), and the film began at 2:25.
Popcorn, anyone?  We exited the theater at 6:55.  Whew!

Though much of it was good, and much of it moving, after the all too typically
silly opener  (For some reason, the opening scene of *Hamlet* seems mroe
troublesome than some of the major scenes.),  I ultimately felt somewhat like I
was viewing the *Guernica* from four feet away, with every figure in it
foregrounded.  Each scene was paced in the same deliberate fashion.  Good
scenes, so many of them, but not equally central.  Claudius planning Hamlet's
end with Laertes was nicely done, for a play in which that scene forms the
central issue.

And then the end,  someone suggested Jan Kott; I also suggest H.D.F. Kitto's
essay about the poison working itself out in widespread destruction in Denmark.
 Fine, but we didn't need such emphasis on the approaching menace, of those
well-dressed "lawless [or is it "landless"] resolutes."  Nor did we need the
fine choreography of their window entrances.  (Hmmm, what would be the opposite
of "defenestration"? "Infenestration?")

And yet, I enjoyed much of it.  I was moved.  Perhaps I'm so close to these
plays that I am myself moved, not moved by the object before me. I am moved
always by Claudius' situation when Gertrude drinks, and I was here.  I am moved
by Hamlet's speech to Horatio in act V, expressing his justified readiness to
kill Claudius ("Why what a king is this," marvels Horatio.), though I felt that
Branagh underplayed that speech.  (Surprise) And I appreciated what I regarded
as Branagh's effort to keep the soliloquies up front.

Well, enough this will begin to take on the characteristic length of the film
if I continue.

John M. Boni

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
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Date:           Thursday, 13 Feb 1997 09:02:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Starving Biafrans and Shakespeare's Transcendence

I may be misreading Gabriel Egan in what follows; if so, I apologize.

I wouldn't ask a starving Biafran whether the aesthetic power of Leontes's line
is inherent in the line or resides in the dramatic context, and whether the
aesthetic power is something she can experience, but then I wouldn't ask a
starving *anyone* such a question.  That the experience of the aesthetic may
not be a priority in all circumstances, and that to speak of it at all in some
circumstances may be immoral, I am prepared to agree.

But I would genuinely be interested in knowing if any Biafrans on the list who
are not now starving, or any individuals of any other world cultures feel that
their experience of the aesthetic power of Leontes's line is blocked because of
their cultural background.  If so, I imagine there are sensitive people on the
list who would be capable of opening up that experience to them.

It's only another kind of cultural imperialism which claims--for whatever
worthy political reasons--that Shakespeare is mine alone or mine in a
privileged way because of my background and education.  I would be appalled if
someone told me that I could never experience the aesthetic or the significance
of Amazonian body painting--assuming that the painting is at least in part
aesthetically motivated--even though there were someone who might be able to
initiate me into an understanding and appreciation of the art.

And I don't think the putative need of *some* instruction prior to an
experience of Shakespeare or body painting is a serious objection to the
transcendence or transcultural appeal of either art.  Not being an absolutist
in these matters, I would simply suggest that things become *less* transcendent
or transcultural (and nothing can ever be so completely) as *more*
instruction/initiation is required.  It is the most horrid fallacy in at least
my corner of the English-speaking world that people think they need to be
"taught" to enjoy Shakespeare--they only need to see and hear it well performed
in a language that they understand--when he seems to be the most transcendent
writer in our culture.

Paul Hawkins
 

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