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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Lr.; AYL; MND
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0281.  Thursday, 27 February 1997.

[1]     From:   Sean K. Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Feb 1997 09:29:30 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0277  Dover Cliffs

[2]     From:   Jung Jimmy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Feb 1997 14:43 -0500
        Subj:   Rosalind & Celia

[3]     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 1997 21:21:20 +1100 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: MND


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean K. Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Feb 1997 09:29:30 -0800
Subject: 8.0277  Dover Cliffs
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0277  Dover Cliffs

Derek writes:

> Myself, I'm not too hopeful about any of the participants' "faith in the
> heavens" at the end of the play. "All's cheerless, dark and deadly."

I'd be a little more upbeat, perhaps, in remembering that judgement and
sin are, theologically, demonstrations of the absolute difference
between God and man, and that such a distinction is the necessary
underpinning to redemption. The structure of Romans points in this
direction, first exploring the sins of both Gentiles and Jews, before
expanding on grace.  Similarly, the Edwardian homilies start with talks
about our sinfulness, before moving on to our being forgiven.

Cheers,
Sean

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jung Jimmy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Feb 1997 14:43 -0500
Subject:        Rosalind & Celia

First I was curious, now I'm just confused.  Peter D. Holland, is
correct in noting that it is not R&C who suggest the homoeroticism, but
the other characters talking about them.  In fact, once the production
had opened the topic, there was at least one occasion where I was
surprised they did not allow the cousins to follow through on the
suggestion.  Act 1, scene 3:

CELIA
     No, hath not? Rosalind lacks then the love
     Which teacheth thee that thou and I am one:
     Shall we be sunder'd? shall we part, sweet girl?

Having pondered the various responses, I'm beginning to think that if
your gonna use the homoerotic angle, it might be more interesting to see
the homoerotic stuff emphasized between the cousins, then you get a
sense of loss and transition as love changes.

However, I still think it is very odd that the daughter of a banished
duke should remain in the court, or that the daughter and heir of a
sitting duke should leave the court and follow her cousin into
banishment.  I believe the intimacy between C&R is described repeatedly
to justify both these circumstances and here, in the 1990's, it does
have the fortunate benefit of hinting at the gender and sexual confusion
in the forest.  (Which may answer William Schmidt's question about where
the homoerotic suggestion disappears to in the second act.  It's played
out between Orlando and Galymede, Rosalind and Phebe)

As has been suggested, we are talking about a particular production, a
production that not everyone has seen; so I should also point out that
Le Beau gives Orlando a serious kiss, just after warning him about the
Duke's temper.  This physical homoeroticism seemed less awkward than the
vague hints of homoeroticism stemming from the lines we've been
discussing.  In part, I took Le Beau as the stereotypical fop (e.g.,
Osric).  He is also part of a very decadent court, cocaine, torture,
bimbos, even to some degree the gladiatorial nature of the wrestling.
Orlando is surprised by the kiss and nicely set up for Ganymede's odd
proposal to be his Rosalind.

I'm not familiar with Eve Sedgwick's useful distinction between
homosocial and homosexual (or for that matter the distinction between
homosocial, heterosocial and social); but I do think it makes a
difference if Ros and Celia had a homosexual or homosocial bond.
Doesn't it change the context of Ros's becoming a man to woo Orlando if
she is homosexual?  (perhaps I'm reading too far beyond the text.  I'm
sure Hawkes will be along shortly to ask if and of Lady Macbeth's
children were gay?)

jimmy

PS:  My real surprise, in this production, is still the bloody nature of
Duke Frederick's court, especially as portrayed while he is torturing a
few folks.  Has anyone seen him that mean before?

PPS:  Peter Holland, did you really come from <cam.ac.uk> to see a show
in DC?  High praise indeed.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 1997 21:21:20 +1100 (EST)
Subject:        Re: MND

I can't see why Dale Lyles is worried by the possible disjunction
between a C20 visual style-the mean streets-for sets, costumes etc, and
Shakespeare's language. I would have thought that all of us would be
thoroughly used to this convention (even though some people might not
like it). Surely we've all seen plays by Shakespeare and his
contemporaries performed in periods dating from several centuries BCE to
some time in a science fiction future, not excluding the present day.
One example that springs to my mind is Michael Bogdanov's English
Shakespeare Company cycle of the history plays, especially _Henry V_
with the English army setting off to the Faulklands War. I think it's
ceased even occurring to me as a problem when I see a play in such a
setting.

I'm always curious to know, incidentally, what the opponents of updating
and other directorial "interventions" in these plays feel about seeing
productions of, say, _Julius Caesar_ set in the Roman period, and having
the characters wearing togas while still speaking Elizabethan English. I
assume the defenders of "authentic" Shakespeare are only happy seeing
the plays performed in the reconstructed Globe in London in Elizabethan
costume, and ideally with an audience of Renaissance English persons
with all their various attitudes, beliefs, local knowledges, etc.
intact. Or perhaps they prefer the plays in the safety of their studies.
Would Mark Mann care to comment on this?

As for swapping Oberon and Titania, it's been done. (Hasn't everything?)
Some students at the University of Queensland a few years back did a
(substantially rewritten and very clever) disco version called
_Midsummer Night Fever_, set in a nightclub, which is another possible
C20 inflexion of the woods. The Oberon and Titania figures were the
proprietors of the nightclub, and it was the male figure who was
bewitched in the way Titania is in _MND_.

And I've heard of a fairly recent production in California (Santa Cruz?
I can't remember but someone on SHAKSPER is bound to know) where the
actors playing Theseus and Hippolyta doubled, as they often do, the
roles of Oberon and Titania, but chiasmatically, so that the male actor
playing Theseus then played Titania, and the female actor playing
Hippolyta played Oberon. Maybe someone who saw it can give more details
about how it worked.

But I would challenge the idea that Dale's suggested transposition of
the roles, where Oberon falls in love with Bottom, would work as comedy
*"in the same way"*. It would be a quite different play working in quite
different ways, but possibly still in the service of patriarchal
dominance, changing everything and nothing. Audiences might well find it
funny, but patriarchal comedy has never hesitated to ridicule any man
(especially a king of the fairies) who allows himself to be topped (Mark
Mann again!) by women. Isn't this what the charivari was largely about?
Patriarchal comedy doesn't require Titania to be the victim; it's far
more subtle and complex in its workings to be limited to such a simple
response.

I'm also disturbed by the dismissal (if that's what it was) of the issue
of the maltreatment of women as merely part of a comic aesthetic of
cruelty.  That's why I drew attention to Louis Montrose's very
sophisticated argument in the first place, even though I've simplified
it horribly for the purposes of this discussion. Mea culpa. Montrose's
point, I think, is that this is not merely comic cruelty but a highly
politicised reaction provoked by male anxiety about female power.

Adrian Kiernander
 

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