1997

Re: *Twelfth Night*

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1266.  Wednesday, 31 December 1997.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 29 Dec 1997 17:07:57 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 8.1258  *Twelfth Night*

[2]     From:   Peter Hillyar-Russ <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Dec 1997 08:19:41 -0000
        Subj:   Re: "Twelfth Night"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 29 Dec 1997 17:07:57 +0000
Subject: *Twelfth Night* -Reply
Comment:        SHK 8.1258  *Twelfth Night* -Reply

Cora,

you wrote:

>I watched TN on Starz last night with Imogen Stubbs and Helena Carter.
>I'm interested in your reaction.  I though it slow and dark, which might
>appeal to one writer in this forum who criticized the Utah Shakespeare
>festival because it didn't emphasize the dark side of the comedy
>enough.  Actually I thought that the Utah production was a lark.

That may have been me.  I have not seen an American production that
wasn't a lark, sadly, with a single exception.  The others failed to
recognize the shallowness of the characters was a problem, and made
their cruelty as viewer friendly as possible.  The film was much closer
to the spirit of the play.

I criticized the USF production for much else as well: Incompetent
staging in parts, under casting most roles, and other things.  It is the
"safest" professional production I have seen.  One actor told me that he
and Howard Jensen, no relation, the director of Hamlet, had to fight to
make that production as risky as they did.  They actually had to justify
it to management.  By any other standard than Utah's, there was nothing
risky about that Hamlet.  It was a good, solid production.  Another
actor and a behind the scenes person in Cedar City told me that "safe"
is the eternal and fatal flaw of that festival.  I daresay they know
their audiences.

>Sir Andrew at the festival much better.  He was very tall and
>his costume made him look ridiculously so.

Didn't you find that festival costume a problem?  It was funnier than
Malvolio's when in his yellow stockings.  Surely that is wrong.  I have
no complaints about the actor's performance.  For me, he was one of the
few bright spots of an otherwise forgettable production.  To be fair,
the child with us, the daughter of a friend, enjoyed it very much.  She
enjoyed Hamlet more.

Best,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Hillyar-Russ <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 30 Dec 1997 08:19:41 -0000
Subject:        Re: "Twelfth Night"

Just to correct a small inaccuracy...

I think the version of "Twelfth Night", produced by Renaissance Films,
currently being discussed was directed by Trevor Nunn, rather than by
Sir Peter Hall.

Possibly the best casting in the piece was the county of Cornwall as the
scenery, but Renaissance are good at that - Blenheim Palace in their
Hamlet far outclassed any of the actors.

Peter Hillyar-Russ

Shylock

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1265.  Wednesday, 31 December 1997.

From:           Louis Swilley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 29 Dec 1997 10:01:08 -0600
Subject:        Shylock

My friend Thomas Johnson had these kinder remarks to make about the
referenced comments - I have suppressed the harsher ones.  I thought the
group might be interested in his reaction to the original notes posted
to this site, and so forward them here.

L.Swilley

-----Original Message-----
From:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. [SMTP:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Sent:   Sunday, December 28, 1997 6:40 PM
To:     This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject:        Shylock


...  But I do not intend to take time to play Ann Landers. I am hunting
elephants. It is their(Spencer and Gross) inane remarks about The
Merchant that prompts me to my business. Let me sight the evidence.
Gross: "Is it still worth bothering with the Merchant of Venice? Some
aspects of the plot are so primitive and unpleasant that if you consider
the play in the abstract you may well wonder. But read it, or see a
decent production, and your are soon put at rest. Its poetry, dramatic
energy and fascinating ambiguity combine to give it lasting value." Let
me summarize: First two sentences. If you have never read or seen the
Merchant you might find parts of the plot primitive or unpleasant.(He of
course is describing all Greek plays and at least all of the Bard's
Tragedies).Second two sentences: It is more than a good play. But that
involves a tedious technicality---you must actually read or see a
competent production.

How does one "find" the play anything if one does not read it or see it?

And how about Spencer? "Despite its enduring popularity at the box
office, The Merchant of Venice has always struck me as being one of the
least satisfactory of Shakespeare's plays.

"He set out, I think, to write a romantic comedy in which Shylock would
be merely a comic villain. But such was his human sympathy that the Jew
cracked the confines of the comedy."

This is the typical response to Merchant. Our contemporary emotions are
so moved by Shylock's treatment(the underdog) we ignore the text. In
fact the single most important fact or event in the play is the marriage
of Portia and Bassanio. Not what happens to Antonio and Shylock. It is
the marriage that prompts the loan from Shylock, that sends Portia to
the rescue and,among other events, the play ends with Portia exacting a
pledge from Antonio to obligate himself to her marriage with Bassanio.
And Portia teaches Bassanio that he had an absolute obligation to his
marriage vows that precluded the possibility of any other obligation. He
has no right to surrender the ring to any one not even in payment for
saving Antonio's life. It is the symbol of their union and takes
precedence over even his obligation to Antonio.

The world of Antonio is the world of the confident gambler. Both Shylock
and Antonio engage in activities inimical to social order. Shylock by
usury and Antonio with the risk to his own property and therefore the
risk to the disruption of property in general. It is a contemporary bias
that even though entrepreneurs (and bankers)periodically disrupt the
economic order(the current roiled markets in Southeast Asia)with great
harm all around, the good they do out weighs the bad. Shakespeare most
certainly had no reason to be as sanguine as we are.

To allow Shylock to dominate the foreground of our perception of the
play is to ignore-by actual count-most of the words of the play. An
unwise approach to reading Shakespeare. He could on occasion say what he
meant.

Q: Shakespeare's "Artifice"

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1263.  Monday, 29 December 1997.

From:           Peter Hillyar-Russ <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 27 Dec 1997 19:02:12 -0000
Subject:        Shakespeare's "Artifice"

In 1947 Eric Partridge published a book called "Shakespeare's Bawdy",
which contains an introductory essay and a substantial glossary of the
words used by Shakespeare with sexual or otherwise indelicate
implications. At the time the work, which appeared in an extremely
expensive limited edition, was regarded as almost a piece of
pornography; but it has since been reprinted several times. The
publishers also produce[d] the highly respected (and respectable)
"Arden" edition of the works, and I bought my copy from the RSC bookshop
in Stratford, so I presume that some measure of respectability now
attaches to Partridge's work.

There is one thing, however, which Partridge will not tell us. On page
25 of the Introductory Essay he writes:

"...We - inevitably, I think - form the opinion that Shakespeare was an
exceedingly knowledgeable amorist, a versatile connoisseur, and a highly
artistic, an ingeniously skillful, practitioner of love-making, who
could have taught Ovid rather more than that facile doctrinaire could
have taught him; he evidently knew of, and probably he practiced, an
artifice accessible to few - one that I cannot becomingly mention here,
though I felt it obligatory to touch on it, very briefly, in the
Glossary."

Partridge's sense of the "becoming" is in fact remarkably liberal. He
occasionally uses his own "artifice accessible to few" and resorts to
Latin to describe exactly what Shakespeare's English means, but in
general the "dirt" is given to the reader. What could he have discovered
in his studies which he can only write about so obliquely?

If anyone knows to what "artifice" Partidge is referring in this
passage, I really should be most obliged if they could let me know. If
it is really indelicate I am over 21, can read Latin, and have a private
email address ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

Peter Hillyar-Russ

Postmodern

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1264.  Monday, 29 December 1997.

From:           Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 28 Dec 1997 10:53:40 -0500
Subject: Xmas gift from an ex-wise-man
Comment:        SHK 8.1259  Xmas gift from an ex-wise-man


Dear Norman Holland:  Thanks for the lovely Christmas present. The
article was genuinely funny, very cleverly constructed, and I really
enjoyed it.  However, looking at it slightly more closely, weren't you
the teeniest bit bothered by its politics? Now as you and I know -taught
this to some degree by postmodernism itself- any such phrase immediately
trips a number of levers that the writer of the piece has carefully
pre-set. Flags with devices such as 'can't you take a joke?', and
'humourless prat' run swiftly up their poles, signs saying 'Puritan'
and  'politics freak' start to flash and bleep, class and culture
barriers slide silently into place, ambiguities close down, pitying
smiles light up. It's a well crafted operation, and a real pleasure to
see it at work. After all, the conclusions on offer are nothing less
than reassuring: we can now all start being individual 'personalities'
once again; there are genuine material historical certainties, from
which postmodernism only temporarily seduced us; we can stop trying to
read those philosophers with the funny names.  Eternal, natural verities
exist which never really change. In fact, fundamental change, given the
permanent features of universal human nature, isn't really possible, is
it? What a relief!

Nevertheless, can I suggest that your own introduction functions
slightly less well? Sadly, the undoubtedly well-merited
self-congratulatory tone, 'Hearing a beautiful performance Sunday on the
radio of _Messiah_ (Robert Shaw Chorale, Atlanta Symphony) has put me in
an Xmas spirit,' very nearly gives the game away. The eternal verities
creak onto the stage in a state of almost comic dilapidation here,
whilst the great, big comfy truths, (Music, Art, Christmas, not to say
snuggling down to listen to The Messiah on the radio) turn up in the
guise of full, industrial-strength norms, Norm. Slightly over the top, I
thought. Mind you, they make a lovely setting. God in his heaven, Norm
in his armchair. What more could anyone ask?

But can't you see, Norm, that to some degree the project of
Postmodernism was always to question those norms, to suggest that life
isn't as 'given' as they imply, that there are other and maybe better
ways of doing and running things, that what we have now isn't
necessarily the way it's 'sposed to be, that, in short, CHANGE is
possible? I suppose you can't.  That's why, at precisely the moment when
this extremely funny piece starts to unravel (they all do, Norm) and to
become a little worrying, you seem to have no distancing devices to turn
to that might just enable you to recognise that the sort of thinking
lurking at the back of spoof titles like "The End of Manichean, Bipolar
Geopolitics Turned My Boyfriend Into an Insatiable Sex Freak (and I Love
It!)." is really a bit sinister.

Yes, I can see the 'No Sense of Humour' sign flashing away, as well as
the 'Why do you want to turn everything into Politics' one next to it.
It's Christmas after all and the real Truth doesn't change, does it?
Especially now that sanity has returned and the New York Times is once
more the measure of all things.  Its probably time for another burst of
the Messiah, Norm. Perhaps a bit louder this time? Ho, ho, ho.

T. Hawkes

Re: *Twelfth Night*; McKellan Tape

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1262.  Monday, 29 December 1997.

[1]     From:   Andrew Walker White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 26 Dec 1997 10:51:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1258  *Twelfth Night*

[2]     From:   Virginia Byrne <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 27 Dec 1997 01:02:12 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1255  Re: Ian McKellan Tape


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 26 Dec 1997 10:51:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.1258  *Twelfth Night*
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1258  *Twelfth Night*

As for the film Twelfth Night, the Washington Shakespeare Company (not
to be confused with the Shakespeare Theatre, where presides Michael
Kahn) had a forum on Shakespeare on Film and there was some criticism of
the darkness of Sir Peter Hall's treatment.  Sir Toby was intended to be
funny, and adding the menacing (albeit realistic) undertones of a very
unfunny punch-drunk drained the laughter out of much of his antics.  The
tone he set made it very difficult for Sir Andrew (love Richard Grant,
by the way) to be regarded as more than a pathetic tool.

The saving grace, it seemed to me, was the recognition scene.  Staging,
let alone writing scenes of recognition is a high art, going back to the
Greeks who first perfected them, and I thought this one was a miracle to
watch.  In order for that scene to function as more than just a wrap-up
to the comic action, there has to be a darker atmosphere surrounding the
play, and Sir Peter managed to pull that last scene off amazingly well.

It brought tears to my eyes, I'll say that much, and I'm not a soft
touch.

Cheers,
Andy White
Arlington, VA

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Virginia Byrne <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 27 Dec 1997 01:02:12 EST
Subject: 8.1255  Re: Ian McKellan Tape
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1255  Re: Ian McKellan Tape

Thank you, Peggy O'Brien and Happy New Year. I await the address!!!!

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Search

Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.