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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: October ::
Re: Isabella; Ham.; Intrepretation; Swords; Thanks
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1009  Monday, 19 October 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Oct 1998 15:28:03 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Isabella and Sex

[2]     From:   Justin Bacon <
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        Date:   Tuesdayy, 13 Oct 1998 00:55:40 -0500
        Subj:   Texts of Hamlet

[3]     From:   Justin Bacon <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Oct 1998 00:57:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0950  Re: Editorial/Interpretational Practices

[4]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Saturday, 17 Oct 1998 12:20:59 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0990  Shakespeare Without Swords

[5]     From:   Ilona Goldmane <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Oct 1998 20:01:36 +0200 (WET)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0984 Re: Shakespeare FilmVersions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Oct 1998 15:28:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Isabella and Sex

Jason Mical writes that "Isabella seems to subscribe to the rigorous
lifestyle she is in because she is possibly *afraid* of sex." It may be
so, and there is some evidence in the play that supports Jason's view.
For example, we learn early on that Isabella , according to her brother,
has "a prone and speechless dialect,/Such as move me" 1.2.183-84). It's
hard to know exactly what Claudio means here, but he *may* mean that she
is just naturally sexy. If so, then, as Jason argues, she goes to the
convent to escape her own sexuality. It's also worth noting that in her
second interview with Angelo, Isabella says,

                . . . were I under the terms of death,
                Th' impression of keen whips I'ld wear as rubies,
                And strip myself to death, as to a bed
                That longing have been sick for, ere I'ld yield
                My body up to shame. (2.4. 100-104)

This is a very sensual way of upholding chastity, I'd say. Later, she
eagerly accepts the bed trick, perhaps because it is made "lawful"
coming from a friar. One might argue that Isabella "attracts" the Duke
just as she attracts Angelo, and Vincentio gives her the option of
accepting her sexuality (and the active life) at the play's end.

Ed Taft

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Justin Bacon <
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Date:           Tuesdayy, 13 Oct 1998 00:55:40 -0500
Subject:        Texts of Hamlet

John Robinson wrote:

> Perhaps I'm missing something but...if the object of study is
> Shakespeare then the text closest to Shakespeare's manuscript is the
> important one: Q2 in Hamlet's case. If your interest is Drama then the
> text that is the most coherent may be your best bet, how the text got
> that way may be a secondary concern. Any one who chooses F1 Hamlet as
> Shakespeare's revision has a lot of explaining to do. My feelings are
> that since F1 was printed 7 years after the big guy's death and 13 or so
> years after he retired, the F1 text probably represents the state of the
> text the last time it was performed and could have been revised by many
> non-Shakespearean hands.

The key words here (and what you're missing) are "My feelings..." The
truth is that there is no way to know, precisely, which text was used
for Q2 or F1. For all we know F1's text was actually Shakespeare's
handwritten copy which was recovered from his papers, while Q2 was an
edition which was cut and restructured  during the course of performance
by hands other than Shakespeare's.

There's no real way to tell, although we are permitted to make educated
guesses concerning the matter.

William Williams wrote:

> Well, perhaps I'm missing something but why, without doubt or argument,
> is it automatically Q2 Hamlet and not Q1?

For my two cents on that issue: Q1 doesn't make any sense. The way the
words are fundamentally constructed and put together simply do not make
any cogent sense.

Justin Bacon

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[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Justin Bacon <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Oct 1998 00:57:34 -0500
Subject: 9.0950  Re: Editorial/Interpretational Practices
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0950  Re: Editorial/Interpretational Practices

Scott Crozier wrote:

> The Elizabethan/Jacobean playscripts that I direct are but one
> ingredient of many that goes to the creation of a performance.
> Personally, I try to adhere to the playtext as often as I can, but I no
> longer claim that the playtext is sacrosanct.

I am afraid that if I am reading your implied meanings here correctly
that I can interpret this as nothing but blatant egotism working upon
the assumption that "the playwright just didn't know what he was doing".
To make this supposition in regards to Shakespeare is pure ludicrousy.
Let us at least assume that if Shakespeare is, in fact, not the greatest
playwright of all time that he was at least competent to say what he
wanted to say in the way he wanted to say it.

There is Rudyard Kipling poem, which unfortunately I cannot seem to
place at the moment, discussing, I believe, religious leaders of the
past and what is done to their works by the disciples. The most
memorable line of this poem for me is, "This is what he would have said,
had he lived to now."

Perhaps if Shakespeare had lived until now he would not have written the
plays the way he did, but the point is that he *did* say those things.
If you want to say something orthogonically different in nature perhaps
you should have the guts to step out from behind Shakespeare and say it
yourself.

> To do the playscript service in the late 1990's I make is a
> practice to find out as much about the first performance of the play as
> I can and then appropriate the playscript, with that knowledge in mind,
> so that the performance will be infused with a feeling, an atmosphere, a
> soul that has an anchor in the 1590's.

You're doing so well.

>  In practice, this could mean
> stripping tinsel from fairies in MND or de-buffooning the lovers in the
> same play.  It could mean infusing  R3 with fascist iconography as
> McLellan did, or hanging the Argentine flag over the scaffolding of
> Henry V as the English Shakespeare Company did for their post-Falklands
> War of the Roses tour.  It could also mean truncating the many battle
> scenes in Lear and making them one

I can see all of this as acceptable, so long as you weren't radically
changing the meaning of the play (and I don't think any of these does).

> or as Tate did in his time rewriting
> the end to suite the sensibilities of the time.

No. Write your own play if the one you have does not suit your taste,
your sensibilities, or your message.

I am reminded of Anthony Burgess' decision that the end of Oedipus Rex
was just not appropriate for modern audiences, and so he rewrote it. He
did similar things to Cyrano de Bergerac when he "translated" that.

If he felt Sophocles' Oedipus was no longer a good play, why could he
not write his own? If he thought Rostand's Cyrano was in some way
deficient, why not write his own?

If you feel that Shakespeare's plays are no longer suitable, write your
own.  You could do no higher honor to a man who did just such a thing to
many plays in his own lifetime.

John Jowett wrote:

> G.R. Hibbard would be silly to adopt the approach as described, but he
> doesn't.  He is giving an example of the consequences of following F1,
> not Q2 as Justin Bacon suggests.  Hibbard does not justify making
> choices at random.  Rather, he consistently follows F1 where it
> introduces cuts, arguing that they were probably made by Shakespeare for
> a theatrical manuscript.  Hibbard's fine edition shows how carefully
> reasoned discussion can lead to an innovative yet coherent treatment of
> the text.  That's surely of serious interest, but sorry, but there's no
> shameful wandering, no cover-up.

I am forced to admit that I was overly harsh towards Hibbard's generally
fine edition of HAMLET. It was, in fact, Hibbard's finely constructed
logic and discussion of the two texts which started me down the path
which lead to these convictions today. And I will also admit that I
mixed up my texts, for this mischaracterization of Hibbard's position I
deeply apologize.

However, it is Hibbard's exceptions to his standards which truly baffle
me.  If he has decided that the cuts of F1 are fully justified, why does
he fall back upon Q2 at several locations throughout the text?

Janet MacLellan wrote:

> "Outrageous theories" certainly exist, but they are most effectively
> refuted point by point. To lump them together and dismiss them out of
> hand as not *Shakespeare* is dangerous, not only because it ignores
> questions of degree

I must agree with every Janet says. However, my original message was not
meant to simply "dismiss" these theories (which *should* be refuted
point for point), but rather to express a desire that those who come up
with these theories would stop doing so.

And as an excellent example whacked-out interepretation extending beyond
Shakespeare, Richard Hart wrote:

> I went to see What Dream May Come today.  Oh, my God.  I O.D.ed on Robin
> Williams some years ago.  In any case, there is perhaps one Shakespeare
> reference.  When the wife returns from Hell, she says to the husband
> (Williams) "Remember me?", perhaps (And I should underline this word)
> citing the Ghosts injunction to Hamlet, "Remember me."  The film is
> about the transition of 19th century painting (Turner, Caspar David
> Frederich, etc)--the wife is a curator and painter, the husband her
> adviser, and his creation of heaven literalizes her paintings so that
> when he crushes a flower, it turns to paint in his hand-into film (with
> digitally engineered special effects) and the attendant transition from
> Romanticism (with its close proximity to kitsch) to harlequin romance
> (totally absorbed by kitsch).  Though the film ostensibly is about a
> fantasy of a love so great that it survives death (the husband literally
> goes to hell and back to get his wife), it suggests, inadvertently I
> suppose, that heaven and hell are really impossible to distinguish:  in
> either case, you're stuck with your partner for eternity; you couldn't
> get rid of your ex even if you wanted to since he'll come back as a
> stalker and track you down, haunt you, and force you to come back.  The
> film, in any case, should have been titled _When White Hetero Male
> Dreams May Come."  Maybe someone will do the porn version-Wet Dreams May
> Come-and deliver something more interesting.

There's some serious issues which need to be worked through here, and
none of them have to do with this film.

Justin Bacon

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[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Saturday, 17 Oct 1998 12:20:59 EDT
Subject: 9.0990  Shakespeare Without Swords
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0990  Shakespeare Without Swords

Would water pistols perhaps be a better solution?

There is one way out of this dilemma, but I do not know how dramatically
viable it would be   I have actually seen it done   that it, to use
"imaginary" weapons  as one would drink imaginary tea   or perform other
actions with invisible props

Intriguingly, in a recent NUYORICAN production of Julius Caesar in
Africa, the clash between the opposing armies was done in the form of a
dance without weapons, and quite effective it was, too

However, if the inference is that watching violence on Shakespeare's
stage is likely to have those so inclined even more inclined to reach
for their Uzi's, and thus weapons should be excluded, well-this would be
on a par with Lear's happy ending.

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ilona Goldmane <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Oct 1998 20:01:36 +0200 (WET)
Subject: 9.0984 Re: Shakespeare FilmVersions
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0984 Re: Shakespeare FilmVersions

I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Simone, Mr Rothwell, Mr
Lischner and Mr Mical for their kind assistance in my research related
to Shakespeare in Film- and Videoversions. As a result I have decided to
focus my attention on Hamlet. Thank you very my for your support and
ideas.

Sincerely Yours,
Ilona Goldmane
 

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