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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: Bowdlerized Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1733  Wednesday, 13 October 1999.

[1]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999 19:43:47 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 10.1728 Re: Bowdlerized Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Mary Jane Miller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999 14:39:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1728 Re: Bowdlerized Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Megan L Isaac <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999 16:33:32 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Bowdler


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999 19:43:47 +0100
Subject: Re: Bowdlerized Shakespeare
Comment:        SHK 10.1728 Re: Bowdlerized Shakespeare

In UK, I would be pretty surprised if Shakespeare was bowdlerised now in
teaching - certainly not at this school for students form 13-18 years.
And never at university nor on stage. I could be desperately wrong about
this.

BUT I was asked about how I was going to treat bits of 'R and J' with a
14-18 year old cast's production of the play when I took it to Boston,
Mass. in 1995 - to our intense surprise. There was some nervousness when
I told them that Romeo was topless, shoeless and in loose white cotton
'pajamas', and Juliet in nightie for the bedroom scene and they would
certainly kiss and cuddle very affectionately without inhibition. WE
changed nothing, and the audience held its breath and cheered us to the
echo. BUT I do know that there was a similar holding of breath in the
principal's office waiting for the phone calls. Is that common in US?

It might be interesting to get postings from UK correspondents on this?
Or US correspondents on performance practice in this area? A play so
manifestly about adolescent sexuality - how do you bowdlerise it on page
or stage without emasculating its power??

Stuart Manger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999 14:39:58 -0500
Subject: 10.1728 Re: Bowdlerized Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1728 Re: Bowdlerized Shakespeare

Re Bowdler in Ontario:

From the frontispiece of our high school edition of Hamlet
" Revised Canadian Edition of Swan Shakespeare with character sketches
[by an MA from Harvard] and additional notes and exercises by another MA
[ unspecified teaching in London  Ont], Longmans Green and Co: 1949 "-
still in use in 1957-58. The specific cuts were every reference to
incest/uous.  I still show my students at Brock the edition. Made for
some very funny rhythms and lacunae. No substitutions were offered.

It also had clearly Victorian pictures of several key  scenes ( a
pre-Raphaelite touched with Beardsley Ophelia looking more like
Rapunzel) and of New House, of Anne H's cottage and Trinity church as
well as a photo of a boxy "Memorial " theater at Stratford -on- Avon.
The potted life includes the following re the tragedies " it has been
thought that they reflect the poet's own feelings of life-weariness and
of man's inability to grapple with and solve the deep problems of human
life". The account of his theatre is not bad though no reference is
included to the Stratford Ont experiment. On the other hand there is
also a section on Shakespearean grammar which would make no sense to
today's student because they don't know an adjective from an adverb by
name and the past participle will always be a mystery to them.

No text editor is acknowledged anywhere.

The edition  comes with review questions for each act, general questions
and comprehensive questions for "senior students" At the back is  a
debit and credit list in a  young hand on Olivier's Hamlet which
includes " too much crawling about on the floor" - a view of my younger
self that  I agree with 40 years later..

Even then I knew the 'original ' language and had a means of comparison
because  I'd just seen Christopher Plummer at Stratford Ont as Hamlet
and was in love with the play ( and him).As I remember it  now , that
performance was explicitly Freudian, as one might expect in the 50's,
but those overtones  went  over my 16 year old head - but the references
to incest did not.

Mary Jane

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Megan L Isaac <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999 16:33:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Bowdler

Recently, I read in Thompson and Roberts' book Women Reading Shakespeare
(1997) that Harriet Bowdler was responsible for the infamous Bowdler
Shakespeare and that the book was published under her brother's name
because it wasn't respectable for a woman to recognize which sexual
references were indelicate enough to offend a lady-she wasn't supposed
to understand any of them-certainly not take so much interest in them.
Furthermore, Thompson and Roberts claimed that several different
editions of the Bowdler Shakespeare were published-some more fully
expurgated than others.  After Harriet's death, Thomas Bowdler took over
the project, but he wasn't the originator of this edition.  Is this
information inaccurate?

Megan Isaac
 

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