2000

Re: King of Shadows

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0105  Monday, 17 January 2000.

From:           Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 17 Jan 2000 06:22:47 -0500
Subject: King of Shadows
Comment:        SHK 11.0080 King of Shadows

Dear Ellen Steiber,

'King of Shadows' is clearly a masterpiece.  'One of the lovely things
to watch is the way Nat moves from being awed by Shakespeare to becoming
his friend.'  Am I alone in thinking that a Golden Quill cannot be long
delayed?

T. Hawkes

Hamlet Q1 Performance

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0104  Monday, 17 January 2000.

From:           John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 17 Jan 2000 11:13:28 -0000
Subject:        Hamlet Q1 Performance

On Saturday, 15th January, I attended a performance of "Hamlet: First
Cut" by the Red Shift Theatre Company at the Corn Exchange, Newbury; a
production based on the first quarto.  I am probably the wrong person to
review it, as I feel myself to be a "text" person, and incline to
historically informed performance in other areas (music, opera) so I
suppose this makes me some sort of historicist, probably an Old
Historicist...

The artistic director, Jonathan Holloway, writes that "established
theatre tends to be about text more than anything else and I was
concerned to make shows where the notion of text is broader than simply
that which is printed on a page."

Anyway, to details.  Incredibly, the text was slightly cut, omitting the
first 26 or so lines (and the first sentinel).  (I am pretty certain
about this, but an over-enthusiastic smoke machine completely obscured
the entire auditorium at the beginning!)  Also cut was Voltemar - but
both Voltemar and the First Sentinel appeared in the cast list.  Even
so, the production overran:  total time was 3hrs including about 20
minutes for the interval!  This meant that a scheduled post-performance
discussion was cancelled.  There was a cast of eight, with some
ferocious doubling: one actor had five roles.  It is a sign of the times
that there was a production staff of eight (also with some doubling of
roles!)  Laertes and Gertrude were spelt and pronounced thus.  The
porpentine was a porpentine...

The production was in modern dress, with a lot of uniforms: "a Denmark
in constant readiness for war where military aircraft roar overhead."
The King doubled the Ghost, both in uniform (to my mind this is reading
against the text).  Perhaps inevitably, Fortenbrasse was in battle
fatigues.  (Why did the Sentinels have bolt-action rifles?)  The Ghost
was picked out by searchlight (even in the Queen's chamber!) The set was
post-industrial: in front of a jagged metal screen, four elongated
truncated pyramidal frames were arranged and re-arranged to rhythmic
drumming on the metalwork (Steve Reich's "Drumming" has a lot to answer
for!)  For "The Mousetrap" the (whole)  cast sat as an audience facing
the auditorium while the play was played as a tape: this worked rather
well.  Some music was live:  the actress who played Ofelia played a
'cello (bizarrely to accompany the account of her character's demise!).
It was noticeable that for the more intense parts of the drama,
soundtrack and 'business' were eschewed.

College scarves (something I haven't seen since the "70s) were in
evidence for Wittenberg students: Rossencraft and Guilderstone were
played for laughs, probably the only option after Stoppard ...

The auditorium seated about 400 and was over three-quarters full.  The
overwhelming majority were school students: either Hamlet is a set text
for 'A' level, or tickets were given away to local schools!  If the
former, I hope the examiners are familiar with Q1, because there could
be some strange examination answers ....

To be cruelly critical, only the actor who played Hamlet, Peter Collins,
could hold the stage or, for that matter, speak the verse (although the
Player was impressive with "Pyrrhus"!).  Before looking at the Q1 text I
had wondered whether the cuts (from Q2 or F) were to make it more of an
ensemble piece, but Saturday's performance certainly showed the
importance of Hamlet's role in this text, and the need for a good actor.

Overall, I was pleased I saw this production.  The production
sillinesses mostly just took up time rather than interfered with the
play.  I got to see a rare performance of the Q1 text, and the students
saw a version that was "more exciting, faster, more accessible to a
contemporary audience"!

John Briggs

The Price of Swine

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0101  Monday, 17 January 2000.

From:           Dana Shilling <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 16 Jan 2000 13:18:36 -0500
Subject:        The Price of Swine

One of the footnotes in Karen Newman's "Unruly Women and Structures of
Exchange" (reprinted in Martin Coyle, ed., "The Merchant of Venice," in
the New Casebooks series of St. Martin's Press) says that although
Portia's name sounds like the marriage "portion," it is not related
etymologically-it comes from "Latin porcus, pig, and the Roman clan, the
Porcii, breeders of pigs."

So if the making of Christians really does drive up the price of hogs,
Portia is in a position to benefit (a little more pig imagery in this
play so much concerned with wethers, ewes, and Iewes). Of course, this
Portia, like the other one, is given to "fire-eating" (rhetorical, in
this case).  And if there are any wounds in anybody's thigh in Belmont,
I bet it'll be Bassanio's. (I wonder if Portia's ring is set with "two
rich and precious stones"-she sure has them in her pocket by the fifth
act.)

If Portia really is Miss Piggy, that opens up some intriguing
possibilities-perhaps the Muppets will add it to their list of classic
film adaptations. Kermit would be the most obvious casting for Bassanio,
although perhaps those devoted roommates Bert and Ernie should play
Bassanio and Antonio. There are no real villains on Sesame
Street-perhaps the acquisitive Cookie Monster would be the best Shylock.

Sheepishly,
Dana (Shilling)

Shakespeare in the Bush

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0103  Monday, 17 January 2000.

From:           C. David Frankel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 16 Jan 2000 21:53:35 -0500
Subject:        Shakespeare in the Bush

As I'm sure many of you know, Laura Bohannan wrote an article years ago
entitled "Shakespeare in the Bush."  Does anyone know of any article or
articles that attempt to assess or critique Bohannan's conclusions?

Thanks.

cdf

Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0098  Monday, 17 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 15 Jan 2000 18:38:17 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

[2]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 15 Jan 2000 19:38:59 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 16 Jan 2000 12:20:08 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

[4]     From:   Abdulla Al-Dabbagh <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 16 Jan 2000 23:49:23 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 15 Jan 2000 18:38:17 -0600
Subject: 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

Karen Peterson Kranz writes:

>Returning to Marx, we need not "like" all of his ideas, but >we had
>better understand them...if for no other reason than >because
>Marxist-inspired critical models remain highly influential in >literary
>studies.  We may not want to live in a Marxist society, >but we can use
>Marx's analytical methods to produce remarkably >interesting criticism
>(see Dollimore, Belsey, Sinfield, and the rest of the >cultural
>materialists).

Thank you for your rejoinder, Karen; I didn't mean to imply a
simple-minded or "know-nothing" approach to scholarship.  I simply meant
to say that I did not follow the current trend in scholarship of using
Marxist approaches to literature as the basis for studying 16th century
literature.  Frankly, as a graduate student in the 70's, I was sickened
by the falsity of such intellectual "games" as Marx was not a factor in
Shakespeare's time or life, and, having some personal background in
using the Scriptures as a guide for life, took Hamlet's intolerance of
"equivocation" as a guide for life and left Marx out of my intellectual
life altogether.  This approach certainly has not earned me tenure or
academic friends, but I think it has given me a depth of understanding
of Shakespeare and his problems that a study of Marx would have denied
me.

I don't know why I "better understand" Marx to have an understanding of
Shakespeare.  Maybe Marxist criticism does illumine some of Shakespeare,
but I have not been very convinced by what I have read.  If I like an
insight from a Marxist critic, fine.  I'll just put in my intellectual
scenario and still leave Marx out.  My weltanschauung is Biblical and
religious and not likely to change.

Judy Craig

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 15 Jan 2000 19:38:59 -0600
Subject: 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

Clifford Stetner writes:

<Why do you assume that her use of biblical terms is any <less expedient
<or propagandistic than her description in terms of pagan <Athena?

Her spirit in inspiring men to fight a superior force was not derived
from reading Classical literature.  She does not refer to the Trojan War
or to herself as Pallas Athena.  The comparison to Pallas Athena was
made by an observer.  After all the English were terrified by the
threatened invasion and expected to be wiped out.   All they had for a
ruler was a woman and no one knew what to expect.

The whole spirit of the Bible is antithetical to tyranny and injustice;
as you say, the reference to the Psalms in the passage I quoted on the
internet is inexact, but her other writings are permeated with such
references.  In the passage I quoted, she is putting herself on the line
not as an ornament for "disport," to be carried in progresses to castles
for pleasure, but as a warrior prepared to fight for her beliefs, her
country and her subjects.

Apparently she was inspiring, not because she had used techniques of
propaganda which usually result in cynicism and lethargy in the
auditors, but because she actually effected in the real world a spirit
of resistance and courage in the face of approaching threat.  After all,
she is still remembered as one of the greatest English monarchs-largely
because of this kind of "spunk."

Frankly, I do not understand where you are coming from in quoting the
passage from The Jew of Malta as evidence "that the pursuit of wealth
was despised by Marlowe and his audience as fit only for evil Jews"  You
are putting words in my mouth.  How could a passage written by Marlowe
surely, but put in the mouth of a character he creates be "evidence that
Marlowe saw his own time as one in which not one was honored 'but for
his wealth?'" Surely you are not ascribing Marlowe's thoughts to a
character he creates-he may have thought it momentarily to put it in the
mouth of a character he creates, but is it his whole thought or his
final thought?

I don't doubt that Shakespeare or Marlowe saw evils in Christian
society; however, I really don't understand why you should think that I
think that "Barabas opposes the valorization of capitalist wealth to
that of Christian poverty."  I don't understand this sentence at all.  I
think what Barabas is saying is that in this society men are honored for
their wealth solely and that in such a sick society, he would rather be
hated as a happy, wealthy man that be pitied as a poor Christian, whom
he, as a Jew hates for their "malice, falsehood, and excessive pride."
These are faults in any man, surely, and adopting the Christian religion
does not make them go away.

My view of Shakespeare is that his family situation-forced out of
Stratford as a cuckold to make his living with his own talent-gave him a
insight into the hardness of life that many contented, self-satisfied,
and hypocritical Christians did not have. These are the Christians who
are full of "malice, falsehood, and excessive pride."  He, I think, did
not abandon his Christian ethics:  he just got shrewder about them.  I
agree with you that he did not "aspire to be one of Wycliff's poor
priests" but as Christ says, "in my Father's house, there are many
mansions."  Not everyone is alike, and I think Shakespeare's ambition
led him to aspire to be a great poet.  He was certainly not born with
money, and monetary success came his way because of his talent,
industry, and shrewdness.  Again I do not understand, how "money was the
means available" to make "Elizabethan literati," as you say, successful.

Judy Craig

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 16 Jan 2000 12:20:08 -0500
Subject: Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
Comment:        SHK 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

Karen Peterson-Kranz is right. Jan Kott has pointed out that whilst the
influence of Shakespeare on Marx is clear, the influence of Marx on
Shakespeare is crucial.

T. Hawkes

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abdulla Al-Dabbagh <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 16 Jan 2000 23:49:23 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0084 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

>Actually, Marx's famous dictum explains religion away-
>which is to say, fails to explain it.  Or rather, it explains religion
>in the strictly materialist terms with which Marx liked to explain
>everything.  This is fundamentally to remove religion, in its ordinary,
>anti-materialist sense, from the picture altogether

I hate to interfere here, but I wouldn't agree that Marx, or his famous
dictum, "explains religion away".  The debate brought back to mind
immediately that one to two hundred page volume of essays, entitled ON
RELIGION, which I read back in my undergraduate years when I had my dip
into Marx. It contains such classics as the well-known essay "On the
Jewish Question". I never thought that Marx's remarks on Religion were
unduly "materialistic". On the contrary, they seemd to me to veer more
on the psychological side. Of course, here, as in most other places,
Marx himself was never a "vulgar marxist" or a one-sided reductionist.
That famous passage that ends with the 'famous dictum', "it is the opium
of the people", as I recall, strongly emphasized the subjective role of
religion as a kind of alleviation for pain and suffering (brought about
most prominently perhaps by the misery of human social conditions). In
that same passage, Marx describes religion as "the sigh of the
oppressed". For one who devoted his life, presumably, to understanding
those conditions of misery and oppression, religion would not be
something to be explained away.

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