Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: Anti-Shakespeareans
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0892  Monday, 24 April 2000.

[1]     From:   Edward Pixley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 21 Apr 2000 11:04:10 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0879 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans

[2]     From:   Bill Gelber <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 21 Apr 2000 12:07:00 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0879 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans

[3]     From:   Abdulla Al-Dabbagh <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 22 Apr 2000 08:40:23 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0866 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 21 Apr 2000 11:04:10 -0400
Subject: 11.0879 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0879 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans

>As an actor who has played the Poet/Playwright's works from time . . . .
>We do in fact yearn to
>talk in a modern way, and we *do* find extended metaphorical treatment
>of normal tasks and reactions...well... a bit of a nuisance. . . .>
>For us to see a morn in russet mantle clad {with the grammatical
>inversion in addition to the fullness of the image}, is one thing, but
>for the modern audience to hear/see it is quite another. . . .
>Harry Hill
>Montreal

I sympathize with your point of view, and I agree that the process can
be exhausting.  Unfortunately, you chose as your example one of my very
favorite passages for demonstrating Shakespeare's uncanny connection
between feeling and expression.  Throughout Scene 1 of  Hamlet, the
characters have been jerked around between expectation and surprise,
from the very opening, which involves three, maybe four, separate
challenges and response.

Nervousness and uncertainty form the underlying tension of the scene.
When Horatio sees the lightening horizon, the relief that he and his
fellows must feel at the ending of this night is inherent in that
magnificent 2-line set of straight, unswerving iambics:  "But look, the
morn in russet mantle clad/ Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward
hill."

Then, instead of continuing the iambics in "Break we up our watch," he
pulls himself and his comrades from that reverie by an abrupt shift into
a more active direction:  "Break we our watch up. . . ."

Far from being merely poetic, when Shakespeare is at his best, his
poetic line expresses the most fundamental of realities, the needs of
his characters to express their innermost feelings.  I maintain that if
the actor is yearning to speak in a modern idiom, he hasn't yet found
the reality from which his character is coming.  Unfortunately, I have
seen far too many Shakespearean actors (some at the highest professional
levels) mouthing poetry instead of poetically expressing the
characters.  I will never forget Stephen Hollis advising a Shakespeare
acting class several years ago that their goal was to "need" those words
and that syntax, because if they were truly in character, no other
words, no other syntax would do.

Edward Pixley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Gelber <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 21 Apr 2000 12:07:00 EDT
Subject: 11.0879 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0879 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans

The idea that Shakespeare's works are "difficult" to act because some of
the language precludes realistic acting seems to me a false premise. It
is the actor's job, and perhaps pleasure, to find within his or her own
mind the modern subtext for a Shakespearean phrase which helps to
"translate" the phrase for the audience. In this way, four hundred year
old plays continue to have relevance.  The passion that characters feel
leads to metaphorical phrasing, just as today, when we are really
excited or passionate about a subject, we reach for analogies or
metaphors to explain what we mean.  (It is always the actors' [or
directors'] job to make a line "believable" or "understandable" whatever
the play may be.  "Modern" plays have their own textual problems, and
character motivation has often to be discovered within the subtext of
any play.)  I see this ability to "translate" time and again in the best
actors of Shakespeare and in the direction that they are given by great
directors: Trevor Nunn's recent "Merchant of Venice" comes to mind. I
have never seen a clearly interpretation of the fifth act and its
relevance to the rest of the play.

Sincerely,
Bill Gelber

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abdulla Al-Dabbagh <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 22 Apr 2000 08:40:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 11.0866 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0866 Re: Anti-Shakespeareans

>It's by D H Lawrence- I'm not sure he qualifies as a
>major writer.

Lawrence may not qualify any more as a major writer, may be not even a
minor major writer. He would I think remain a major minor writer and
what he says deserves attention. And here it is quite amusingly put
too.  There is this fresh air of modernist iconoclasm about it that
Lawrence shares with figures as different as Pound and Mayakovsky of the
same period when they wanted to break away from all traditional writing
in order to "make it new". But notice how Lawrence too, even in this
semi-satirical vein, succumbs to the canonical cliche (gasp) about
musing and thundering "in such lovely language". The lovely language,
alas, only comes in bits and pieces, when you take the whole ouevre, and
it is precisely the old, archaic language, dare we say, that created "an
actual burden of performing" for Harry Hill in a previous posting and
made him as an actor "in fact yearn to talk in a modern way".

Abdulla al-Dabbagh
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.