2000

Re: MND on Malcolm in the Middle

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2346  Friday, 15 December 2000

From:           Susan Neill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:21:32 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 11.2337 MND on Malcolm in the Middle
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2337 MND on Malcolm in the Middle

"Malcolm..." is the best comedy on tv, and while this episode was not
the funniest ever, it was special, for obvious reasons...

Susan Neill

Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2345  Friday, 15 December 2000

From:           Eric I. Salehi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:19:54 -0500
Subject: Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        SHK 11.2296 Re: Julie Taymor's TITUS

"Not all opinions have equal weight.  Some are far more informed than
others.  Some list members sensitively consider the history and
subtitles of an idea or a performance.  They have great learning to back
up their opinions.... I believe it is the responsibility of the poster
to know how informed his or her opinion is, and write accordingly....
Arrogant people will inevitably think their opinion is as valid, or more
valid, than those of brighter and more informed people."

This begs the question: what constitutes a "more informed" opinion?
Most of us, on both sides of the academic fence, are naturally inclined
to believe that we know what we're talking about, and we post our
opinions accordingly.  I don't see much danger in this: the worst that
can come of it is that we are all occasionally exposed to flawed
thinking or shoddy scholarship, which is something we ought to be alert
to anyway.

No, the greater danger is that of losing the opportunity for free
exchange.  I seriously doubt that Hardy wants to put himself in the
position of having to assess the "value" of every posting he receives,
nor would he wish to scrutinize the merit of everyone who posts to the
list.  I agree with Richard Burt that "scholarly credentials do not
necessarily produce good criticism, nor does their lack necessarily
produce bad criticism."  Speaking as someone who came to academia with a
performance background, I can say with conviction that non-academics
(performers, producers, and enthusiastic theatergoers) can contribute a
great deal to our understanding of Renaissance drama.  Some of the most
well-educated people I have known are entirely without credentials or
degrees, and their insights have contributed substantially to my own
understanding and scholarship.

There are other lists out there -- for example, RENAIS-L (Early Modern
History-Renaissance) -- that focus more narrowly on discussions of
scholarly interest, and I subscribe to them.  On the other hand, I enjoy
SHAKSPER precisely because it offers a broader membership, and a wider
array of perspectives.

ALSO:

"The current unpleasantness began when I noticed that those supporting
Taymor's Titus had cogent reasons for liking it and that those that
didn't just blasted with both barrels.  To cite one example among
several, those who liked the sets and costumes had reasons why.  Those
that didn't just insulted them with out engaging the supportive reasons
given by those who liked the film.  That was a wasted opportunity.  If
they had good and informed reasons for disliking Taymor's approach, we
may have all learned something."

I have hesitated to voice an opinion about _Titus_, in part because I
wasn't sure that I could offer much to the discussion.  However, without
sharing Sam Small's wholesale abhorrence for the film, I will say that I
found it deeply flawed on several points.  My greatest objection is that
Taymor's film seemed to me to be largely derivative, both of Fellini, as
several list members pointed out, and of Deborah Warner's stunning 1987
production at the RSC.  While it may be unfair to compare film to live
performance, I felt that the cast in Warner's production was uniformly
superior to the actors in the movie; this despite the fact that Anthony
Hopkins, Jessica Lange and Laura Fraser all seemed to borrow key
gestures and expressions from Brian Cox, Estelle Kohler and Sonia
Ritter.  The sense of imitation was particularly apparent in Lavinia's
bloody gurgle in response to Marcus' query, "Why dost not speak to me?"
(II.iv), and in Titus' mania during the meat pie scene (V.iii).  Even
the sound of Lavinia's neck being snapped seemed to be consciously
patterned after the effect used in the stage production.

Isabella Bywaters' design for the RSC production was stark and
minimalistic; by contrast, Taymor's costumes (some of which looked like
they came straight out of _8 1/2_) and scenery (a la _Satyricon_) came
across as eye candy, and proved a distraction from performances which
were, after all, superficial.  I believe that the Goth-punk motif was
pretty much played out in the 1980s (does anyone else remember David
Hare's _Lear_ at the National Theatre?); in most productions today, and
in _Titus_ particularly, it looks tired and uninspired.

I'm not sure whether this constitutes an "informed" opinion, but I
suspect that others who saw the RSC production found little in Taymor's
version that was fresh.  In any event, I didn't need to go to graduate
school to reach this conclusion.

Eric Salehi

Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2343  Friday, 15 December 2000

[1]     From:   Michele Bolay <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:36:42 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 15 Dec 2000 08:32:40 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[3]     From:   John Velz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:43:57 -0600
        Subj:   Fine-tuning plays

[4]     From:   Philip Tomposki <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 15 Dec 2000 09:48:22 EST
        Subj:   RE: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michele Bolay <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:36:42 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

>What never fails to comfort me in the validity of that sometimes
>regrettable decision are the memories of those times when Shakespeare,
>through the music of his writing, using me as an instrument, transported
>me in the company of my fellows to a common revelation we never
>understood before, and the hope of returning to that place again and
>again.

Thank you for one of the most heartfelt and eloquent expressions of what
it is to perform a great work. All of the toil is more than worth a few
moments of sheer bliss. :-)

>Writer-director-actor-managers like Shakespeare had an immediate and
>most informative response from an audience who guide them.  Shakespeare
>was first and foremost an actor.

And, from what I have read (I also am no scholar), a businessman.

>Did Shakespeare re-write to please as much of his audience as possible?
>Daa!

I can't help thinking that if he were writing today it would be
screenplays or television (albeit *very good* television)! ;-)

>There is no question both scholar's as well as performers contribute to
>each other and thus to our audience's appreciation of Shakespeare's
>genius, as long as we all remember," The play is the thing."

Was it Harold Bloom who thought that there was no way that Shakespeare's
plays could be performed "perfectly" as WS intended, that there could be
no definitive portrayals of his characters? And therefore that
performance was useless and scholarly study the only valid way to
"understand" Shakespeare?  Sorry for the broad paraphrasing, but I read
that opinion too long ago to remember its source!

Michele Bolay

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 15 Dec 2000 08:32:40 GMT
Subject: 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

>What most scholars fail to realize is that the plays were
>composed with actors during rehearsals.  Having worked many
>times with authors present
>at rehearsals on original works I have found that the actor, the
>director, the producer, and most of all the audience during try-
>outs and
>previews exert a very strong influence over the way a scene is finally rendered.

Undoubtedly this is so - except, if Tiffany Stern is right, in her
recent book, Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan, the nature of
'rehearsal' was very different in the Shakespearean theatre.  She
suggests that there were only one or two 'full' rehearsals before a
performance, and that actors simply learnt their own parts on their own
with only cues to guide them.  The co-operative and experimental nature
of modern rehearsal was, according to her, simply unknown.

Incidentally, I've always thought this 'stage versus page' controversy
tends to be rather unproductive.  At least from 1623 Shakespeare was and
is available as 'literature' as well as a 'script for performance' - and
for two centuries the gap between the two was, for most of the plays,
extreme.  (W.B. Worthen's Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance
has many interesting things to say on the issue.)

David Lindley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:43:57 -0600
Subject:        Fine-tuning plays

"Having worked many times with authors present at rehearsals on original
works I have found that the actor, the director, the producer, and most
of all the audience during try-outs and previews exert a very strong
influence over the way a scene is finally rendered."  J. Kenneth
Campbell.

An impressive instance of Campbell's thinking about the creative process
is to be found in <R. and G. are Dead> which I saw in Washington D.C. in
1967 in the version seen in tryouts in North America..  Three weeks
later it opened on Broadway cut by 1/3 (!!)  The uncut script was at one
time available in paperback.  Don't know if it still is.

Cheers
John

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Tomposki <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 15 Dec 2000 09:48:22 EST
Subject:        RE: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

I'm inclined to agree with Paul Doniger that Shakespeare is more of a
dramatic artist (albeit a highly literary one).  After all, he was an
actor as well as a playwright, and his plays were written to provide
material for the Lord Chamberlain's/King's Men.

This brings up an interesting question.  How much of the problematic
elements of the plays is a result of this dramatic vs literary
approach?  As any actor knows, you do not communicate by your lines
alone.  Shakespeare, writing with specific actors in mind, would have
tailored his dialog to the strengths and weaknesses of those actors.
How Burbage or Kempe or Armin would approach a role must have had some
bearing on the writing of the role.  Not only in terms of how the lines
were written, but on what lines were left out.  If Shakespeare knew an
actor could communicate an idea better by gesture or expression than by
words, he likely would be inclined to omit dialog that might just get in
the way.  Gestures, expressions, pauses and other dramatic devices may
explain what sometimes seems missing on the page.

Philip Tomposki

Henry VIII and Syphilis

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2344  Friday, 15 December 2000

From:           Eric I. Salehi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 18:34:27 -0500
Subject:        Henry VIII and Syphilis

List member interested in the historical background of syphilis may want
to take a look at  Johannes Fabricius, _Syphilis in Shakespeare's
England_ (London; Bristol, PA: Jessica Kingsley, 1994).  Fabricius'
study is both accessible and fairly thorough.

Eric Salehi

Re: Roth on Verse

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2342  Friday, 15 December 2000

From:           Herman Gollob <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 15:24:06 -0500
Subject: 11.2330 Re: Roth on Verse
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2330 Re: Roth on Verse

>Re: Herman Gollob's remarks on Philip Roth.
>
>Why seek so far a field for Roth's inspiration?  Roth is arguably our
>most "literary" writer; the broadly allusive nature of his work has been
>evident since his earliest published work.  Though your own work sounds
>very exciting, you would do well to consult James Bloom's 1997 book, THE
>LITERARY BENT (UPenn Press), which provides the most thorough and astute
>account of Roth's "Shakespearizing' to date.  For now, take this tidbit
>from Bloom's account of Shakespeare's circulation in PORTNOY'S
>COMPLAINT:  "After asking, Can you beat that for a serpent's tooth?",
>Alexander Portnoy, Roth's most notorious surrogate, summed his life as
>'some farce version of King Lear, with me in the role of Cordelia.'"

Mr.Cartelli,

Many thanks. I agree-- Roth is one of our few Men of Letters (along with
Styron and Bellow-- by the way, did you read Roth's New Yorker piece on
Bellow?)

And thanks also for tipping me to Bloom's book. I'll order it post
haste.

Herman Gollob

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