The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0409 Tuesday, 20 February 2001
Date: Monday, 19 Feb 2001 16:04:02 -0500
Subject: 12.0285 Re: Branagh
Comment: Re: SHK 12.0285 Re: Branagh
I am a high school English teacher in middle America (middle of the
country, middle income families, middle ability and motivation
students). Most of my students intend to go to college; whether they
can keep the grades to remain there is another discussion.
I have taught six Shakespearean plays to my classes: +Hamlet+,
+Macbeth+, +Romeo and Juliet+, +Julius Caesar+, +Much Ado+, and +A
Comedy of Errors+. First we read, then we watch. After all, plays are
written for watching, and I can't always find a live performance of the
play I am teaching for a field trip.
I find Branagh's work to be particularly helpful with my students. They
recognize most of the actors from other mainstream films, so it is
easier for them to keep their characters straight (to them, all Danes
look alike). The lavish sets and costumes help snare their attention,
and the cinematography keeps it.
Meanwhile, from a scholarly point of view, Branagh cuts precious little
from the script of +Hamlet+, and nothing we can't live without from
+Much Ado+. That helps those students who depend upon a written script
in front of them to keep up with the action.
In the end, most of my students walk away from the experience
appreciating the Old Bard, some liking his work, and a few even loving
it and looking for more.
I missed +Henry V+ and +Love's Labors Lost+. Can anyone tell me where I
can find them on VHS? I would also appreciate a good production of
+Macbeth+. Polanski's total obsession with gore detracts from the
story; Orson Welles takes all the good lines for himself, causing
confusing edits to the script; the BBC production sends my students into
fits of nervous hysteria with its crotch-grabbing references to sex.
That's why I was looking forward to see what Branagh would do with this
material. As for +A Comedy of Errors+, our copy of the production with
Roger Daltry playing the two Dromios was so popular among our students
that it was stolen, and I haven't got $100 in discretionary funds to
I'm not in a university setting; I'm doing my best to battle the apathy
of my students to create an academic atmosphere conducive to college
preparatory education so that when my kids show up in your classrooms,
they won't come off as rubes. I'll take any help I can get.