2001

Re: Branagh

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0336  Tuesday, 13 February 2001

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 07:14:14 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0315 Re: Miscasting--Heston

[2]     From:   Stuart Manger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 18:26:16 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 12.0324 Re: Branagh

[3]     From:   Patricia Cooke <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tue, 13 Feb 2001 08:40:54 +1300
        Subj:   Re: Branaghs

[4]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 16:55:49 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 12.0324 Re: Branagh


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Feb 2001 07:14:14 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.0315 Re: Miscasting--Heston
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0315 Re: Miscasting--Heston

Many moons ago, I was (briefly) an undergraduate at Northwestern
University, Charlton Heston's alma mater.  His primary drama professor
was still there at that time.  When people asked her what she thought
about her terribly famous student, she would sigh, sadly, and say "He is
a very generous alum."

Perhaps Branagh thought that the First Player, as an incarnation of the
elder Hamlet (whom we meet only posthumously) could best be portrayed by
an actor who does such a good job of playing dead?

Cheers,
Karen Peterson-Kranz

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Feb 2001 18:26:16 +0000
Subject: Re: Branagh
Comment:        SHK 12.0324 Re: Branagh

I applaud the RSC for casting Branagh as H5 - it is not often that many
young actors get a break like that. And surely it is always a serious
gamble to do this. The career of Zubin Varla - arguably the worst Romeo
and by some distance the most embarrassing Caliban I and many of my
other RSC full members can remember - is a case in point.

But the point I wanted to make was that in that company, Branagh did not
reveal in any way how he could justify the inflated, and dangerously
backfire-prone claim made both by him and a somewhat sycophantic or
gullible 'luvvy' press very soon after to be the heir apparent of
Gielgud, Olivier et al. In H5, he seemed to me simply diminished by the
brilliance of those around him, and my memory of him was of an actor
seriously outfaced by the effortless technique in the use of space,
gesture, verse speaking of those around him. he seemed not to be an
ensemble player at all. I fully accept that there is that in the play
too - and indeed that laddish insufficiency, that vertical ascent of a
mega learning curve is inherent in Henry as both man and king. It is
simply that I find Branagh unconvincing, narcissistic, and so
self-regarding as to vitiate a good deal of what he might else achieve.
In short, I find him nearly unwatchable.

I was NOT 'harsh on the production', which I thought very fine indeed.
Simply Branagh's insistence on playing the 'matinee idol slumming it'
feeling about it. And thank you for the correction on the French Kate -
I do not have the programme to hand so am grateful to be reminded.

Other correspondents seem about to claim that he who is tired of Branagh
is tired of theatrical life. Shakespearean acting more than most other
genres generates mighty controversy, akin to the Sutherland / Callas /
Caballe  or Bergonzi/ Domingo / Pavarotti debates in opera. AS an actor,
Branagh seems to me to work from the outside to not very far in: for
him, gesture is being, rhetoric is intensity and a substitute for
meditation on the innikheit of the verse / character. I would rather
watch Antony Sher, whom I don't much like, but grudgingly admire,
fighting, living, experiencing the text, and the play right through
Macbeth than watch Branagh 'mugging' the camera or audience. Sher is a
very difficult man to work with / for, as most actors will tell you, but
he is exciting to be on stage with when he is on his game. Scofield is
too, and the now alas lost to classical theatre Jonathan Pryce, one of
the most electrifying Shakespeareans of his generation.

It is not that Branagh's popularisation of Shakespeare is not valuable.
It most assuredly is. BUT film tends to ossify, tempts actors often
simply to repeat a lucrative style or role, and live theatre is by
definition not static, not icon-making, but evolutionary, dangerously
improvisational. I don't happen to like Mark Rylance's style of
Shakespeare at The Globe, but you could never accuse him of playing
safe, of not re-thinking style, modus operandi, or the tense plasticity
of what 'theatre' means for us or for the Elizabethans. Not my thing,
but far, far preferable to Branagh's settling for the packageable,
backable, bankable, not a hair out of place, corporate Shakespeare that
is rarely likely to frighten the horses. In how they scale great texts,
great theatrical challenges is how you shall surely know them, and I'm
afraid that I think Branagh is about as likely to challenge audiences,
about as dangerous and adrenalin-making as Andy Williams. We are talking
'comfort zone', Reader's Digest, Classic FM Shakespeare. He will end up
making a lot of money, getting himself talked about, bringing a lot of
people to Shakespeare, BUT how many will he make think, or be excited to
feel, or experiment, or explore, or be happy to be uncomfortable with?
It is a visceral thing, I suppose, and in the last analysis, Branagh has
an emetic rather than magnetic effect on me.

Stuart Manger

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Patricia Cooke <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tue, 13 Feb 2001 08:40:54 +1300
Subject:        Re: Branaghs

Susanne Collier may like to know that Katherine in the 1984 RSC
production of Henry V was C


Re: Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0335  Tuesday, 13 February 2001

[1]     From:   Vick Bennison <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 10:01:47 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

[2]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 09:30:31 -0600
        Subj:   SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

[3]     From:   Philip Tomposki <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 11:03:07 EST
        Subj:   RE: Hamler Spy Caught Spying

[4]     From:   Evelyn Gajowski <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 09:17:14 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

[5]     From:   L. Swilley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 12:23:38 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

[6]     From:   Brother Anthony <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Feb 2001 09:30:03 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

[7]     From:   Richard Regan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 12 Feb 2001 23:39:16 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Vick Bennison <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Feb 2001 10:01:47 EST
Subject: 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

I've seen another version that uses the "spy" device to explain Hamlet's
acting crazy.  I think it may have been the Mel Gibson version, but I'm
not sure.

Vick Bennison

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Feb 2001 09:30:31 -0600
Subject: Hamlet Spy Caught Spying
Comment:        SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

I do not think that I am original in essaying that Hamlet watches HAMLET
with the audience. This staging accounts for much of Hamlet's mystical
power of perception.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Tomposki <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Feb 2001 11:03:07 EST
Subject:        RE: Hamler Spy Caught Spying

Ron Dwelle queries:

"In Act 3, scene 1, the director has Claudius and Polonius hide behind a
curtain and thus hear Hamlet's soliloquy. But after Ophelia enters,
Hamlet spies a pair of eyes (presumably Polonius's), at which point he
goes bonkers (and turns quite vicious toward Ophelia).

I don't see much textual evidence for it (the spy caught spying), but it
did work nicely (though obviously it changes the scene significantly).
I'm wondering if there's any history of the scene being played in such a
way, or if anyone has seen a similar interpretation staged."

I have the opposite of this question.  Has anyone ever seen this played
any other way?  In every production I've seen Hamlet discovers, or at
least senses, the presence of Claudius & Polonius just before his line
"Where's your father?".  I've assumed this is indicated by the distinct
change in tone, from benign to hostile, that appears in the text.
However, not having seen this performed any other way, I may have been
lured into accepting this interpretation as definitive.  Ron is correct,
I believe, in that there is no stage direction to this effect.  Does
anyone know how this interpretation got started?  Is it just coincidence
that I've never seen anything different?

Philip Tomposki

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Evelyn Gajowski <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Feb 2001 09:17:14 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

To Ron Dwelle:

I think that that staging may not be as uncommon as you might think, at
least in the last decade or so.  In Zeffirelli's 1990 *Hamlet*, Mel
Gibson's Hamlet notices that Claudius and Polonius steal away to spy on
him just before the "nunnery" scene with Helena Bonham Carter's
Ophelia.  (The "To be or not to be" soliloquy is moved to Hamlet alone
in a crypt, though.)  In Branagh's 1996 *Hamlet*, his own Hamlet
discerns that C and P are spying on him in the hall of mirrors when one
of them coughs behind one of the mirrors.  It is at that point that he
asks Kate Winslet's Ophelia, "Where's your father?" and becomes enraged
when she answers, "At home, my lord."  In Nevada Shakespeare in the
Park's Sept. 1999 production of *Hamlet*, Bill Mendieta's Hamlet
addressed (at least parts of) "To be or not to be" to Jane Longenecker's
Ophelia, who was on stage throughout 3.1.

Evelyn Gajowski
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Feb 2001 12:23:38 -0600
Subject: 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

Ron Dwelle asks,

"In Act 3, scene 1, the director has Claudius and Polonius hide behind a
curtain and thus hear Hamlet's soliloquy. But after Ophelia enters,
Hamlet spies a pair of eyes (presumably Polonius's), at which point he
goes bonkers (and turns quite vicious toward Ophelia).

  "I don't see much textual evidence for it (the spy caught spying), but
it did work nicely (though obviously it changes the scene
significantly). I'm wondering if there's any history of the scene being
played in such a  way, or if anyone has seen a similar interpretation
staged."

[As I recall, Olivier has his Hamlet suspect that someone is listening
from behind the arras; he steps along and ruffles it - then turns on
Ophelia with audience in mind.]

        [L. Swilley]

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brother Anthony <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 13 Feb 2001 09:30:03 +0900
Subject: 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

There is a short mention of this question in a 'long note' to
III.i.130-1  (p.496) in the Harold Jenkins's Arden edition where the
stage convention of allowing Hamlet to know he is being watched is said
to date from the early 19th century. Jenkins does not find this correct,
saying that normally an awareness of being watched is clearly expressed
in dialogue and that the sudden question "Where's your father?" does not
need such a gross motivation. I rather think we discussed this issue
about 4 years ago on SHAKSPER.

Br Anthony
Sogang University, Seoul

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Regan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 12 Feb 2001 23:39:16 EST
Subject: 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0326 Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

The spy caught spying is also featured in the Williamson Hamlet, where
Polonius watches through the crossed ropes supporting a hammock, whose
lacing traces the shape of a crown.

The Zeffirelli Hamlet also uses the spier spied image, when Polonius
catches a glimpse of Hamlet eavesdropping on his briefing of Ophelia.

Richard Regan
Fairfield University

Re: Welsh etc.

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0333  Monday, 12 February 2001

From:           Don Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 09 Feb 2001 09:33:22 -0600
Subject: 12.0276 Re: Welsh etc.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0276 Re: Welsh etc.

Ed Taft writes:

>J.C. Trewin once remarked that he could not watch the episode between
>Hal and Francis in Part 1 without losing all sympathy for Hal.  He did
>not say why he felt this way, but I suspect that his feelings derive
>from Hal's demonstration that he can manipulate the poor drawer to the
>point where he is literally turning around in circles and going nowhere.
>
>Now, Francis is a kind of everyman isn't he? -- just like most of us in
>the audience, a poor working stiff whose only crime is that he had a
>beer with the prince.  So isn't the Francis episode a demonstration of
>Hal's earlier claim that he "knows us all"?  His soliloquy at the end of
>1.2 is about manipulating us and making us like it, isn't it?

Far be it from me to defend the indefensible, but maybe you should
lighten up a little on Hal. Elizabethan society relished bear-baiting
and cock-fighting, and even more a really good, gruesome public
execution. They also thought nothing amiss in beating servants (and
wives). I doubt that Shakespeare's audience would find the practical
joke that Hal and Poins play on Francis anything other than fun. I
assume it's all to the good that our standards have changed, but let's
not assume that Shakespeare held those standards, so that, holding them,
he wrote the scene to expose Hal's contempt for the lower classes. If
there's a fault of taste, manners or morality here, it surely lies with
the author not the character.

I think the evidence works the other way. Compared to the other members
of the nobility or Falstaff, Hal is remarkably concerned about the
common people, whether tavern drawers or soldiers. The danger lies in
holding him to a modern standard and seeing significant faults, while
ignoring the fact that the other characters are much more at fault --
not to mention the whole culture his play came from.

Regards,
don

Hopkins Hannibal Titus

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0334  Monday, 12 February 2001

From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 11 Feb 2001 16:45:55 -0500
Subject:        Hopkins Hannibal Titus

If you don't like to know details about films you haven't seen, and if
you plan to see Ridley Scott's film Hannibal then read no further.  If
you don't plan to see it or if you care hearing about it an advance, you
may not want to read further either.  But you may be interested in an
echo of Hopkins last screen appearance in Titus.  Reviewers of Taymor's
film often pointed to the echo of Hopkins role as Dr. Lecter in Silence
of the Lambs.  Now Scott's Hannibal returns the favor.  Near the very
end of the film, FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) handcuffs
one of his wrists to one of  hers as he has only minutes to escape.
When she refuses to give him the key, he picks up a meat cleaver like
the one in Titus and raises it to cut off what we are led to think is
her hand (he tells her "This is really going to hurt"--or words to that
effect--and then we see her grimace as he cuts off screen).  The very
next shot shows her with both hands intact, however, so we infer that he
has cut off one of his hands, an inference proven correct by the last
sequence of the film in which Lecter appears with a bandaged arm..  Some
other echoes, though I would not claim any significance for them, are
(a) much of Hannibal is set in Italy, albeit in Florence rather than
Rome; a child is central to the ending of Hannibal as young Lucius is in
Titus, though the child is Asian and shares--literally--Lecter's
culinary tastes (we may be meant to infer that the boy will become
Lecter's prot


Re: Macbeth on Film or TV

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0332  Monday, 12 February 2001

From:           David Nicol <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 10 Feb 2001 14:35:44
Subject:        Re: Macbeth on Film or TV

Mike Jensen asked about the original stage version of the recent TV
'Macbeth'. I haven't seen the TV film yet, but on stage the weird
sisters did indeed crawl from under the table. It was quite a scary
effect.

The Porter was hilarious in the stage version. However, a lot of his
jokes revolved around a Tony Blair impersonation which may not have been
very funny outside the UK.

Hope that's helpful,
David Nicol

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Search

Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.