2001

Re: Seminars

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1147  Wednesday, 16 May 2001

From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 15:14:40 -0700
Subject: 12.1133 Re: Seminars
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1133 Re: Seminars

Because I'm grieved to see two Shakespeareans I respect having a row, I
wrote a friend and fellow list member about my impressions.  Here is her
response, and I share this with her permission.  I hope peace will
follow.  My comments are first.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

>>Unfortunately, Drakakis' response was deadly. I've never seen him turn so
>>angry before.
>>The thing is, I don't think they are that
>>far apart, but it turned personal, so they don't know it. Have I misread
>>one or both of them?

>No, you haven't misread them. They are close together. The problem is that
>Sean uses the term "ethics" more broadly than Drakakis does. Drakakis is
>describing almost the same thing, but he doesn't call it ethics
>because he is drawing an arbitrary line between what
>is "personal" and what is "business". He categorizes "ethics" as belonging
>to the "personal" domain, and therefore inapplicable to academics. But
>they're describing roughly the same code
>of desired behavior.

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Jonson/Cavalier Poets Edition Query

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1146  Wednesday, 16 May 2001

From:           Suzanne Penuel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 15:02:38 -0500
Subject:        Jonson/Cavalier Poets Edition Query

In the absence of a Jonson listserv, perhaps SHAKSPER members can help
with this forward:

Have you had occasion to use the Norton Critical Edition of Ben Jonson
and the Cavalier Poets, ed. Hugh Maclean?  If so, I would very much
appreciate hearing from you, off-list, as to its merits and shortcomings
as a college textbook.  I am updating it for a second edition.  Comments
regarding format, annotation, and critical contexts and essays would all
be welcome.  My address is as follows: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Please
cc the email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as well.

Much obliged,
John Rumrich

Thanks,
Suzanne Penuel

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Re: Color-Blind Casting

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1144  Wednesday, 16 May 2001

[1]     From:   Cary M. Mazer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 May 2001 13:33:47 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1099 Re: Color-Blind Casting

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 May 2001 22:33:04 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1131 Re: Color-Blind Casting


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cary M. Mazer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 13:33:47 -0400
Subject: 12.1099 Re: Color-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1099 Re: Color-Blind Casting

Jack Heller asked:

>It seems that I heard that Andre Braugher once played Macbeth. If so,
>would anyone who has seen this care to comment? I can't think of anyone
>I'd rather see trying that role.

I did see that production--the Philadelphia Drama Guild, directed by
then Artistic-Director Mary B. Robinson, in 1991--and I wrote, in my
review for the Philadelphia City Paper:

>     That the Macbeths are capable of committing such horrible acts in
> such a moral world does not mean that they are immoral monsters, but only
> that they each have the imagination to envision such acts, and the
> persuasive powers to overcome their own and each other's moral qualms. [...]
>      Andre Braugher's Macbeth seems constantly surprised by
> himself:  surprised at his ambitions and desires and capacity for murder,
> and increasingly surprised that he doesn't find it all more
> surprising.  Braugher's youth, and his confident, mature physical and
> vocal powers, merge perfectly with his conception of Macbeth as the
> rising star, the perfect soldier and subject, who can't quite understand
> why his success hasn't made him happier.
>      Braugher's performance grows as the play progresses.  Due to some
> unusual and fascinating directorial choices (for example, in the familiar
> "Tomorrow and tomorrow" speech), Macbeth's final journey through arrogant
> confidence and near-suicidal surrender culminates in the character
> transformed into a magnificent and deadly warrior, the disturbingly
> attractive killer who was so admired by Duncan in the first scenes.

I remember that, before "Why should I play the Roman fool," Macbeth
entered, weary, and began elaborate preparations to kill himself, before
thinking better of it.

As to the issues of "color-blind casting," let me preface my memory of
this production by saying that I am a very vocal advocate of color-blind
casting; I believe that there is virtually no role or situation or
relationship that cannot be cast "non-traditionally"; and I believe that
there are very strong and clear signals that can be sent to an audience
to indicate that the race (or age, or gender, or disability) of the
actor is to be disregarded as a meaningful category (just as the
production can equally clearly signal that race, etc., *are*
meaningful).  This production was in every way signaling to us that it
was "color-blind."  That said, there *are*, occasionally, unintended
meanings that can creep into the audience's perception of the actors and
their roles.  (I'm told, for example, that when Christopher Walken
played the title role in Shaw's The Philanderer at Yale Rep shortly
after the drowning of Natalie Wood, with whom his name had been
romantically linked, the valences of the play were seriously thrown
off).  Well, Lady Macbeth was played by Jordan Baker--very tall, blond,
WASPy, and icy, the perfect hostess and power-spouse.  The banquet
(which was set, on stage, by butlers with white gloves during the scene
in which Fleance was murdered) was the perfect dinner party, with white
tablecloth and spotless silver and china service.  Well, the production
happened only a few months after the Clarence Thomas confirmation
hearings, and the image that came into mind (well, into *my* mind, at
least) was the image from the particular camera angle of the televised
hearings, with Thomas in the foreground and former Senator Danforth and
Thomas's wife sitting in the row behind him:  a small person of color
who had worked very hard, with just the right patronage, energetically
seizing just the right opportunities, with his "Perfect Hostess" White
wife sitting, encouragingly, behind him.   This was, I'm sure, the last
thing the director had in mind when she cast the production, and the
last thing she had in mind (I know, from speaking to her afterwards) in
telling the story she was trying tell.  But, for me at least, it
signified nevertheless.

Cary

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 22:33:04 -0400
Subject: 12.1131 Re: Color-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1131 Re: Color-Blind Casting

The three SHAKSPERians who responded to my last post all seem to feel
that I took too absolute a position.  I agree.  But they have all
forgotten that I was responding to a post which attempted even more
dogmatically to justify color-blind dramatic casting by pointing out
that obese singers are sometimes cast in romantic opera roles without
anyone sitting up and taking notice.  I was merely pointing out some
fundamental differences between opera and drama and why, therefore, the
analogy does not advance the argument.

If you want to discuss color-blind casting on its own merits I will be
happy to do so.  I suspect that the issue is not so much over whether
the race of the actor is irrelevant to his ability to carry the role,
but whether it should be disregarded even though it is relevant.  That
social and political question makes a great many people uncomfortable;
so, rather than address it head on, they protest, in effect, that they
do not notice the actor's color.  Frankly, I find such sanctimonious
protestations highly doubtful.

I summed up my own view of the matter three years ago in SHK 9.0194:

"For most of us the characters are old or young, male or female, black
or white, etc.  And, since the actor's job is to      persuade us that
he is the thing he portrays, isn't it part of his function to seem to be
old, female or white, if that is what his character is?  I do not argue
that a young actor cannot play an old part (the history of the theater
is full of examples of this), but to do so he needs to act old,
otherwise he is reciting, not acting.  ... [M]en can play women, and
vice versa, but by pretending to be women.  If Olivier could play
Othello in black makeup, why can't Laurence Fishburne play Iago in white
makeup?  Is one more demeaning than the other, and isn't it racist to
suggest that it is?  The heart of my thesis is that no actor is
disqualified from playing a part he or she can mimic convincingly, but
that every actor is foreclosed from playing a part he is unable to carry
persuasively, regardless of the nature of the inability."

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World Shakespeare Bibliography Online--New Version

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1145  Wednesday, 16 May 2001

From:           Jim Harner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 14:33:10 -0500
Subject:        World Shakespeare Bibliography Online--New Version

I'm pleased to report that the first update to the World Shakespeare
Bibliography Online is now available. This update extends coverage to
1974 through mid-2000 and offers several enhancements to the search
engine. For a description of the WSB Online and information on
subscribing, see <http://www-english.tamu.edu/wsb>.

To insure that your publications (including reviews) and productions are
included in the next update, please send along a copy/photocopy/offprint
or program--or at least a full citation--to

Prof. James L. Harner
Editor, World Shakespeare Bibliography
Dept. of English
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-4227
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Every update, we inadvertently exclude publications and productions
because we don't yet know about them or because a copy isn't immediately
available for producing an annotated entry.

Jim Harner

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Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1143  Wednesday, 16 May 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 May 2001 09:59:37 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

[2]     From:   Andrew W. White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 May 2001 14:19:54 -0400
        Subj:   Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

[3]     From:   Andrew W. White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 May 2001 14:19:54 -0400
        Subj:   Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

[4]     From:   Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 16 May 2001 02:18:05 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 09:59:37 -0700
Subject: 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

I agree with everything Tony Burton, and everyone else, has said about
the problems of _translating_ Shakespeare into modern English, but you
know what, we're going to lose in the end.  And we should.

Professors now teach students to read Chaucer in something close to his
original words.  (The texts are usually edited, and where are his
manuscripts, anyway?)  Yet, Penguin Classics publishes a modern language
version of Chaucer.  Few really object to that for the untrained,
because we understand it takes a bit of exposure to Middle English to be
able to read Chaucer with any fluency.  Shakespeare's language is not as
unfamiliar as Chaucer's, so we judge it differently.

Someday our language will evolve to the point where only those trained
to read Shakespeare can do so.  Then Penguin Classics, or someone, will
bring out translations of Shakespeare in that future state of English.
Some scholars will still decry them for their mistakes and
simplifications, but books will be available to that are readable the
person on the street.  On balance, this will be a good.  The questions
are when the language will have evolved enough to warrant this, and who
will do the translations.  I hope it will be the future equivalents of
Stanley Wells, Richard Proudfoot, and David Bevington.  I hope they will
reason the need.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 May 2001 14:19:54 -0400
Subject:        Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

Tony Burton writes:

>What "Hamlet" had in it "to please the wiser sort" is ALWAYS lost in
>misguided attempts to create modernizations, which fail anyway because
>words change their meanings too rapidly for the editor's purpose to be
>achieved beyond the first
>school-class of readers.

And yet when Shakespeare re-staged his plays, he often did re-writes.  I
get the impression that even Shakespeare himself knew the meaning of a
play is always deferred -- are you reading this, Derrida? -- and
contingent on a given audience at a given time and place.  The chief
difference is that for him, "meaning" translated directly gate
receipts.  He had to change with the times, or else he'd lose his
shirt;  by contrast, it would appear that English teachers don't.

>If one feels that Shakespeare is too challenging to impose on the
>uninitiated without prosthetic assistance, why not simply assign Cliff
>notes, or Classic Comics summaries. . .

I take your point, which is a good one:  and yet what is an English
class but an endless stream of prosthetic devices, administered on the
assumption that the poor darlings can't speak without a crutch or two?
By contrast, Shakespeare didn't waste time learning how to speak a
language he already knew from the streets; he studied Latin.  I'd give
my right arm to have had his grade-school education.

>many of the
>contributors to this list have offered testimony that its archaisms and
>dialectical curiosities have their own special charm and attraction for
>the young student who is not positively discouraged by the prejudices of
>a weary teacher.

And yet, if I understand you correctly, we must _never_ offer our
students the Modern English equivalent of these precious archaisms, lest
they -- what?  Understand them better?  Not all attempts to translate
Shakespeare are poor, and by the same token not all 'authoritative'
editions cover the meanings of Shakespeare that we find the most
useful/relevant to our students.

My own point, lest it be misunderstood, has more to do with Shakespeare
in performance.  Shakespeare in the form of schoolroom text, amply
'prosthetized' with footnotes and glossary, can be good in the
original.  But as I understand the function of a teacher, one of the
more important things we do is to translate materials into terms our
students can understand, and hopefully get excited about.  It's not
pandering or comic-book simplification, it's simply called -- teaching.

Cheers,
Andrew White

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur D L Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 16 May 2001 13:21:48 +0800
Subject: 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

> -- what  would our Chief Executive make of Laertes's
>liberal-conceited carriages or Gertrude's liberal shepards?

I assume W would identify the former as cars with 'Re-elect Gore in
2004' stickers and the latter as tree huggers.

Arthur Lindley

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 16 May 2001 02:18:05 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1129 Re: Peter Brook's Hamlet and Parallel texts

Bravo, Tony

Yours,
F. Amit

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