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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0125  Monday, 21 January 2002

From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Jan 2002 15:09:09 -0500
Subject:        Distinctions

No one in Shakespeare's company would have dreamed of casting Will Kempe
or Robert Armin as Hamlet, Lear, Othello or Macbeth; but ours is an age
that confounds vital distinctions, including those between low comedy
and high tragedy, the bourgeois and the royal, character actors and
heroic agonists.  Simon Russell Beale and Antony Sher are comic
caricaturists with a special flair for the grotesque:  Thersites, the
Fool, even (under one interpretation) Richard III.  Unfortunately, they
both aspire to be high tragedians.  A generation ago, they would have
been channeled to the roles for which their talents suit them, the only
parts in which they can be truly outstanding, the roles which George
Rose and Max Adrian played to such distinction:  Pandarus, Jaques,
Feste, Autolycus, Dogberry, the Gravedigger and many others.  Today,
alas, we have to endure their Hamlet, Macbeth and Leontes, roles in
which they are not only absurd but repulsive, and not only repulsive but
boring.   Whatever the parallels or equivalencies drawn by postmodern
criticism, in the theater Caliban is not Prospero, Pistol is not Henry
V, the Porter is not Macbeth, and Osric is not Hamlet; nor do we want
them to be.

--Charles Weinstein

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