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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Distinctions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0156  Wednesday, 23 January 2002

[1]     From:   Peter Wilkins <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 23 Jan 2002 11:18:07 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0147 Re: Distinctions

[2]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Jan 2002 19:37:33 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0147 Re: Distinctions

[3]     From:   John V. Knapp <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Jan 2002 22:59:41 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Response to Re: SHK 13.0148 Re: Criticism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Wilkins <
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Date:           Wednesday, 23 Jan 2002 11:18:07 +1100
Subject: 13.0147 Re: Distinctions
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0147 Re: Distinctions

Oh dear! Oh dear! Mr. Weinstein's longings for a fondly recalled past of
heroic casting (you can tell s/he's the hero/ine because s/he's
handsome/ beautiful) seem to fly in the face of some inspired and
memorable casting and acting, apart from begging the question about
absolute parameters of physical attractiveness.  According to my
interpretation of Mr. Weinstein's thesis (already interpretational
imprecision distorts absolute parameters....),Cleopatra should be played
by an actress of 'classical' beauty and stature, not a self-described
'menopausal dwarf' such as Judi Dench, whose hormonal state was probably
different, but whose stature and physiognomy still lacked heroic
proportions when she played Lady M and Viola/Cesario, in performances
widely regarded as  significant, if not, much as I hate the term,
'definitive'.  I saw her Viola; I also saw Dench; she was short,
slightly dumpy and quite well endowed, as Adrian Mole would say, in the
chestal department.  She didn't look remotely like a handsome youth who
would excite passion in the breast of a grief stricken Olivia.  Over 30
years later, I recall Dench's interpretation of the role with awe,
wonder and clarity.  Simply, it was then, and is now, superb
interpretation by a gifted performer, physiognomy none withstanding.
Pistol may not be HV, but I have certainly seen the same actor play
Pistol and HIV, to say nothing of Ned Poins.  He was also the Lord Chief
Justice if I recall correctly, and played all roles with a talented
believability.  It's called versatility and adaptability, Mr. Weinstein,
and it's what all half way competent actors DO.  Incidentally, I can't
recall anywhere in any of my editions of "Hamlet", that the text
indicates that The Prince can't look (and act) like Simon Russell Beale,
ditto "Lear" and Richard Briers.  Or are you just trying to put the cat
amongst the pigeons, Charlie?

Cheers,
Judi

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Jan 2002 19:37:33 EST
Subject: 13.0147 Re: Distinctions
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0147 Re: Distinctions

More Distinctions?

<< few of us would want to
 react to the experience in the way that Nahum Tate or Samuel Johnson
 did, or Weinstein himself appears to. It is indicative of the perfect
 muddle Tate made for himself that he should have eradicated the Fool
 while emphasizing the comic-romantic elements of the play. >>

Please do remember that Shakespeare rewrote the original
"comic-romantic" play "King Leir" accidentally forgetting its more
coherent plot, consistent characterisation and lack of tragedy. Tate was
simply restoring the play's original motivation. As far as Johnson goes,
wise men will try not to read Johnson as fools.

Best regards to dead postmoderns everywhere,
Marcus

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John V. Knapp <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Jan 2002 22:59:41 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: SHK 13.0148 Re: Criticism
Comment:        Response to Re: SHK 13.0148 Re: Criticism

List members --

I have been "lurking" for many months now and would not think to
contradict authoritatively so many knowledgeable and fascinating
Shakespearean scholars.  Thus, I will speak as a critic/scholar who
regularly teaches Shakespeare but writes much less often about him.
With all due humility, I must say that the parry/thrust/parry with Prof.
C.  Weinstein is the most interesting when substantial issues are raised
and debated. An actor's physical features -- as related to the illusion
he/she intends -- IS indeed fair game for the critic, although certainly
painful for the actor. A director's idiosyncratic interpretation of a
well-known set of moves on-stage CAN indeed be criticized for playing
too easily to a popularized set of expectations.  In short, many of Mr.
Weinstein's critical arguments can be usefully debated by those who
see/read a lot of Shakespeare -- and even if he does, at times, sound
like a pain in the class.

Frankly, the name-calling and moral outrage as exhibited by several is
far less interesting.  Whether I do (or do not) agree with Mr. Weinstein
is irrelevant; he appears to be usually knowledgeable, provocative, and
acerbic -- a set of traits I would associate with interesting criticism.
Isn't it possible to argue with his pronouncements without resorting to
the vitriolic personal attacks that reflect as much on the attacker as
the target?  Heat does not always generate light; and illumination is
often clear enough with a medium flame.

Cheers,
John V. Knapp

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