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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0715  Friday, 8 March 2002

[1]     From:   Joseph Sullivan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 12:41:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

[2]     From:   Brandon Toropov <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 10:46:42 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

[3]     From:   David Crosby <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 12:52:18 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

[4]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 15:48:32 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

[5]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 15:46:14 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

[6]     From:   John Ciccarelli <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 17:13:43 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Renaissance in need of Reformation

[7]     From:   Gary Kosinsky <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 12:53:37 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

[8]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 18:41:48 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

[9]     From:   Nicole Reinsel <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 23:59:27 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

[10]    From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Mar 2002 10:30:01 -0000
        Subj:   Charles Weinstein

[11]    From:   Stephen Dobbin <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Mar 2002 13:19:35 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: A Renaissance in Need of Reformation



[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Sullivan <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 12:41:00 -0500
Subject: 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Charles Weinstein reminds us that the term Renaissance suggests
'excellence' or some measure of accomplishment.  I'll grant that usage.
However, it also more simply marks a re-birth of influence.  During the
European Renaissance, it was the re-birth of the Ancients in discourse.
From what little I know of America's renaissance: the Harlem
Renaissance, it was a re-birth and an engagement between African and
European/American cultures.  Both uses are common and are not mutually
exclusive.  Some might say that both connotations should be present for
the fullest use of the term possible.

I was interested in the extensive list of film adaptations trashed in
the post.  Of course, such judgments are often simply a matter of a
taste, so it wouldn't be reasonable to argue that any of them are
'wrong.'.  However, three places I feel compelled to dissent are with
respect to McKellen's RIII, Hawthorne's Malvolio and Kingsley's Feste.
I really admired all three performances (for different reasons).

Joe Sullivan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brandon Toropov <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 10:46:42 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Other than that, though -- no problems?

Brandon

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Crosby <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 12:52:18 -0600
Subject: 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Perhaps Mr. Weinstein could refer us to a recent production (or perhaps
a scene or a line) that lived up to his expectations? Or is all dross?
Clearly Hollywood is not Lindisfarne, but I hope Mr. Weinstein can point
us to a lonely flame or two that will light the way for us.

David Crosby

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 15:48:32 -0500
Subject: 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Charles Weinstein has now officially out-Simoned Simon. I hope it's
helped him to get this rant off his chest, but I have to sigh when I
think of the inevitable responses. As one of the few here who values his
criticism--and has a position on this list not entirely dissimilar to
his own--I do wish he'd cool it a little. The emotion here seems
slightly out of proportion to its objective correlative.

Nobody's perfect, hence some care is required in distinguishing better
from worse. Personally, I think even Branagh has his decent moments.
Whatever the flaws of Much Ado, for example, it's a reasonably enjoyable
version that has brought a number of people a little nearer to
Shakespeare, as opposed to driving them away. The effect of Hamlet is a
little more questionable, but I'd give him some credit, here and there.
I like Derek Jacobi's performance, and in spite of the direction, Kate
Winslet's. Mel Gibson did better than I expected, as did Michelle
Pfeiffer and Calista Flockhart. On the whole, I had fun watching
Hoffman's MND. And so forth.

Rants are necessary sometimes, and I can share a lot of the feeling
behind this one. But I think it's good to make a few more distinctions
on the road to paradise.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 15:46:14 -0500
Subject: 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Although I am a bit hesitant to take on comments fueled by such anger, I
do have just a few points to make.

"Shakespeare's plays are dramas, that is, studies of character and
conflict.  It follows (does it not?) that productions of these plays
must stand or fall by their acting."

I fail to understand how drama must equal character study, especially
since Mr. Weinstein immediately opens the definition out to include
"conflict" a very vague term that might include things other than
character. I think there is general agreement that reading a play is
very different from watching it, and part of that must be because of
things like setting, lighting, blocking and so on. Certainly character
is important, but it is not everything in a drama.

I have no intention of trying to argue with each and every one of the
character descriptions (assassinations?), but considering just how
sweeping his rejection is, I would like to ask Mr. Weinstein for just
one performance he considers worthy of study, and to explain what makes
it so. After all, if Ian McKellen is a "sexless prune of a Richard,"
that does not necessarily mean his performance is bad. Perhaps McKellen
was trying for sexless pruniness. You attack each and every performance
that has appeared on film and I therefore can't help but wonder if you
simply want to reject the medium all together.  Are Olivier's film
productions worthwhile? Welles? Why?

"This is no renaissance; it's a reversion to barbarism.  It sickens me
that academics are actually studying, teaching and writing analytical
essays on this rubbish.  At least the monkish elite of the Dark Ages
devoted their hours to culling the cream of earlier generations, not
wallowing in the dreck of their contemporaries."

Actually, the "monkish elite of the Dark Ages" devoted their hours to
destroying pagan manuscripts that could not be Christianized, writing
complex footnotes to those volumes that could be made to fit into the
Christian teleology and drawing pictures in the margins when bored (ever
seen the Book of Kells?). Before we throw back our heads and wail to the
skies about the collapse of academic standards, basic intelligence and
Western Civilization, could we pause and remember that Shakespeare wrote
PLAYS? We may consider them great literature, but they started out life
as popular culture, written in haste to make money, and acted by a group
of people who were classified as "sturdy beggers" and only got away with
their godless and lazy choice of profession because of protection by the
higher ups. It seems rather hard to attack actors, directors or
academics who are interested in the continued popular strain of
Shakespeare's existence.

Annalisa Castaldo
Temple University

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ciccarelli <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 17:13:43 -0500
Subject:        Re: Renaissance in need of Reformation

Perhaps once this thread has run its course it can inspire a new one -
"Are the good old days, as good as they seem".  Charles doesn't like the
term of a 'renaissance' as compared to the crop of Shakespeare films
that have come out in last decade or so.  Although, I believe the term
was initially used for articles in late 90's to mean a reemerging
interest in Shakespearean cinema after a long dry spell.  Whatever the
terminology, let's see if a couple of the "classic" films hold up to
this same subjective scrutiny.

Olivier's Hamlet - Plodding, dully shot, Olivier is so monotone that you
have turn up the volume to hear what he is saying.  And I don't think
that Zefferelli began the "casting of young Gertrudes tradition" here.
Enough of the Oedipus complex, please.

Olivier's Henry V - The monotone master is at it again, bastardizing
Shakespeare's script for the sake of a British feel-good war flick.
Everyone is so stiff from the waist up, they look like they are being
carried along on conveyor belts.

A Mid Summer Night's Dream with James Cagney - Yes a Bottom with a New
York accent is so much better than hearing that Calista Flockhart with a
Mid Atlantic one.  Sets in a community theater production look better.

Romeo and Juliet with Leslie Howard.  It's Verona for the Mid-life
crisis set.  Shakespeare's text depicting Romeo for what he is "an
immature brat" is scarified to portray Howard as the romantic hero.
John Barrymore, the king of Hamlets, sounds like his Mercutio is
reciting speeches for a classroom reading.  Now, is it me or does not
even do his own sword fighting.

Of course, these are only a few examples, while others have been pointed
out in the Decline of Classical Acting Thread.  The point to all of this
being that films or stage productions of any era have their good and bad
points which are open to the subjective interpretation of their
viewers.  I very much enjoyed the films I mentioned, however, thought
that certain elements could have been done better, but that's me.
What's cool to one person in not to another.  The same applies to the
actors and films listed in Charles' posting.  Simply because they
pertain to this age and not to the "Golden Age" doesn't make them any
less worthy than their predecessors.  The thing to keep in mind is that
any production is an interpretation of the work, usually influenced by
the time period and social circumstances in which it was created and so
the production will not be a "cookie-cutter" approach, but an individual
piece.  Each interpretation should be judged on the merits of "Did the
production make you believe the world and people it was attempting to
depict".

Obviously, these films and actors have touched some, otherwise why
continue to make them?  Why continue doing Shakespeare at all if it's so
awful?  What secrets of the ancient film makers have we lost?  Despite
Charles' protests there was no Golden Age of filmmaking or acting, only
good or bad choices by actors or directors that lived or died in the
eyes of the individual audience member.  The same way it does today.

Although good call on DiCaprio's performance.

- John

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gary Kosinsky <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 12:53:37 -0800
Subject: 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Charles, has it ever occurred to you that you simply don't like
Shakespeare?

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Sutton <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 18:41:48 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Charles, you make me laugh! Thank you. ROTFLMAO!

W.S.

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nicole Reinsel <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 23:59:27 EST
Subject: 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0698 A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Mr. Weinstein,

I simply ask you, Mr. Weinstein, to remember that film and stage are two
separate mediums and that perhaps you should regard them as such.
Unless you wish to watch a videotaped version of a stage performance,
you must be willing to accept that a film version will inevitably be
something different than that.

Cheers,
Nicole Reinsel

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[10]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Mar 2002 10:30:01 -0000
Subject:        Charles Weinstein

Dear Hardy,

I pity Charles Weinstein, as it appears that he has little better to do
than spend his hours fashioning his humourless vitriol into choice
phrases for his own amusement. Nevertheless, until last night's post,
his contributions to the list have not troubled me too any great extent.
But I feel he has crossed a boundary, and in doing so, he is abusing the
list.  This was not an effort to start a discussion; it cannot yield to
any sensible disagreement or comment.

Most of us like and appreciate SHAKSPER as a forum to ask questions, try
out opinions, offer references to fellow students and scholars - and,
yes, have a bit of fun and wind down at the end of the day. It is useful
in so many ways. Contributions such as that posted by Charles Weinstein
on Thursday 7th March, however, serve no purpose at all - they are not
interesting, they are not clever, and they are certainly not funny.

I did not set out to make this email a reply to Weinstein's post -
indeed, I do not feel that it deserves any kind of reply. However, I
would not object to it being posted if other list members respond
similarly.

Yours,
Martin Steward

[11]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Dobbin <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Mar 2002 13:19:35 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        Re: A Renaissance in Need of Reformation

Several years ago in its Feedback column, the British magazine 'New
Scientist' identified an inexplicable phenomenon it called 'nominative
determinism' which may be defined as the human compulsion to take up a
profession described by his or her surname.

It seems to have first been remarked on in 1994, when 'Feedback' drew
readers attention to a paper on incontinence in the British Journal of
Urology which was authored by J.W. Splatt and D. Weedon.

Even before then no less an authority than C. Jung had wondered about
the association of names with professions in his 1952 classic
Synchronicity; An Acausal Connecting Principle. Jung bumped into the
phenomenon often enough to ask if something more than a toss of the
nomenclatural die was at work here. "Are these whimsicalities of
chance," he wrote, "or the suggestive effects of the name....or are they
'meaningful coincidences'?"

I was reminded of this today as another plodding philippic from Charles
Weinstein evaded my virus checker. Has it occurred to other listmembers
to suppose that whole course of poor sad Charles' life has been warped
by the fact that the first syllable of his name is pronounced 'whine',
and that therefore his mindnumbingly pompous attempts at criticism
should be the object of our pity rather than our derision?

Stephen Dobbin

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