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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1057  Wednesday, 17 April 2002

[1]     From:   L.W. Brantley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 12:24:53 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1043 The South Owns Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 09:36:10 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking

[3]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 13:22:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 11:22:53 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking

[5]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 23:46:19 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking for accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L.W. Brantley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 12:24:53 EDT
Subject: 13.1043 The South Owns Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1043 The South Owns Shakespeare

As a proud member of the CSA, our Southern Confederacy here in America,
I must say that the essence of our grace and civility, suits perfectly
the fine notion that William Shakespeare's poetry, has indeed been made
only more magnificent when spoken with  the inflection of a wonderfully
seductive southern Tongue.

And, in conclusion, to this powerful and intelligent southern statement
of which their can be NO rebuttal, I shall call any man out onto the
field of honor, to defend my good reputation as a southern  gentleman,
when I go so far as to say,  based on his character as a man, being an
author of his nobility and above average intelligence, we believe it to
be quite possible, that he was born here.

Sincerely,
Lieut.  Col. L.W. Brantley
Co.E 14th Georgia
The 43rd Regiment/Army of Northern Virginia

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 09:36:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking

> I am no defender of accent-snobbery, but it is a
> fact that accents are
> intimately associated with social groups -- by
> nationality, region,
> economic class, race and so on. We tend to associate
> Shakespeare with
> England, for reasons too obvious to mention. Thus a
> Hamlet or Juliet or
> Rosalind or Prince Hal speaking Brooklynese (or
> Jamaican, Strine,
> Glaswegian, Texan, or you name it) sounds absurd. We
> associate those
> accents with fairly specific locales that are some
> distance
> (spiritually) from the English upper class that WS
> was replicating.

BUT the whole point of "Looking for Richard" was not to go into
"authentic" production per se. The point was to look for meaning in
Richard III and in Shakespeare as well. Pacino worked mainly with
American actors and chose to work naturally and in their natural
accents. He wasn't choosing to look for authentic Shakespeare; he was
searching out the meaning of Shakespeare for a contemporary actor and a
contemporary audience. That is why I objected to a self-centered concept
of what Shakespeare "should" sound like. It's not a factor in this film
or in Luhrmann's. It isn't sought after.

> Those accents are perfectly correct in other plays,
> or if you are going
> to do a "concept" version where everyone is speaking
> in various non-U
> accents that are coordinated and meaningful. (This
> can be especially
> effective in comedy.) But just out there by
> themselves they sound dumb,
> as Charles said.

Why? Because American actors chose to speak their own regional accents?

> The best accent is one that
> is essentially
> transparent.

If I am a Brooklynite, Pacino's accent would sound transparent to me
(and was nearly transparent to an American). Accent is perspective. Why
should an American filmmaker/director be forced to consign himself to
purely English accents, especially when we daily praise Shakespeare's
universality? It seems to me that some people on this list give
Shakespeare that praise, but then yank out that rug (no pun intended)
from under anyone who attempts Shakespeare differently from
Victorian/early modern standards. Hardly universal then. I agree that
Shakespeare should not be carelessly performed but I am advocating
careful attention for the approach that directors and actors take
towards him. If that approach is careless, then we can criticize
performance upon more substantive means than "I dislike his accent" or
"I dislike his ugly face".

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 13:22:05 -0400
Subject: 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking

Don Bloom says,

>I am no defender of accent-snobbery, but it is a fact that accents are
>intimately associated with social groups -- by nationality, region,
>economic class, race and so on. We tend to associate Shakespeare with
>England, for reasons too obvious to mention.

While it wasn't Hamlet nor Juliet, and it was an ethnic group with which
he would be quite familiar, Dustin  Hoffman's Shylock with its tinge of
NY-urban Jewish enunciation worked quite well and was not in the least
disturbing.

Perhaps we need to *disassociate* Shakespeare a bit from England?  And
remove ourselves at times from the snobbish elitism of those who
"Understand" Shakespeare as those plebs out there do not?

What I find disconcerting is not a non-U accent in a Shakespearean
performance so much as a mixture-- the Brits and wannabe's speaking
several varieties of the Received Pronunciation, while others in the
cast speak assorted flavors of American.

Mari Bonomi

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Apr 2002 11:22:53 -0700
Subject: 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1043 Re: Keep Looking

Don Bloom suggests that

>But in tragedy and in
>the more serious side of comedy the losses from an obtrusive accent are
>too great to be ignored. The best accent is one that is essentially
>transparent.

Transparent to whom?  I agree that one can find oneself listening to
accent, rather than to acting, but different people will find different
accents noticeable.  Presumably, this is why the tendency in Stratford,
Ontario, is to use Canadian accents for the Canadian audience.

In fact, it strikes me that in traditional productions (say, Caedmon
recordings) lower-class characters always seem to speak in some sort of
incomprehensible accent.  Whoever played Aaron in Titus Andronicus
seemed to speak entirely from his throat.  Now _that's_ distracting.

Cheers,
Se

 

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