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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: November ::
Re: Taming of the Shrew Film
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2197  Tuesday, 5 November 2002

[1]     From:   John Zuill <
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        Date:   Sunday, 03 Nov 2002 13:40:58 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film

[2]     From:   Michael B. Luskin <
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        Date:   Sunday, 3 Nov 2002 14:40:45 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film

[3]     From:   John V. Knapp <
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        Date:   Sunday, 3 Nov 2002 13:52:06 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film

[4]     From:   Jim Slager <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 Nov 2002 09:38:35 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Taming of the Shrew Film...


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Zuill <
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Date:           Sunday, 03 Nov 2002 13:40:58 -0300
Subject: 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film

>I say, whatever it takes to get kids to enjoy Shakespeare, USE IT! Get
>out of the ivory tower. BTW, try linking "Hamlet" with "Home Alone."
>Both are revenge plays. Sure makes "Hamlet" accessible to non-readers.

A bit off the subject but I found that the film "The Manchurian
Candidate" follows the plot of Hamlet very closely right down to Sinatra
as Horatio. You have to assume that Hamlet is really crazy to make it
work but the other parallels are fascinating.

John Zuill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael B. Luskin <
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Date:           Sunday, 3 Nov 2002 14:40:45 EST
Subject: 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film

>Was I the only child who ever lived, to say, "Although this art form
>seems peculiar to me now, credible adults clearly think much of it, and
>therefore I shall pay attention to it as best I can, trusting that, with
>maturity, I shall appreciate it more?"

I think you were the only child who ever said that.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John V. Knapp <
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Date:           Sunday, 3 Nov 2002 13:52:06 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2184 Re: Taming of the Shrew Film

Dear Ruth Ross --

You said:

>C'mon! Shakespeare did not write to be read; he wrote to be performed.
>And some of the people in his audience, especially those in the pit,
>were illiterate or semi- and just loved a good story. He wrote to please
>them, too, not just the "educated" noblemen seated in the more expensive
>seats. Heaven forfend that the groundlings started to throw things or
>(dread!) ask for their money back. It's time to stop making our students
>think they're too stupid to ever understand the Bard -- unless a
>brilliant teacher explains it to them! -- and let them enjoy it!
>Obviously, seeing a live performance isn't always possible, so a movie
>is the next best thing. I often have them read the opening act and then
>show it to them on the VCR, whetting their appetites. We then read the
>rest of the play fairly quickly and watch the rest of the film
>afterwards. My junior English students loved "Othello" this way and felt
>really good about being able to understand it."

My reply:

My argument is predicated on the fact that few American HS students
will, in this day of TV, video-games, and "Jackass"-type films be able
or willing either to see or to read Shakespeare independently.  Into
such a vacuum many teachers -- as do you -- show them "film" versions,
including that dreadful Almereyda's *Hamlet.*   God deliver me from evil
if my sole experience (as a HS student) with Shakespeare is that version
-- or the infamous Mel Gibsonian frame-taleless *Hamlet* as well.  Key
questions: WHY do we want to teach Shakespeare -- other than his iconic
value -- and what goes into the experience that answers the why?

If you think your students have arrived at an independent level of skill
-- either in reading OR viewing Shakespeare -- from an in-class trip
through one or the other of such film re-fashionings -- I'd love to see
your evidence.  My intention, using far more than teacherly charisma, is
to help them with an early modern English that is to them not merely a
"foreign language" -- although one could easily say that -- but a type
of reading that is increasingly being lost.  That is, they must learn
HOW to read poetry and esthetic language, or any language beyond the
efferent.  I WANT them to struggle with images, trops, convoluted
syntax, elements of culture and history far in the distant past, and
etc., so that at the end of it all, they are developing a level of
independence FROM the teacher AND the director;  hence, many (but not
all) WILL, therefore read and view on their own. I can point to the
pride of many of my students' students who claim, with justification,
that they are no longer afraid of picking up a new play (for them) since
they can handle those tasks that were, earlier, completely daunting.
AFTER they have learned these elementary reading skills, THEN watching a
film can be both productive and stimulating.

I have been educating teachers for well over 30 years and have
encountered such arguments as yours repeatedly.  They are made with all
good intentions, focus primarily on motivation, and usually specify what
you have: they WON'T read (as well as can't) and so therefore as a
substitute, (ie, the "next best thing") I'll at least give them a film
experience and hope for SOME level of transfer.

I would argue, however, that it is a consummation devoutly to be wished
for two reasons:  a) their own imagination gets short-circuited by the
camera work, the director's and actors' visions, and therefore reading
becomes filling in the schema already outlined; b) with their own
imagination (what must Caliban look like?) thus curtailed, they become
MORE dependent, not less, on the camera's focusing in a way different
from a stage play or from independent reading.  However, again, IF your
approach works, show me the evidence beyond the local and anecdotal.
More importantly, show me the cognitive mechanism(s) by which transfer
takes place between watching a film in class -- with a structured
debriefing after -- and reading or watching a stage production AND
understanding a play on one's own.

Cheers,
John V. Knapp

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Slager <
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Date:           Monday, 4 Nov 2002 09:38:35 -0800
Subject:        Re: Taming of the Shrew Film...

Ruth Ross writes:  "... some of the people in his audience, especially
those in the pit, were illiterate or semi- and just loved a good story.
He wrote to please them, too, not just the "educated" noblemen seated in
the more expensive seats. Heaven forfend that the groundlings started to
throw things or (dread!) ask for their money back."

I've rarely seen a live production of a Shakespeare play that wasn't
severely cut in order to shorten the play.  I wonder why it is believed
that modern audiences cannot sit through an entire play in our
upholstered seats in an air conditioned theater.  Why could
Shakespeare's audience sitting in uncomfortable wooden seats or even
standing in the heat or cold endure the entire play?  It would seen that
Shakespeare, over his long career, must have carefully tailored his
plays to suit his audience.  Why have audiences changed so much?

Regards,
Jim Slager

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