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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: Shakespeare at Stratford
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0444  Tuesday, 11 March 2003

[1]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Mar 2003 13:05:14 GMT0BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford

[2]     From:   Jan Pick <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Mar 2003 19:05:20 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford

[3]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Thursday, 6 Mar 2003 23:46:50 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford

[4]     From:   Peter D. Holland <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Mar 2003 12:00:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Mar 2003 13:05:14 GMT0BST
Subject: 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford

I probably shouldn't reply to this one, since my vested interest is
obvious.  But still, Charles Weinstein's attack is so comprehensive that
perhaps I might be allowed to comment:

>Four entries have appeared to date:  Richard III,
>The Winter's Tale, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice.
>As You Like It has appeared, and Tempest is about to.

>Collectively and individually, these volumes suffer from two glaring
>methodological flaws which severely qualify their usefulness and
>interest: (1) They study only Stratford stagings of a given play,
>ignoring other modern English productions of equal or greater
>significance.

Yes, that is what they say they do - the justification for doing so is
offered by the General Editor, Robert Smallwood, in his preface.  They
do not 'ignore' other productions - though, yes, they may only be
referred to in passing.

>(2)  They study every Stratford staging of a given play,
>affording equal time to the memorable and the properly obscure.

That is not, actually, true.  All productions are indeed discussed, but
there are notable differences in the detail of the treatment.

>these volumes do not begin to be adequate
>studies of the plays in performance during the postwar English period.

But that is not, expressly not, what they claim to be.

They contribute to the study of the plays in performance, they do not
claim to be exhaustive accounts.

>The editors of this series may have felt that an
>exclusive Stratford focus was intellectually justifiable:  it is not.

Obviously, I don't agree.  The aims of the series are quite clear, and
in surveying a series of productions which not only are, generally, much
better archived than most, but have their own internal history as
successive productions within a single company, the books provide what
they say they do.  It is certainly intellectually justifiable - whether
or not it is to everyone's taste.  Other kinds of performance history
(the isolated study of individual 'landmark' productions, which Mr
Weinstein would clearly prefer) are of course perfectly possible, and
would have their own, but different intellectual justification.

>(2)  During a sixty-year period a theatre, with luck, will do some
>interesting and important work.  It will also produce a certain amount
>of rubbish:  derivative, uninspired, modish, time-serving or frankly
>horrendous stuff that is quickly forgotten after closing night.  The
>only sensible (and decent) thing to do with such productions is to let
>them rest in condign oblivion.

Again, I don't share the view that one should only discuss the 'best'
productions.  The reasons for failure, the perspective imperfect
productions may offer both on the play, and, more importantly, on the
cultural moment of their production, have a different, but legitimate
interest.  A production that is as a whole a 'failure' may have
individually good performances, or interesting and different
perspectives on the text.  But it is precisely the effort to make it
possible to see the ways in which the series of productions at
Stratford, good and bad, map the theatrical culture of the postwar
period that, in my view, makes the series useful.

>Why force the premature canonization of two very recent
>productions, neither of which is a plausible candidate for permanence?

They are not canonised - they are discussed.  No production is
'permanent'.

But enough of a private exchange between interested parties.  I promise
not to return to the subject - but would be interested, of course, to
know if other members of the list find these books as inadequate as Mr
Weinstein does.

David Lindley
University of Leeds

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jan Pick <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Mar 2003 19:05:20 -0000
Subject: 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford

The series is called Shakespeare at Stratford!  What did you expect?

Jan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Mar 2003 23:46:50 -0000
Subject: 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford

>I suffered through David Leveaux's (1992) and Adrian
>Noble's (1995) stagings of Romeo and Juliet.  Neither created ripples in
>its own day, and neither is much talked about in ours.  They will not be
>remembered as important or even good productions; one doubts that they
>will be remembered at all.  An intelligent and well-proportioned stage
>history would give them no more than a paragraph apiece, probably less.
>Why, then, do we have a series which studies both of these mediocre
>stagings in detail while ignoring a truly influential production like
>Zeffirelli's?  Why force the premature canonization of two very recent
>productions, neither of which is a plausible candidate for permanence?
>There are answers to these questions, some suggested above or in my
>earlier posts, but none that makes aesthetic or intellectual sense.

While I agree that one wouldn't want to "canonize" these productions
(but then, the process of canonization is far more complex than this
possibility allows, anyway), I can certainly see how a scholarly account
of it could be useful. Let's posit a very simple hypothetical: What if I
happen to be writing a biography of one of the actors who performed in
Adrian Noble's 1995 production of R&J? I should then be very grateful to
the compilers of this volume. My subject might well have stunk in this
production; but he/she might have gone on to great things: my biography
could hardly ignore his/her failures, but Charles Weinstein could not
argue that my biography was about a worthless actor. And so my secondary
research materials are validated by the use to which I put them (just as
the Arden studies' primary materials can be validated by the use to
which they out them).

Scholarship is not about the "quality" of the material, it is simply
about documenting that material within its context. Does a historian
refuse to research a battle because it wasn't very well-planned?

m

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter D. Holland <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Mar 2003 12:00:40 -0500
Subject: 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0435 Shakespeare at Stratford

I love Charles Weinstein's logic. The problem with the Shakespeare at
Stratford series is apparently that it studies productions of
Shakespeare at Stratford. I wouldn't expect him to appreciate why some
of us want to know even about bad productions but surely he can
comprehend that a series that does what it announces it will do is far
preferable to one that does something entirely different. Of course, the
advantage of such integrity in the series is, for Weinstein, that he can
now ignore future volumes with a clear conscience. The advantage for the
rest of us is that we can admire the brilliant work of each and every
scholar who has so far contributed a volume to this outstanding series.

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