2004

"It makes it more accessible to a modern audience"

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0715  Tuesday, 16 March 2004

From:           Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 14:54:54 -0600
Subject: 15.0647 "It makes it more accessible to a modern audience"
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0647 "It makes it more accessible to a modern audience"

Since no one else seems to be rising in defense of modern (or
semi-modern) adaptations of Shakespeare, I would like to add a few
comments to the dialogue.

Many complaints against modern-dress productions center around the idea
that something gets "lost in translations" as it were.  I would argue,
however, that no production, even those absolutely faithful to the ideal
of period accuracy, can convey everything a reader of the text might
see.  All Shakespeare plays are weighted down with information, thematic
threads, cultural messages and implications.  No single production can
possibly communicate all of these "chunks" of information with the same
emphasis - a director has to make choices as to which threads she wishes
to emphasize, and which must be de-emphasized.  Every production is an
act of interpretation to this extent.

Jonathan Dietrich says that we must "tell a story." Absolutely, this is
what a performance must do, but every Shakespeare play text contains the
suggestion of many different stories.  The plays do not come to us
pre-interpreted and directed like the scripts of Tennessee Williams
(which are complete with intricate stage directions and set
descriptions).  In any production of a Shakespeare play, a director has
to choose which thematic elements of a text will be emphasized and which
personality traits will be highlighted.  She cannot tell all of the
stories within the play.  She cannot give every thematic thread equal
emphasis.  A good modern adaptation will enable the director to tell the
story she sees in the text.

One of the most brilliant elements of Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of
"Hamlet" is his use of the mirrored hall.  The room is central to the
production, and the play's action returns to it over and over again.
The room becomes a metaphor for Hamlet's life - everywhere is a mirror
that both reflects and is coldly silent, everywhere are eyes watching
that cannot be seen, the viewers just out of reach.  Branagh's
production emphasizes the twin themes of a dead-end introspection and
political paranoia while de-emphasizing other thematic elements -- the
mirrored hall served brilliantly as an anchor for those themes.  Yet,
this is an element of the production that would have been impossible had
Branagh stuck to the rigid requirements of an Elizabethan production.

There have, of course, been countless adaptations that were miserable
failures, but when it works, it can be stunning.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Et Tu Big Mac - Popular Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0714  Tuesday, 16 March 2004

From:           Wayne Shore <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 10:03:16 -0600
Subject: 15.0690 Et Tu Big Mac - Popular Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0690 Et Tu Big Mac - Popular Shakespeare

My favorite popular reference to Shakespeare occurred just a few years
ago.  Congress was evenly divided over a highly visible issue, of great
public interest.  Most Congressional minds were made up, but the few who
claimed to be undecided received much attention.  One Congressman was
much in the public eye for not having made up his mind, and on the eve
of the vote he hosted a townhall meeting with his constituents, walking
among them with a microphone, seeking their opinions.

Dorothy Rabinowitz, reporting on this for the Wall Street Journal,
described the scene as "a little touch of Hamlet in the night."

Wayne Shore

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

"Beware March 15!" but No Fear Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0712  Tuesday, 16 March 2004

[1]     From:   D Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 09:32:12 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0693 "Beware March 15!" but No Fear Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Norman Hinton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 16:02:18 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0693 "Beware March 15!" but No Fear Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 09:32:12 -0600
Subject: 15.0693 "Beware March 15!" but No Fear Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0693 "Beware March 15!" but No Fear Shakespeare

I agree (I think -- they may not feel so) with Messrs Steele and Groves.

There are varying degrees of difficulty in comprehending any language.
If you want to understand the Iliad as our classically-educated
ancestors did, you must learn Homeric Greek. Even so, they did not
understand it as Plato did. But Plato did not understand it exactly as
his cultural ancestors did.

Without any Greek, you can get much of the plot and some of the
characterization of the Iliad, but almost none of poetry. By poetry I
mean what (I think) they meant: powerful, resonant language, witty turns
of phrase, illuminating comparisons, ironies, sound repetitions, and so
forth, that are (if you like that sort of thing) a pure joy to savor.

This command of the sense, the nonsense and the music of language cannot
really be replicated in translation, and so all that is lost. Of course,
not everything is lost, especially in the greatest works -- but that
much is. Because Shakespeare used an older form of English his language
is much easier to understand than Chaucer's, say, which is much easier
than the Beowulf poet's, and so on. They are not equally hard, but none
is really easy for the typical American college-bound student.

The question is whether you regard Elizabethan English as sufficiently
foreign to your students that it becomes too fatiguing to get them to
read it comfortably. No one can answer that question except the
individual teacher, since it is affected by the language skills and
backgrounds of the student, as well as the interests and pedagogical
skills of the teacher. You define your students and yourself by the way
you answer the question.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norman Hinton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 16:02:18 -0600
Subject: 15.0693 "Beware March 15!" but No Fear Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0693 "Beware March 15!" but No Fear Shakespeare

I have always refused to teach any work I could not read in the
original, whether it was taught in translation or not.

 >...linguistic purists.  I'd be interested to know whether they all
either read and teach Homer and Dostoevsky in Greek and Russian or not

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Essex told Elizabeth

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0713  Tuesday, 16 March 2004

From:           Dennis Taylor <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 09:46:23 -0500
Subject:        Dickinson Poem

Here's a stab at interpretation of the Dickinson poem:

     Elizabeth told Essex
     That she could not forgive
     The clemency of Deity
     However--might survive--
     That secondary succor
     We trust that she partook
     When suing--like her Essex
     For a reprieving Look--

Elizabeth, following the Protestant/Calvinist line, insisted on
predestination versus mercy won by works or anything we do (like praying
for mercy, and expecting God to change his design). That is, she could
not forgive, or consider acceptable, a notion of God as "clemency."
HOWEVER, in death Elizabeth probably hoped for a little mercy after all
(to be let off the hook for her sins), and so came crawling to God,
praying for mercy, as Essex had begged mercy from her, when he was under
order of execution. Perhaps it is important that Essex was associated
with various dissident groups, including Catholics, and so might be seen
as a less than observant Calvinist.

Another interesting crux: how do listserv members interpret Eliot's
mention of Elizabeth and Leicester in The Waste Land?

Dennis Taylor

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

The Three Sons in Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0711  Tuesday, 16 March 2004

[1]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 04:55:28 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet

[2]     From:   D Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 09:47:51 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet

[3]     From:   Jay Feldman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Mar 2004 01:29:26 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 04:55:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet

Original sin by definition is not something you commit. It is a gloss on
the human condition. And it has both individual and social expressions.
  Shakespeare is not reticent about observing the prevalence of tit for
tat politics resulting in a mini arms race and later in Hamlet's
suggestion of the futility of Fortinbras' conquest in terms of moral
calculus. Hamlet pere is no bargain but if one were looking for an
antagonist who acts with consummate aplomb -- look Claudius-ward.

I am sure there are socio-political readings of Hamlet and WS that make
this point better than I am making it.

Best, S

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 16 Mar 2004 09:47:51 -0600
Subject: 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet

Well, here we go again (or maybe not)

Ed Taft writes:

 >For me, the proof that Old Hamlet is evil resides in his willingness to
 >seek revenge by using his son. What good, loving father would sacrifice
 >his son's life and happiness to even an old score from beyond the grave?
 >Fathers and father figures are the source of tragedy in *Hamlet.*

I don't see Old Hamlet having much say in the matter. How exactly he is
allowed a liberty pass from Purgatory, there can be little doubt Who
grants it. The Who, moreover, would seem to have commanded it because
Claudius's "offense is rank to heaven," that is, his "murder most foul"
and "damned incest." I am unsure about my own position on the latter, so
I won't defend it to the Anti-Hamletites. But murder I do consider a
good deal more than an old grudge.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Feldman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 17 Mar 2004 01:29:26 EST
Subject: 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0695 The Three Sons in Hamlet

Ed Taft says: "This is a revenge play, and the overpowering emotion of
revenge does not proceed by logical rules. That Old Hamlet defeated Old
Fortinbras "fair and square" . . . means nothing to a young hothead like
Fortinbras Jr. Revenge proceeds from the overwhelming feeling of having
been humiliated, violated, disrespected, etc."

Ed, I believe your definition of revenge applies to Hamlet and Laertes
whose fathers were murdered, but surely not to their cohort Fortinbras
who must have been in diapers when his father was defeated, and defeated
surely with shriving time allowed. Both Hamlet and Laertes have a strong
case for revenge but Fortinbras' cause in no way mimics the motive,
immediacy, or the punch of their causes.

I agree with your suggestion that the older and younger generations are
conflicted over control issues, clear examples emerge between Polonius
and Ophelia, the question of Wittenberg, Hamlet's attempt to return his
mother to the steep and thorny path, as well as his acting instructions
to the players, but not, surely not in King Hamlet's call for revenge.
Like the death of Polonius, and very *un*like that of King Fortinbras,
it is murder most foul for which one cannot and should not remain
immobilized. The plot is centered on Hamlet's response. Laertes provides
a different revenge yardstick, similar to that wielded by Pyrrhus, but a
thirty year old revenge motive for Fortinbras is simply not compelling.

Another point concerning the control of the older generation over the
younger. My sense is that Laertes returns at his sister's call prepared
to kill Claudius believing him to be the murderer of his father.
Claudius, with the help of others redirects his rage toward Hamlet and
together they become co-conspirators, each working with the other to
gain or maintain their particular desire: Laertes, his revenge;
Claudius, his throne. Though Old Norway, in conjunction with Claudius,
may have blocked Fortinbras' immediate demands, the prince eventually
seems to get what he truly wanted in the first place: troops, treasure,
and the authority to expend them.

Jay Feldman

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Search

Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.