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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
Apologies and Hiatus
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1769  Tuesday, 28 September 2004

[1]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Saturday, 18 Sep 2004 09:07:22 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus

[2]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Saturday, 18 Sep 2004 12:10:49 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Saturday, 18 Sep 2004 18:06:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus

[4]     From:   Nancy Charlton <
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        Date:   Saturday, 18 Sep 2004 23:26:16 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1742 Beale-Fielding Macbeth

[Editor's Note: I post these messages to provide the members a chance to
respond, but I do not want the thread to continue beyond this.]

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Saturday, 18 Sep 2004 09:07:22 -0400
Subject: 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus

Dear Professor Cook:

1.  I daresay that the people who find my post de trop have said the
most savage and ad hominem things about the current occupants of The
White House and 10 Downing Street, and have laughed heartily at hearing
such things said by others.  "Oh," they will say, "but that's
different!"  Not to me it isn't.

2.  Bad art has always been a subject of unbridled satire.
Aristophanes on Euripides, Dryden on Shadwell, Pope on Cibber, Byron on
Southey--all of it versified savagery, some of it highly personal and at
times even sexual (e.g., Dryden's reflections on Shadwell's girth and
stupidity, Byron's innuendo that Southey was a non-ejaculator).  No, I
don't rank myself with such eminent practitioners, but I claim the same
privilege.  Indeed, an actor's appearance and sexuality are even more
relevant to his art than they are in the case of writers.

3.  Listmembers undoubtedly chortle when reading MacFlecknoe and Don
Juan because those are safely remote.  But satire exists in its own time
as well.  Offensive?  You bet, but since when does one respond to
offensiveness by banning it?  In my judgment, players like Beale and
Fielding are destroying classical acting in our time.  If my readers
disagree, let them say so. If their sensibilities are too fragile for
the task, let them stop reading my posts.  Either alternative is better
than the cowardly tactic of suppression.

3.  I will have more to say about this in a follow-up post.

--Charles Weinstein

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Saturday, 18 Sep 2004 12:10:49 -0400
Subject: 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus

1.  However harshly I may speak of actors, productions and other public
figures and phenomena, I have always tried to be courteous when talking
to fellow Listmembers.  (I have been driven from that position on only a
few occasions, and then only after considerable provocation).  Judging
from their behavior, my readers subscribe to exactly the opposite
procedure.  They will tolerate weeks of exchanges in which Listmembers
call each other idiot, ignoramus and madman; yet they immediately cry
Foul when I attack certain well-known actors whom I believe to be not
only bad but, in terms of their influence, pernicious.  My procedure
strikes me as more sensible, and wholly justifiable for a discussion
group dealing, inter alia, with public figures and trends.

2.  People can and do condemn casting as misguided or absurd long before
they have seen the results.  If a producer announced that he had chosen
Bette Midler to play Juliet, few of us would restrain our hoots of
derision.  The casting of Beale as Hamlet and Macbeth strikes me as
equally ludicrous.  Others may disagree, and they are certainly entitled
to say so.  They are not entitled to call for the suppression of
different views.

3.  Herewith some excerpts from previous critiques of Macbeths and Lady
Macbeths.  Don't worry:  the critiques are all decades-old, hence "safe."

The Daily Mail on Charles Laughton (1934):

"I do not believe that Shakespeare intended Macbeth to be a petulant,
sulky schoolboy...nor do I believe that he would have ranted and stamped
his foot like a child of ten.  He need not, I suggest, always have
soliloquized on A flat and allegro vivace at that.  I can find no
textual evidence to support the idea that he looked in person like the
bearded lady at Mitcham Fair."

Kennth Tynan on Ralph Richardson (1952):

"In the banquet scene,...Richardson came to life for several consecutive
sentences.... Up to this point, he had appeared a robot player, a man
long past feeling, who had been stumping across the broad stage as if in
need of a compass to find the exit....And then, and ever after, Sir
Ralph's numbness, his apparent mental deafness, returned to chill me:
Macbeth became once more a sad facsimile of the Cowardly Lion in The
Wizard of Oz....[H]e moved dully, as if by numbers, and such charm as he
possessed was merely a sort of unfocused bluffness, like a teddy-bear
snapped in a bad light by a child holding its first camera."

James Fenton on Peter O'Toole and Frances Tomelty (1980):

"Don't trust those reviews.  The spectacle is far worse than has
hitherto been made out, a milestone in the history of coarse acting.  It
moved the Daily Mail to giggles, and I was in such difficulties that I
often wondered whether it would be better to leave the theatre and
explode outside...

Miss Tomelty has a voice which, when it drops a little, sounds exactly
like Margaret Thatcher, so that lines like 'Naught's had, all's
spent/When our desire is got without content' come across like
Conservative pep talks on the economy.  Now anyone who has been anywhere
near Mrs. Thatcher will also know that the woman absolutely exudes sex
appeal.  She has a way of quite undressing one with her eyes, and I can
think of few Conservative politicians with whom I would rather...hello,
hello, this is getting out of hand.  The point is that when Miss Tomelty
invited the spirits to unsex her, she made the invitation quite the most
provocative thing in the world; so far from being unsexed, she was all
over her returning husband, and he all over her, like a rat all over a
drain.

As to Mr. O'Toole's performance, it was deranged....At first I thought
that this must be a portrayal of drunkenness.  It had a slurred
slowness, like that of the drunken driver who imagines he will go
undetected if he sticks to the kerb and never exceeds ten miles an hour.
  Later, I began to wonder whether the boorishness and imperception of
the delivery might not be better explained if one thought of a Macbeth
who was in the habit of getting stoned out of his mind, so that his
brain over the years had turned to Gruyere cheese."

Would my fellow Listmembers argue that these reviews should also have
been suppressed?

--Charles Weinstein

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Saturday, 18 Sep 2004 18:06:58 -0400
Subject: 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1748 Apologies and Hiatus

I respectfully take issue with the distinguished list members who would
censor Charles Weinstein's reviews.  Nasty personal  observations are
the hallmarks of some well regarded reviewers, otherwise John Simon
would have been out of work years ago.

Speaking for myself, I enjoy Mr. Weinstein's contributions, even those I
don't agree with.  And I suspect that there are a great many other
SHAKSPERians who are too politically correct to admit that they do as
well.  I would not like to lose them or have their trenchancy mitigated.

What offends me a great deal more than Mr. Weinstein's comments about
the fitness of particular actors -- after all, actors knowingly subject
themselves to this sort of stuff -- is one list member calling another
"delusional."

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nancy Charlton <
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Date:           Saturday, 18 Sep 2004 23:26:16 -0700
Subject: 15.1742 Beale-Fielding Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1742 Beale-Fielding Macbeth

Charles Weinstein wrote, drastically snipped:

 >Dunsinane?

Self-referential?

Nancy Charlton

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