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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
Hotspur
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0265  Monday, 3 April 2006

From: 		Steve Urkowitz <
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Date: 		Sunday, 02 Apr 2006 11:54:40 -0400
Subject: 	Hotspur

Michael B. Luskin asks:

 >I am still interested in opinions as to why Hotspur is so hostile and
 >unpleasant to his co rebels.  He comes close to braking his alliances
 >with them, and they certainly becomes less interested n their joint
 >military efforts.  Why does he deal with them so?

This is the kind of question that I think actors have to ask (or should 
ask) and that I think directors are obligated to invent answers for.  My 
own directorial style leads me to look for parallels in literary and 
personal narratives that make sense out of Hotspur's actions and 
attitudes.  I grew up in the Bronx, and a fair number of guys I knew 
were just this contentious, even with "friends" in the neighborhood. 
It's a kind of testosterone challenge, "picking" fights as a matter of 
principal and reflexive practice.  Belligerence seems to be one of the 
qualities of macho or "doric" societies that Shakespeare was 
particularly sensitive to.  He weaves its nasty presence into heroes and 
villains.  Homer gives Odysseus this same kind of explosive anger at a 
possible insult when he's among the Phaiaikhians, the people who are 
going to bring him home to Ithika.  Don Quixote has similar moments when 
he feels that his honor or his ideas are being opposed, and he'll act 
with absurd rage.

The alternative to such hostility -- the road of containment of anger, 
and of maintaining a continuing discourse in the face of discord -- 
becomes a hallmark of maturity in many heroic narratives.

Shakespeare carries on a career-long critique of machismo, nevertheless 
recognizing its social and psychological power and attraction.  It's not 
that he's simply hostile to the warrior code.  Rather he recognizes it 
as a kind of common aspect of culture that men and women have to 
negotiate, as inevitable as dealing with gravity or time.

Of course, I'm arguing for a kind of essentialism.  Ah, well.  In the 
Bronx, that's what we had to work with, and that's what Shakespeare 
seems to have found in his sources to build into his portrayals of 
characters in Rome and Greece and Italy and France and England.   Alas, 
I've found that same Hotspur in college administrators and colleagues 
and cousins.  But (I think) along with Shakespeare, I've also found the 
wonders of amity and laughter and voluntary peaceful negotiation in the 
graceful magic of theatrical collaboration.  Maybe Shakespeare draws 
Hotspur to show exactly how attractive such a guy can be even while he 
sets himself up for disaster.

Separate note:  If anyone on the list is near Perpignan in the south of 
France this week, you can see my production of A Midsummer Night's Dream 
at the University of Perpignan on Thursday and Friday, April 6 & 7  at 
12:30pm and again on Friday April 7 at 9pm.  In English with lively, 
amateur actors.

Steve Urkowitz
Visiting Professor, Erasmus Mundus Program, Perpignan

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