2008

Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0690  Wednesday, 24 December 2008

From:        Kevin De Ornellas <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:        Wednesday, 26 Nov 2008 14:02:37 +0000
Subject:     BBC: Real Skull Used for RSC's 'Hamlet'

[Editor's Note: I will continue in a few days with the submissions for 
threads that I have not gotten to as of yet. --HMC]

Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Bequeathed skull stars in Hamlet

The skull held aloft by actor David Tennant in the Royal Shakespeare 
Company's Hamlet was a real one, it has been revealed.

Pianist Andre Tchaikowsky left his skull to the RSC when he died in 1982 
in the hope it would be used on stage.

But since his death at the age of 46, it had only been used in rehearsals.

Tennant held it on stage during the famous "Alas, poor Yorick" scene in 
22 performances at the Courtyard Theatre, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

  THE STORY OF THE SKULL

October 1979 - Mr Tchaikowsky writes his will, bequeathing his skull to 
the RSC
June 1982 - He dies of cancer, aged 46
July 1982 - Terry Hands, the RSCs artistic director, accepts the bequest
August 1982 - Mr Tchaikowsky's unusual bequest is reported in The Times
1982-1984 - The skull spends two years on the roof of an RSC building to 
be 'aired'
1984 - The skull is used for a photo session with actor Roger Rees to 
promote that season's production of Hamlet
1989 - Mark Rylance rehearses with the skull, but a cast is used for the 
performances
August 2008 - Mr Tchaikowsky's wish to appear in Shakespeare's play 
Hamlet as the skull of Yorick is finally realised

The Doctor Who star has been lauded for his performance as Hamlet since 
it opened in Shakespeare's home town in August.

But it was not revealed that Tennant used a real skull in the play's 
most famous scene.

Mr Tchaikowsky, an acclaimed composer and concert pianist, died of 
cancer in 1982 aged 46 and donated his body for medical science.

In his will he wrote that his skull "shall be offered by the institution 
receiving my body to the Royal Shakespeare Company for use in theatrical 
performance".

Since then it has only been used in rehearsals because no actor felt 
comfortable enough using it on stage in front of an audience.

In 1989 actor Mark Rylance rehearsed with it for a while, but in the end 
it was decided using the skull for performances would not be appropriate.

Instead, Rylance used a cast of Mr Tchaikowsky's skull, and the real 
thing was returned to the props department, where it resided in a 
tissue-lined box for almost 20 years.

It remained there until Greg Doran, who directed Tennant in Hamlet, 
retrieved it for his production.

"It was sort of a little shock tactic. Though, of course, to some extent 
that wears off and it's just Andre, in his box," Doran told the Daily 
Telegraph.

He added that he did not want the story to get out before Hamlet opened. 
He said: "I thought it would topple the play and it would be all about 
David acting with a real skull."

It is thought the skull will also be used when Hamlet transfers to 
London on 9 December.

RSC curator David Howells: "We hope Mr Tchaikowsky would have been 
pleased that his final wish has been realised in Gregory Doran's 
acclaimed production of Hamlet."


Kevin De Ornellas
University of Ulster

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Twelfth Night Allusion

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0689  Wednesday, 24 December 2008

From:        Edna Boris <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:        Saturday, 13 Dec 2008 12:47:13 -0500
Subject:     Twelfth Night Allusion

The opening sentence of John Cassidy's Dec. 2, 2008, New Yorker article, 
"Anatomy of a Meltdown, Ben Bernanke and the financial crisis" alludes 
to the "letter" that Malvolio reads in Twelfth Night. Cassidy writes, 
"Some are born radical. Some are made radical. And some have radicalism 
thrust upon them."

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Blind Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0687  Wednesday, 24 December 2008

From:        Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:        Tuesday, 02 Dec 2008 23:34:13 -0800
Subject:     Blind Shakespeare

William Shakespeare might have left London and stopped writing three 
years before he died because he had lost his sight, a playwright has 
suggested.

By Stephen Adams, Arts Correspondent
Telegraph, 03 Dec 2008

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3542702/Shakespeare-left-London-and-stopped-writing-because-he-went-blind.html

Rick Thomas said he thought years of writing by candlelight would have 
left Shakespeare struggling to see.

He has just written a play, For All Time, about why the bard left London 
for Stratford-upon-Avon in 1613.

It is question has vexed scholars for years.

Thomas said he had came to the conclusion out of personal experience - 
that writing plays for years on end had taken its toll on his vision. 
With the conditions Shakespeare was working under, he thought his sight 
would have deteriorated much faster.

Thomas was commissioned to write For All Time by The Theatre By the Lake 
in Kendal for its summer season next year.

He said: "I started off thinking about how Shakespeare would spend his 
working day, He would have been rehearsing in the morning, he would have 
been performing in the afternoon.

"So if he was going to write at all it would have been in the evening. 
So for six months of the year that would have been in candlelight.

"If you think about it in those terms it would have been virtually 
impossible for him to get to the age of 48 and still have 20-20 vision," 
he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He added: "I just can't see that Shakespeare could have had that clear 
vision."

After leaving London Shakespeare did not write any more plays and died 
three years later in 1616.

Thomas also came up with an alternative theory - that Shakespeare was 
frightened of staying in London in case his health failed at the speed 
it left his father.

"When William was a teenager, his father John 'went through a strange 
situation when he lost a lot of money very quickly'.

"I wonder if one of the reasons might be that he was a diabetic, lost a 
lot of money and couldn't work, and William was worried about that 
happening to him later on in life," he said.

Stanley Wells, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said the 
blindness theory was an interesting one.

But he thought the playwright could have left London after being 
traumatised by the Globe theatre burning down in 1613.

He also cast doubt on the assumption that Shakespeare lived full-time in 
London before moving back home.

"He didn't exactly depart from London. I think that's a very simplistic 
way of putting it," he said.

"He started spending more and more time in Stratford, it would appear, 
but I think he spent far more time in Stratford [throughout his career] 
than has been acknowledged."

He stressed: "He never had a house in London - he only had lodgings 
there - but he had the second-biggest house in Stratford."

Little historical documentation exists about the last years of 
Shakespeare's life and the reason why he stopped writing remains a mystery.

But Mr Wells said Shakespeare must have been able to see well enough at 
the very end of his life to sign his "elaborate" signature. Five of the 
six surviving signatures come from his "last years of his life," he said.

"He was able to see well enough to sign his quite elaborate signature 
within two months of dying," he argued.

Thomas said his play was not meant to be a historical account, but to 
put forward "lots of reasons why Shakespeare wanted to leave London."

"I plumped for the blindness in the end as the main reason but the truth 
is we just do not know and the truth is we will probably never know," he 
said.

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Retrying Shylock's Case

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0688  Wednesday, 24 December 2008

From:        Alan Horn <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:        Wednesday, 17 Dec 2008 08:11:00 -0500
Subject:     New Yorker Talk of the Town Piece: Retrying Shylock's Case

RETRIAL
by Lizzie Widdicombe
DECEMBER 22, 2008

The other night at the Cardozo School of Law, a group of distinguished 
legal minds got together to settle a dispute over a loan default. The 
lender wasn't Citibank or Countrywide -- it was Shylock, from 
Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." His last trial, English majors 
may recall, didn't go so well. (He was publicly humiliated, and was 
forced to convert from Judaism to Christianity; the authorities handed 
over his estate and half his money to his enemies.) Modern audiences 
tend to view his treatment at the hands of the Venetian court as unfair 
-- the scholar and critic A. David Moody wrote that "it seems to involve 
a reversal of the right order of things" -- and so Richard Weisberg, a 
professor of law and literature at Cardozo ("Poethics," "When Lawyers 
Write"), decided to give him an appeal.

"Lawyers were one of the first groups, along with theatre directors, to 
see Shylock's position," Weisberg, who takes a pro-Shylock reading of 
the play, said last week. "Shylock really has the best lines -- there 
isn't a lot of argument about that -- but in the nineteenth century a 
prominent German legal philosopher, Rudolf von Jhering, was among the 
first to argue that he actually had the better legal case." This was an 
exhibition hearing (Weisberg arranged a similar one for Melville's Billy 
Budd in 2006), but the legal lineup was extremely legit. Hearing the 
case: the First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams; Jed S. Rakoff, a federal 
district judge in New York; Justice Dianne T. Renwick, of the Appellate 
Division of the New York State Supreme Court; the federal appeals-court 
judge Richard Posner; the Columbia literature professor Julie Peters; 
Bernhard Schlink, the law professor and novelist; and Anthony Julius, 
best known as Princess Diana's divorce lawyer.

The appeal was held in the Cardozo moot courtroom, before a sold-out 
crowd that seemed to be equal parts lawyers and Shakespeare nuts. 
Actors did a CliffsNotes version of the play, focussing on the trial 
scene. Quick refresher: Renaissance Venice, a different era in 
Judeo-Christian relations. Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, lends three 
thousand ducats to the Christian merchant Antonio, so that Antonio's 
friend can use it to woo the wealthy Portia. Shylock, who hates Antonio, 
demands a "pound of flesh" as collateral. Some things go wrong, and 
everyone ends up in court, where Portia, disguised as a doctor of law, 
gets Antonio off the hook and gets Shylock charged with attempted 
murder. The staging was contemporary: Antonio wore a suit;
Shylock carried a briefcase.

After a short reception -- sushi, wine, California wraps -- the seven 
judges took the bench to hear arguments from lawyers for Shylock and 
Antonio.  They were dressed as if for brunch (sweaters, turtlenecks), 
and a few jotted down notes. Michael Braff, a partner at Kaye Scholer, 
argued, on Shylock's behalf, that his client should get his money back, 
plus interest. (He did not press for "specific performance"-the pound of 
flesh that Shylock had been shouting about in the play. "After four 
hundred years, my client has had time to reconsider," Braff said.) 
Daniel Kornstein, a partner at Kornstein Veisz Wexler & Pollard, 
represented Antonio, and he attacked the validity of the pound-of-flesh 
agreement. He brandished a detailed brief that he had written, which 
compared the agreement to "a tainted C.D.O." and Shylock to a predatory 
lender.

"If it please the court," Kornstein said, "this is a case about an 
illegal contract."

"What's illegal about it?" Judge Rakoff interrupted. "As you well know, 
there is a virtual obesity epidemic in this country, and to remove a 
pound of flesh is wholly to the public good."

"Not by a knife wielded by your sworn enemy," Kornstein said. He brought 
up Shylock's ulterior motives -- "the deep hatred" he had for Antonio.

"What does that have to do with anything?" Floyd Abrams asked. "Why 
should we even consider that in deciding whether to enforce the contract?"

"It adds color," Kornstein said. He went back to the pound of flesh.

"The contract, on its face, contains a clause that is such a penalty 
that no civilized society-not even Venice, New York, here -- would 
enforce it."

A woman in the audience called out, "They would in Venice, California."

To skip, "Law & Order" style, to the rulings: the judges were split, but 
they came out, five to two, in Shylock's favor. Schlink, Rakoff, Abrams, 
Peters, and Renwick said that he deserved to be repaid his three 
thousand ducats, though they differed on the question of interest.

(Schlink, on the pound of flesh: "It was Antonio's obligation to 
deliver," but "our public policy forbids enforcing a contract in a way 
that enforcement leads to one party's death.") Posner and Julius voted 
to let Antonio keep the money.

Portia, admired by many readers for her "quality of mercy" speech, was 
reprimanded by the judges for impersonating a doctor of law. "The trial 
was a travesty," Abrams said, of Shakespeare's litigation scene. 
"Beautiful sometimes, funny sometimes, and ugly sometimes, but that 
judgment is not something that we sitting here today can enforce." 
Posner said, "I'm particularly critical of Antonio's conduct. His 
failure to insure his cargoes was completely irresponsible." Renwick 
said that the whole thing made her think of the rickety deals that got 
us into the current financial mess -- "the dangers of going into a 
contract with someone who has covert ideas and interests" -- and 
suggested that all the parties were at fault. Posner agreed: "This is 
one of those cases in which we've just heard very fine lawyers argue the 
cases, but the litigants are all disreputable people. This is often 
true, particularly in the twenty-first century."

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editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Set the World on Fire with Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0686  Wednesday, 24 December 2008

From:        Austin SHAKESPEARE <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:        Monday, 1 Dec 2008 19:35:34 +0100
Subject:     Set the World on Fire with Shakespeare

November 21, 2008

Dear Shakespeare Friend:

We are pleased to report that Austin Shakespeare's debut of Macbeth at 
the Long Center was a "super success," receiving excellent reviews and 
performing before sold out houses. Building on this momentum, we are 
focusing on our outreach programs for the youth of Central Texas by 
offering workshops and school performances. By celebrating the language 
of Shakespeare, young people not only improve their vocabulary and 
reading comprehension, they simply fall in love with the beauty of the 
English language. The more deeply our actors and directors can work with 
young people, the more success we can achieve. To this end, we are 
committed to doubling the number of hours spent with students this year

Shakespeare causes everyone he touches to stretch to become nobler. Both 
young people and adults feel this. The unique spirit of youth -- that 
"anything is possible:" -- lives in us all.

We need your support to help make this happen. We know that the 
financial picture is shaky, but particularly in an economic downturn, we 
have found that the more each contributor can give within their means, 
the more our supporters feel that quality education for students is 
being supported and nourished for the future.

With a contribution, you can make it possible for Austin Shakespeare to 
visit more schools more often, reaching more students. And you can feel 
confident that you'll be bringing students the best our culture has to 
offer, the grandeur of Shakespeare.

Sincerely,
Boyce Cabaniss
President 	

Ann Ciccolella
Artistic Director 	

Alex B. Alford
Managing Director

_______________________________________________________________
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.

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