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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: July ::
Updating Shakespeare's Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0402  Friday, 24 July 2009

From:       Eric Johnson-DeBaufre <
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Date:       Thursday, 23 Jul 2009 19:53:19 -0400
Subject: 20.0395 Updating Shakespeare's Plays
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0395 Updating Shakespeare's Plays

Julie Sutherland wrote:

 >I absolutely agree that there have been some abominable
 >'updatings' of Shakespeare, and equally abominable
 >performances by women in Shakespeare. The worst productions
 >I have seen, however, have been 'true' to the text and
 >context (acknowledging our limited understanding of that
 >context, unless we want to challenge the inerrancy of
 >Hamlet in *Hamlet*, but we all know where believing in
 >the inerrancy of anything gets us).

My whole post was heavily ironic, something I hoped was clear from the 
"I blame the Bard himself" comment that I appended to the end. Granted 
that one can always produce examples of "updatings" that are not 
successful, but I prefer that to productions that take no risks at all. 
Shakespeare's audiences presumably did not find it strange to watch 
dramas about ancient Romans performed by cross-dressing men dressed in 
Elizabethan clothing, but for some reason some scholars find it terribly 
distracting or annoying to watch performances of King Lear  in which the 
setting evokes Sarajevo. I can understand responses that object to 
particular updatings by detailing what was unsuccessful about them, but 
not those that wish the practice would disappear altogether. What would 
be the alternative?

Eric Johnson-DeBaufre

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