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Home :: Archive :: 2013 :: October ::
The Hollow Crown vs. The War of the Roses

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0483  Wednesday, 16 October 2013

 

[1] From:        Hannibal Hamlin < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         October 15, 2013 1:32:03 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Crown and Roses 

 

[2] From:        Cary Mazer < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         October 16, 2013 7:44:00 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Crown and Roses 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Hannibal Hamlin < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         October 15, 2013 1:32:03 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Crown and Roses

 

I’m afraid I must disagree, at least in part. I haven’t yet watched all fours plays in The Hollow Crown, only the first two. Richard II, I thought, was brilliant. Ben Wishaw as Richard, seemed to me riveting, and the rest of the cast was superb as well (Patrick Stewart’s John of Gaunt, for instance). Wishaw’s delivery was crystal clear, subtle, sensitive, yet passionate when appropriate. He also (with the help of director, cinematographer, and such) conveyed a regal glamor, that worked wonderfully in and amongst the more brutal characters like Bolingbroke and especially Northumberland (the perfectly cast David Morrissey). The production went a little over the top toward the end, with Richard pierced by arrows as a Plantagenet Saint Sebastian. But I actually appreciated the extent to which the religious and biblical aspects of the play were not only not shied away from but highlighted. Richard certainly perceives himself as a martyr, even another Christ (as his allusions to the Crucifixion make explicit). He obviously isn’t, exactly—certainly not a sacrificial savior—but the other characters too are unable to fully, in their minds, wash the balm off an anointed king. As with most performances of Shakespeare, however, the key for me was not in production values but in the playing, in the delivery of lines. In these terms, this was one of the best Shakespeare plays I’ve seen on film.

 

Henry IV, Part 1, sadly, I found a disaster, and all the more disappointing after Richard II. The direction seemed to me misguided, cutting and rearranging the play in the usual self-indulgent way too many directors have. The comedy was painfully forced, relying on noise and lame physical humor (tankards poured over heads) rather than the sparkling dialogue. I thought Simon Russell Beale a wonderful choice as Falstaff, and had high hopes, but he fell completely flat. If Falstaff is just a tired, grubby, degraded old man, what’s the point of the play? However we finally judge him, he has to begin as a powerful temptation for Hal (and us) in order for the play to work. Anthony Quayle seems to me far more effective in the old BBC version, despite its stale production values. Jeremy Irons was a good Henry IV, but the Hotspur was lukewarm at best.

 

I’ve put off watching the other two plays, but I suppose I’ll get around to it. Since Richard Eyre directs part 2 as well, I don’t expect to be thrilled, but perhaps Thea Sharrock will prove to have some of the skill and imagination of Rupert Goold.

 

Hannibal

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Cary Mazer < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         October 16, 2013 7:44:00 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Crown and Roses

 

Michael Barnart writes:

 

I found they took the direction of literal interpretations throughout. For example, during the famous “Of comfort no man speak” monologue Richard says, “let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of Kings . . .” And then all the actors indeed sit upon the ground. This, along with many other interpretations of the script were taken quite literally. I would not have played it that way, it seems more a speech of irony and pain and the bold realization of what wearing a “hollow crown” may bring when it’s knocked off one’s head.  That doesn’t exclude actors sitting down at that point, but played so literally it seemed rather childish to me. I’m wondering if others share my view or found that it worked well depicted in that manner.

 

I am certainly not defending the overall aesthetics of the series, or the validity of this specific choice. But when a character says “let us sit upon the ground,” it might be rhetoric, and it might be metaphor; but before it is either or both of these, it is an instruction in a script for a character, played by an actor, to say and/or do something. As such it is a simple statement, a command from a King.  He may do it himself, or not; he might be commanding others to do it, or not; they may obey his command, or not.  The metaphorical and rhetorical effect is the product of the statement and action, not its determinant. A modern director may choose to have him command or not, to have him sit or not, to have the others sit or not, in order to create a desired image of metaphor rhetorical effect; but the directors’ instructions to the actors will be for them to play specific actions, as characters, in that particular set of dramatic and material circumstances.

 

Cary

 

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