Nichol Williamson Dies December 16

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.028  Thursday, 26 January 2012

 

From:         Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         26 January 2012

Subject:     Nichol Williamson Dies December 16

 

When I was attempting to “prime the pump” a few days ago, I mentioned a stage production of Othello that opened the text to me in ways I had not considered before. Reading today’s newspapers reminded me of a similar moment in the 1969 film of Hamlet, directed by Tony Richardson, staring Nicol Williamson, staged at the Round House where it was originally produced: http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9B07E0DC1131EE3BBC4A51DFB4678382679EDE

 

This particular beat surrounds the business of Hamlet’s death at the end of the play/film.

 

As the dead Laretes falls out of the frame to the left, Williamson’s Hamlet in a one-shot says, “Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.” Then he turns to the right and falls into a closely framed two-shot with Horatio, saying, as he stares into Horatio’s eyes, “I am dead, Horatio. Thou liv'st.  Report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied.” To which, Horatio responds, “Never believe it. I am more an antique Roman than a Dane. Here's yet some liquor left.” To this, Hamlet immediately says, “Give me the cup. Let go. By heaven, I'll ha 't.” Horatio pauses, looks at the cup, and hands it to Hamlet who drinks the remainder of the poison in the chalice as the death scene moves toward its conclusion.

 

This film received decidedly mixed reviews, but I found these moments stunning, never having seen before or since, if my memory serves, these lines played this way.

 

Oh, yes, the news. It was just reported by his son Luke that Nicol Williamson died on December 16, 2011, in the Netherlands, his home for the past twenty years.

 

Here are some excerpts from the Washington Post, New York Times, and the Guardian, respectively:

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater-dance/nicol-williamson-tempestuous-but-talented-stage-and-screen-actor-dies-at-75/2012/01/25/gIQAyeLTRQ_story.html

 

Nicol Williamson, tempestuous but talented stage and screen actor, dies at 75

By Adam Bernstein, January 25

 

Nicol Williamson, a Scottish-born theater star heralded as one of the finest actors of his generation but whose menacing unpredictability onstage and off diminished his career, died Dec. 16 in Amsterdam of esophageal cancer. He was 75.

His son, Luke Williamson, confirmed the death to the Associated Press. Mr. Williamson had lived in the Netherlands for more than two decades. The news of his death was reportedly delayed at the actor’s wish to die anonymously — an understated ending to a stormy life.

 

Mr. Williamson was a galvanic presence in dozens of stage and film roles and drew favorable comparisons with Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton.

 

Author Samuel Beckett pronounced him “touched by genius.” The British playwright John Osborne, who made Mr. Williamson a marquee name in the 1964 drama “Inadmissible Evidence,” considered him “the greatest actor since Marlon Brando.”

 

With his nasally twang, receding ginger hair, despairing eyes and hangdog face, Mr. Williamson had little of the young Brando’s beauty and raw physical power. He compensated with a demeanor that conveyed cunning, an explosive temperament and a general aura of sweaty self-loathing.

 

[ . . . ]

 

Willfully or not, Mr. Williamson seemed determined to torpedo his reputation through heavy drinking and erratic, often abusive behavior.

 

[ . . . ]

 

The son of a foundry worker, Nicol Williamson was born Sept. 14, 1936, in the Scottish mining town of Hamilton and raised in Birmingham, England. He appeared in repertory theater before joining London’s Royal Shakespeare Co. in 1962.

 

He dazzled audiences with his versatility and his ability to play much older characters convincingly. He was frequently mentioned as a leader among a crop of promising young talent that included Albert Finney, Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen.

 

[ . . . ]

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/theater/nicol-williamson-a-mercurial-actor-is-dead-at-75.html

 

January 25, 2012

Nicol Williamson, a Mercurial Actor, Is Dead at 75

By BRUCE WEBER

 

Nicol Williamson, a Scottish-born actor whose large, renegade talent made him a controversial Hamlet, an eccentric Macbeth, an angry, high-strung Vanya and, on the screen, a cocaine-sniffing Sherlock Holmes — and whose querulous temperament could make his antics as commanding as his performances — died on Dec. 16 in Amsterdam, where he had lived for more than 20 years. He was 75.

 

The cause was esophageal cancer, his son, Luke, said Wednesday on the Web site nicolwilliamson.com. “He didn’t want any fuss made over his passing,” Luke Williamson said in an e-mail, explaining the delay in reporting his father’s death. “He was not interested in publicity.”

 

Mr. Williamson was rarely described as dull, sometimes as uncooperative, more often as unpredictable or tempestuous.

 

[ . . . ]

 

Mr. Williamson played Macbeth more than once, perhaps because his aggrieved Scottish temperament seemed so suitable for that tormented Scottish general and king. The first time, in London, he was directed by Trevor Nunn, and the performance was acclaimed. Later, in a Broadway production he directed himself, the eccentricities he brought to the role overwhelmed the production.

 

[ . . . ]

 

Mr. Williamson was born in Hamilton, Scotland, on Sept. 14, 1936, and grew up mostly in Birmingham, England, where, he once told The Globe and Mail of Toronto, “As a boy I always felt superior to others.” After serving in the British Army, he left home to become an actor in 1960, joining the Dundee Repertory Company and later the Royal Court in London, where he began garnering acclaim, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

 

[ . . . ]

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/jan/26/nicol-williamson?newsfeed=true

 

Nicol Williamson

Actor whose reputation for unpredictability never undermined his electrifying talent

 

 

Nicol Williamson, whose death of oesophageal cancer at the age of 73 has been announced, was arguably the most electrifying actor of his generation, but one whose career flickered and faded like a faulty light fitting. Tall and wiry, with a rasping scowl of a voice, a battered baby face and a mop of unruly curls, he was the best modern Hamlet since John Gielgud, and certainly the angriest, though he scuppered his own performance at the Round House, north London, in 1968, by apologising to the audience and walking off the stage. The experience was recycled in a 1991 Broadway comedy called I Hate Hamlet, in which he proved his point and fell out badly with his co-star.

 

The Round House Hamlet was directed by another great maverick of that time, Tony Richardson, who had directed Williamson as the dissolute lawyer Bill Maitland in John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence (1964) at the Royal Court theatre. This was his greatest performance, and one from which he never really escaped, reviving it on the stage and making the 1968 movie; the play was seen again last year at the Donmar Warehouse, with Douglas Hodge in the leading role.

 

After a couple of chaotic performances in his own one-man show, and as the equally wild and unreliable actor John Barrymore A Night on the Town at the Criterion Theatre in London in 1994, Williamson was last sighted on the stage at the Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold, Flintshire, as King Lear in 2001.

 

Its director, Terry Hands, a one-time colleague at the Royal Shakespeare Company, allowed him free rein to wander through the play, but many of the speeches were misplaced. Like Eric Morecambe playing the piano, he knew all the notes, but not necessarily in the right order. Still, the performance was fretted with moments of golddust and heartbreak, and you would not willingly have exchanged it for many a more competent or predictable performance.

 

Hands had taken the sensible precaution of cancelling the second-night performance as the first one was followed by the mother of all first-night parties, with Williamson banging out the jazz standards he loved to sing with a group of willing musicians, including the film critic Ian Christie.

 

Williamson's talent for acting and lust for life were brilliantly recorded in a 1972 essay by Kenneth Tynan for the New Yorker which charted his haphazard preparation for a concert at the White House for President Richard Nixon. When it was published, warts and all, Williamson was furious and never spoke to Tynan again.

 

He was born in Hamilton, near Glasgow, the son of Mary (nee Storrie) and Hugh Williamson. He trained for the stage at the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama and made his professional debut at the Dundee Rep in 1960. In the following year, he appeared as Flute in Richardson's Royal Court production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

 

[ . . . ]

 

When Trevor Nunn presented a season of Shakespeare's "Roman" plays at Stratford-upon-Avon, and later at the Aldwych in London, in 1973, Williamson gave a coruscating performance as an unusually virulent and misanthropic Coriolanus. He returned to Stratford in 1974 as a sour-faced, vinegary Malvolio in Twelfth Night and a wolverine, prowling Macbeth in the studio theatre, the Other Place. Nunn had started that production (Helen Mirren was Lady Macbeth) on the main stage in London, but cut out the Gothic excess for Stratford in a journey with the play that took him to the defining chamber version of it soon afterwards with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench.

 

[ . . . ]

 

He had lived mostly in Amsterdam since 1970, but could sometimes be seen in various north London pubs, where he was quite happy to mind his own business and leave the pursuit of glamour and glory to other, less deserving performers. No one who saw him on stage will ever forget him, but it is difficult to see his career as anything but unfulfilled.

 

[ . . . ]

 

PIPA/SOPA

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.027  Wednesday, 25 January 2012

 

[1] From:         Duncan Salkeld <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 24, 2012 6:27:56 PM EST

     Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: PIPA/SOPA 

 

[2] From:         Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 25, 2012 12:58:46 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: PIPA/SOPA 

 

 

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

From:         Duncan Salkeld <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 24, 2012 6:27:56 PM EST

Subject:      RE: SHAKSPER: PIPA/SOPA

 

Maybe before it gets shut down for links to rogue sites, SHAKSPER could institute and award prizes – perhaps one for sheer brass neck and self-promotion.  

 

Duncan Salkeld

 

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

From:         Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 25, 2012 12:58:46 AM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: PIPA/SOPA

 

John Briggs asks me to comment on a possible policy of OUP demanding that authors in multi-author works agree that their contributions are “works made for hire.”  Unfortunately, without knowing the details, I cannot offer much guidance.  I agree, however, that this has not been the universal custom for publishers of compilations, although some do require it in at least some cases.  Compilations are the type of work for which the doctrine was devised (see definition (2) of “work made for hire” in 17 U.S.C. § 102).  Much depends on the type of compilation; for example, an anthology of essays obviously differs from a textbook.  Much also depends on the relative bargaining power of the author and publisher.

 

John also asks about the Research Works Act, a bill introduced by Darrell Issa (R Cal) and Carolyn Mahoney (D NY), which would roll back the government policy of requiring open network access to publications which follow from studies funded by the government.  Don’t worry, I don’t see any chance of enactment.

 

Gabriel Egan is to be commended for alerting Hardy that he has in the past posted links to his website which he seems to admit deliberately pirates copyrighted works.  Gabriel seems concerned that SHAKSPER might be shut down in some sort of Star Chamber proceeding “without due process.”  I see no need for such alarm.  In the first place, it is hardly likely that the legislation will pass, at least in anything resembling its current form.  One of the reasons I am sanguine about this is that the bills are much too ambiguous as to what is covered, as Gabriel correctly points out and as I mentioned in my last post.

 

Gabriel seems to have misunderstood something I said in the prior post.  In the portion of that post which Gabriel seems to feel is naive about the conceivable consequences of PIPA/SOPA in possibly not allowing defenses, I was not addressing the legislation but, rather, the current state of the law of contributory infringement.  Defenses are certainly available now.  Also, as for inadvertence, I was referring to Hardy’s lack of knowledge, not the scienter of the rogue site.  I cannot believe that Hardy has any idea that Gabriel is operating a pirate site.

 

My previous post was intended only to set out the current state of affairs; I did not provide my personal views on the issue.  But if anyone is interested, here it is:  I am torn on this.  As someone who spent a good deal of my career protecting the rights of authors, artists and other creators of intellectual property, I am jealous of their interests.  On the other hand, I am also constitutionally opposed to unnecessary government regulation, especially the kind that tends to chill the liberal exchange of information, and I surely don’t like the ambiguous quality of the present bills.  Perhaps the solution, as in most cases, is to leave it to the marketplace and the gradual evolution of remedies in accordance with common-law principles.  For example, it seems to me that if Wikipedia, for example, links to a site that provides cheap or free downloads of movies, songs, books, etc., the copyright owners would have ample remedies under Title 17 as it now exists, with all the procedural safeguards of U.S. law.  The doctrine of contributory infringement is universally accepted by the courts and well understood.

 

PIPA/SOPA

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.026  Tuesday, 24 January 2012

 

[1] From:         John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 23, 2012 12:01:32 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: PIPA/SOPA 

 

[2] From:         Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 24, 2012 8:08:30 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: PIPA/SOPA 

 

 

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

From:         John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 23, 2012 12:01:32 PM EST

Subject:     Re: PIPA/SOPA

 

Larry Weiss writes:

 

"Hardy asks what effect PIPA/SOPA would have on academic discussion sites like SHAKSPER.  It is hard to see that the proposed legislation would have any effect on them."

 

Perhaps Larry Weiss should consider two associated developments:

 

1. The Research Works Act–which is being shamelessly promoted by two members of Congress who have received contributions from Reed Elsevier! This would prevent government agencies from establishing and mandating Open Access archives. (see http://blogs.princeton.edu/librarian/2012/01/the-final-provocation/ )

 

2. Oxford University Press is apparently adopting a policy that contributions to multi-authored works are signed over to them as “work for hire”. This assigns all rights to OUP (it means the authors aren’t the authors and wouldn’t be allowed to host a copy in their own archive.)  (see http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1030 )

 

Publishers clearly wish to prevent Open Access archives and make them illegal. Any link to such an archive would fall foul of PIPA/SOPA. 

 

John Briggs

 

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

From:         Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 24, 2012 8:08:30 AM EST

Subject:     Re: PIPA/SOPA

 

Larry Weiss is sanguine about the proposed PIPA/SOPA legislation:

 

> It is not necessary, or even desirable, for

> SHAKSPER to offer access to rogue websites

> in order to carry out its mission, and I suspect

> that if anyone attempted to use the site for

> that purpose, Hardy would quickly put an end

> to it (with or without a demand). As for

> inadvertent linking to copyrighted material,

> that probably occurs now, and, so far as I know,

> no one has asserted a claim for infringement or

> contributory infringement. Given the limited

> distribution on this site and its educational

> purpose, and (in most cases at least) the minor

> amount of copyrighted material that might be

> included in a post, the Fair Use doctrine (17

> U.S.C. § 107) could be asserted as a defense.

 

This makes it sound as if one could appeal against a shutdown order made under PIPA/SOPA and one could mount a defence. In fact, the legislation enables those who assert that their Intellectual Property rights are being violated to have websites shut down without due process.

 

SHAKSPER is vulnerable in this regard. I’ve just searched the SHAKSPER website and found in old digests dozens of links to the website <www.gabrielegan.com>. There is material on <www.gabrielegan.com> that rights holders could object to, and this is clearly not inadvertent: the site owner is on record advocating behaviour that PIPA/SOPA defines as piracy.

 

As a site that provides links to the rogue site <www.gabrielegan.com>, <www.shaksper.net> is in danger of being closed down if PIPA/SOPA is passed in anything like its current form.  What counts as piracy and what counts as a rogue site are too broadly defined and the powers given to alleged rights holders too great.

 

Gabriel Egan

 

Light duty for an older actor?

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.025  Tuesday, 24 January 2012

 

From:         Peter Hyland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 24, 2012 9:04:42 AM EST

Subject:     Light duty for an older actor?

 

Robert Projansky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> wrote, 

 

>It occurred to me some years ago while watching a performance of

>Macbeth, that a number of Shakespeare’s plays have an older character

>(or a character who can reasonably be played by and as an old man) in

>Act I who then disappears from the play, perhaps making a nominal

>appearance at or near the end of the show. . . . 

>

>Can it be that Shakespeare, at least for some of these characters, was

>writing roles for some arthritic older actor yet simultaneously cutting him

>considerable (and considerate) slack? Maybe a company member?

>Maybe himself? I know that tradition has it that Shakespeare played

>Adam and the Ghost, both of them early outs. Some of these roles are

>quite juicy, and it’s very easy to imagine Shakespeare writing them for

>himself.

>

>Does the membership have any candidates? Or a better theory? Or have

>I found one more Secretly Encoded Key to the Universe that isn’t there at

>all?

 

Given the comparative smallness of most early modern acting companies and the fact that cast lists were often in excess of the number of players available, extensive doubling of roles was often necessary (as Bob Projansky acknowledges). The fact that a character doesn’t reappear doesn’t mean that the actor didn’t reappear. To take one of Bob’s examples, Twelfth Night, there are, later in the play, small roles (for example Fabian and the Priest) that have to be accounted for. Or perhaps more attractive thematic doubling would be the Captain with Antonio, since each acts as a kind of guardian figure for one of the play’s twins. If we have to come up with a theory like Bob’s to explain the brief appearance of the Captain we also have to explain the brief appearances of Curio and Valentine. Or, if in Henry V we are going to identify Canterbury as a role for a non-reappearing arthritic actor, why not Ely too? These were actors, after all—it was their job to play roles older (or younger or of a different race or gender) than themselves. I can see the attraction of Bob’s idea, but it seems to me to be quite unnecessary

 

Peter Hyland

PIPA/SOPA

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.024  Monday, 23 January 2012

 

From:         Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 22, 2012 3:44:45 PM EST

Subject:     SHAKSPER Discussion

 

Hardy asks what effect PIPA/SOPA would have on academic discussion sites like SHAKSPER.  It is hard to see that the proposed legislation would have any effect on them.  Of course, it is risky to be too dogmatic about any of this, as the legislation may never be passed and it appears nearly certain that it will not pass in its present form.  A redraft will probably water down the harshest provisions, so it is even less likely that the final enactment, if any, will restrain discussion here.

 

The proposed legislation is directed against the redistribution in this country of offshore “rogue” websites that exist for the purpose of providing pirated copyrighted works (movies, books, music) at wildly discounted prices or giving them away as a means of attracting advertising revenue.  The bills provide mechanisms to allow intellectual property owners to obtain orders requiring U.S. sites and even search engines to stop linking to sites whose “primary” purpose is copyright infringement.  There is a lot of ambiguity in the current drafts and the potential for unintended adverse consequences to research and open discourse is significant, so any redraft will likely narrow the definitions or what may be prohibited and provide more procedural protections.  The difficulty with this is that an overly narrow definition of what can be enjoined and excess solicitude for procedural niceties will inevitably facilitate evasion of the purpose of the law, in other words, “open loopholes.”  The balancing act will be very difficult and might be impossible.

 

In any event, I don’t think that the legislation, even in its present form, would impair open discussion here.  It is not necessary, or even desirable, for SHAKSPER to offer access to rogue websites in order to carry out its mission, and I suspect that if anyone attempted to use the site for that purpose, Hardy would quickly put an end to it (with or without a demand).  As for inadvertent linking to copyrighted material, that probably occurs now, and, so far as I know, no one has asserted a claim for infringement or contributory infringement.  Given the limited distribution on this site and its educational purpose, and (in most cases at least) the minor amount of copyrighted material that might be included in a post, the Fair Use doctrine (17 U.S.C. § 107) could be asserted as a defense.

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