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PBS Shakespeare Uncovered

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.366  Friday, 22 August 2014


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

Date:         August 21, 2014 at 4:20:07 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Uncovered


I’m averse to Apple but in any case would rather watch the PBS “Shakespeare Uncovered” series for free:



Al Magary


[Editor’s Note: The RSC HAMLET with David Tennent as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Claudius can also be streamed from PBS:

Help for Suffering Editor

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.365  Friday, 22 August 2014


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

Date:         Friday, August 22, 2014

Subject:    Help for Suffering Editor


Dear Subscribers:


Perhaps because I was told by my high school English teacher not to go to college because she thought I could not pass freshman composition and perhaps because spelling, punctuation, grammar, and usage did not come easy to me, I tend to be rather OCD about editing SHAKSPER postings. 


Two spaces after a period is, as my older daughter Melissa says, an artifact from the typewriter and has no place in the electronic world.


In fact, having two spaces after a period creates problems when text is wrapped to fit the size of Internet browsers. If the wrapping occurs at the end of a sentence with a period, then the following line begins with an indentation from that second space. 


For these reasons, I strive to remove extraneous spaces after periods, a time-consuming task. 


I ask that in submissions, subscribers use single spaces after end-stopped lines. Below is an article from Slate on the matter.


I also have a problem with incorrect ellipses. An ellipsis is not... or ... Rather an ellipsis is spaced periods as thus . . . I would also appreciate it if ellipses were so spaced.


Thanks, your OCD editor,



Space Invaders

Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.


By Farhad Manjoo


Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.


And yet people who use two spaces are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste.*  You’d expect, for instance, that anyone savvy enough to read Slate would know the proper rules of typing, but you’d be wrong; every third email I get from readers includes the two-space error. (In editing letters for “Dear Farhad,” my occasional tech-advice column, I’ve removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, The Emptiness Within.) The public relations profession is similarly ignorant; I’ve received press releases and correspondence from the biggest companies in the world that are riddled with extra spaces. Some of my best friends are irredeemable two-spacers, too, and even my wife has been known to use an unnecessary extra space every now and then (though she points out that she does so only when writing to other two-spacers, just to make them happy).


What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the “correct” number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space “rule.” Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. “Who says two spaces is wrong?” they wanted to know.


Typographers, that’s who. The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences. That convention was not arrived at casually. James Felici, author of the The Complete Manual of Typography, points out that the early history of type is one of inconsistent spacing. Hundreds of years ago, some typesetters would end sentences with a double space, others would use a single space, and a few renegades would use three or four spaces. Inconsistency reigned in all facets of written communication; there were few conventions regarding spelling, punctuation, character design, and ways to add emphasis to type. But as typesetting became more widespread, its practitioners began to adopt best practices. Felici writes that typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after.


Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine’s shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do. (Also see the persistence of the dreaded Caps Lock key.)


The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here’s the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.


Type professionals can get amusingly—if justifiably—overworked about spaces. “Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong,” Ilene Strizver, who runs a typographic consulting firm The Type Studio, once wrote. “When I see two spaces I shake my head and I go, Aye yay yay,” she told me. “I talk about ‘type crimes’ often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment. It’s a pure sign of amateur typography.” “A space signals a pause,” says David Jury, the author of About Face: Reviving The Rules of Typography. “If you get a really big pause—a big hole—in the middle of a line, the reader pauses. And you don’t want people to pause all the time. You want the text to flow.”


This readability argument is debatable. Typographers can point to no studies or any other evidence proving that single spaces improve readability. When you press them on it, they tend to cite their aesthetic sensibilities. As Jury says, “It’s so bloody ugly.”


But I actually think aesthetics are the best argument in favor of one space over two. One space is simpler, cleaner, and more visually pleasing. (It also requires less work, which isn’t nothing.) A page of text with two spaces between every sentence looks riddled with holes; a page of text with an ordinary space looks just as it should.


Is this arbitrary? Sure it is. But so are a lot of our conventions for writing. It’s arbitrary that we write shop instead of shoppe, or phone instead of fone, or that we use ! to emphasize a sentence rather than %. We adopted these standards because practitioners of publishing—writers, editors, typographers, and others—settled on them after decades of experience. Among their rules was that we should use one space after a period instead of two—so that’s how we should do it.


Besides, the argument in favor of two spaces isn’t any less arbitrary. Samantha Jacobs, a reading and journalism teacher at Norwood High School in Norwood, Colo., told me that she requires her students to use two spaces after a period instead of one, even though she acknowledges that style manuals no longer favor that approach. Why? Because that’s what she’s used to. “Primarily, I base the spacing on the way I learned,” she wrote me in an email glutted with extra spaces.


Several other teachers gave me the same explanation for pushing two spaces on their students. But if you think about, that’s a pretty backward approach: The only reason today’s teachers learned to use two spaces is because their teachers were in the grip of old-school technology. We would never accept teachers pushing other outmoded ideas on kids because that’s what was popular back when they were in school. The same should go for typing. So, kids, if your teachers force you to use two spaces, send them a link to this article. Use this as your subject line: “If you type two spaces after a period, you’re doing it wrong.”

Romeo and Juliet in Harlem . . .

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.364  Friday, 22 August 2014


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

Date:         August 22, 2014 at 12:34:07 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: Romeo and Juliet in Harlem


 Notes on festival screening of film Romeo and Juliet in Harlem:


On July 9 director-(co)screenwriter Aleta Chappelle notified the SHAKSPER forum her new film, Romeo and Juliet in Harlem (2014),  would be shown July 16 as an entrant in the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles. I took up the invite, and am glad I did so. I liked the film very much. 


To start small, but with an item I think evidences the film’s worthiness for close attentions, the film creates a new character taking over a portion of Nurse’s lines. After Romeo and Juliet’s first kiss Nurse interrupts, “Madam, your mother craves a word with you.” RJ 1.5.112. This line, and six more through which Nurse tells Romeo that Juliet is a Capulet, are assumed by a male security guard. Juxtaposed with a door, the scene transforms the quirky ally of Juliet into a serious agent of her father, symbolizing a barrier to overcome. For me, this made complete sense cinematically, and I did not recognize the change until hours after seeing it. I later contacted Aleta. She told me Nurse was altered here, “to make Romeo more self-conscious, nervous.” She felt these lines “just didn’t suit Nurse well.” She was “very determined to stay loyal to the text,” with only the minor changes of the word “banishment” to “imprisonment,” and “Mantua” to “Canada.”  Also, Benvolio becomes Benvolia.


The film is certainly cinematic, not a videoed stage production. This is Aleta’s fifth film directing effort. She is a stage and casting director too, and toured one year acting with the New Shakespeare Company of San Francisco. She is currently working on a wide theatrical release for RJ in Harlem, which it deserves. But she also crafted it to appeal as a teaching tool in schools. I think it is well suited for such use, surely over the 2013 RJ and 1996 R “+” J films. RJ in Harlem has one commonality with Zefferelli’s 1968 film version which I have not experienced in any other film or stage production: in both of these films I believed Romeo and Juliet were actually in love with each other. The RJ in Harlem pair appear enthralled with each other.  They make a great pair. Also appealing, Aleta’s film presents the only RJ party scene I would have liked to attend myself. No grotesqueries, no overproduction. 


The film’s language of color is notable. Sometimes vivid, others black and white and gray. The film was produced under a SAG ultra low budget agreement, yet the cinematography of the botanic garden scene alone itself look like a million bucks. Early vibrant scenes include the clothing of Juliet and her mother and street scenes of colorful Caribbean-flavored festivals spiced with the flags of Grenada and Venezuela. The film’s color peaks with Juliet delivering lines 3.2.1-31 (“Gallop apace . . .”) at New York Central Park’s Shakespeare Garden. Aleta says the scene is “homage to the garden,” a place she says she loves and not many people know about. The Capulets in general, except for the dark ending, are colorfully presented. Everyone else is dressed in black. Aleta says this was her strategy, “beauty contrasted with tragedy.” I asked her about Romeo’s motion at  2.3.94, whereat Friar Laurence says, “Wisely and slow . . .” The audience laughed at this enjoyably. Aleta says it was, “a happy accident, something wonderful, totally unplanned, and made on the first take,” one of several interesting occurrences that transpired during filming.


Geographically, Aleta says the film is an “homage to Harlem.” For one, the location whereat Peter delivers the party invitation list “was shot in front of the Langston Hughes brownstone.” But some scenes made me think of next-door New Jersey. Capulet’s big home for one; I thought of the television show The Sopranos. Friar Laurence’s garden is not full of “baleful weeds and precious juiced flowers,” but bright red tomatoes, inviting me to think of The Godfather’s tomato patch. I know that “Jersey tomatoes” have a certain culinary cachet for New Yorkers, but several scenes inside New York City I imagine have special recognition value for locals.


Stand-out characterizations included the quirky-goofy Nurse and the personal space-invading Mercutio. He was truly mercurial and edgily menacing, like one or two real people I have known and learned to avoid in life. Juliet, played by Jasmine Carmichael, is incredibly adorable and charming. This is her first film. She is a recent graduate of Rutgers, including one year with the Rutgers Conservatory at the Globe in London. Aleta interviewed 60 actresses for the role, and six of them came for that school, which she thought reflected impressively on the program. But the preeminent screen presence belonged to Harry Lennix as Capulet. He was Aaron in 1999 film Titus, and Aleta says, “he is one of the most brilliant men I know,” and, “the greatest living American Shakespearean actor.” Strong and in control throughout RJ in Harlem, Lennix looks like he actually knows how to keep hot-headed teenagers cool at a party. At scene 3.5 wherein Capulet argues with Juliet over marriage, the crowd in the theater gasped. His performance was enrapturing. With the film’s end the show rapidly moved to a live ceremony for Lennix himself. After some non-film related technical glitches by which he revealed himself to be successfully adept at making humorous off-the-cuff comments, and successively so as the glitches persevered, Lennix was presented the festival’s Independent Film Pioneer Award. He made a great speech, which garnered roaring applause. The whole scene was quite a show, and I am grateful to have attended it. 

Four Plays with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.363  Friday, 22 August 2014


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

Date:         Friday, August 22, 2014

Subject:    Four Plays with RSC


Four Plays with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon


Webster’s WHITE DEVIL, Swan Theatre


TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, Royal Shakespeare Theatre


2 HENRY IV, Royal Shakespeare Theatre


Dekker and Middleton’s THE ROARING GIRL, Swan Theatre



I thought that I was going to see five plays with the Royal Shakespeare Company this summer, but for some bizarre reason I ordered tickets for THE ROARING GIRL and 1 HENRY IV both on Friday evening, and I had to make a hard decision about which of the two to see.  On Thursday evening, I saw the 2 HENRY IV, which was tremendous, but I had not seen THE ROARING GIRL and had by that time already given my 1 HENRY IV ticket away. So THE ROARING GIRL it was.


My first RSC production of this season was Webster’s THE WHITE DEVIL. I apparently had not seen THE WHITE DEVIL, but I read it as an undergraduate in the 1960s and somehow remembered the plot. (Maybe I remember it from studying for my doctorial comprehensive.) The production opened with the actress who played Vittoria (Kristy Bushell) in her underwear and a hair net entering the stage and proceeding to put on a tight-fitting, shiny, Euro-Trash dress, a long blondish wig, and high heals. The stage filled with wildly dancing men and women in the theater space and a room beyond that could be seen through glass floor length windows. Everyone was similarly attired in late-1970s, early-1980s, Euro-Trash outfits as pounding percussive music accompanied what appeared as a cocaine and alcohol fueled rave. The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, frequently begins productions with these, to me, unnecessary, extraneous stage business that “sets a tone for the production”. In this case, I imagine that what was intended was something like women put on clothing to create the image expected of them in the society in which they live. The manipulative Flaminio, a role written as a male, was here played by Laura Elpinstone, who was dressed in black pants with a closely cropped punk haircut. Director Maria Aberg was going for a feminist production with strong female characters that was intended to offset the testosterone-driven productions on the main stage. At the Interval, I felt as if there was a distinct disconnect between the difficult text and the production design and conception. A friend was leaving and I did what I seldom do: “'Faith, I ran when I saw others run”.  The opinion of those who stayed was decidedly mixed: some loved it; others hated it. Many of my most ardent feminist friends loved it, and although I think I have proved my feminist credentials, I could not think the same as they from what I saw in the first half of the production.


The following evening, I saw TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (Dir. Simon Godwin) on the main stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. TWO GENTS is not one of my favorite Shakespeares, but this is the second production I have seen in the past few months. I preferred the energy and speed of the production with Fiasco Theater at the Folger Theater: This production seemed a bit uneven and slow at places. The leads were all very attractive young actors: Mark Arends (Proteus), Michael Marcus (Valentine), Pearl Chandra (Julia), and Sarah McRae (Silvia). The initial setting was in a Veronese café, complete with gelato vender, who passed out small samples primarily to young children and attractive women in the audience. Thus, this production too began with extraneous activity that did not seem to me to add to or explain anything that followed. Well, I might as well get to it—the dog, Crab. Mossup was a daughter of the last Crab at the RSC in the Swan in 1998, and she and her understudy Caddy had their own private dressing room, a portakabin close to the Stage Door. During her first scene (2.3), Crab, mysteriously to me, whined throughout Launce’s monologue: “I think Crab, my dog, be the sourest-natured dog that lives: my mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat wringing her hands, and all our house in a great perplexity”. This wailing became a topic of conversation among the ISC delegates in attendance: some praised its moaning on cue; other like me thought it was not intentional. After the show, I went with friends to the Dirty Duck and as it happened a half dozen members of the cast sat at a table next to us, including senior member of the company Roger Morlidge, who played Launce. When I asked if the whining was intended, Morlidge replied that Crab was having one of her worst nights of the run and that the groaning was not intended; about the only cue she hit was the hand shaking; she even ran off stage at one point. Of course, one of the two most difficult moments in the show is the attempted rape of Julia by Proteus. As with the Fiasco Theater production, the attempted rape was reduced to Proteus’s grabbing of Julia and Valentine’s quick parting of them. And the second difficulty is Valentine’s line following the making up of the two friends, “All that was mine, in Silvia, I give thee”; in this as in the Fiasco Theater’s version, the line was as incomprehensive to this viewer as ever.


After one free evening, I saw the magnificent 2 HENRY IV directed by Greg Doran with Antony Sher, an exquisite Falstaff, on the main stage. Two years ago, after the main stage theater had been redesigned, I saw my first and only production there in 2012: The Chekhov International Theatre Festival / Dmitry Krymov’s Laboratory / School of Dramatic Art Theatre Production’s A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT’S DREAM, or rather an adaptation of the Primus and Thisby scene with enormous puppets in the cast as the woe begotten lovers: With 2 HENRY IV, I had the opportunity to see how well the newly arranged thrust stage works, and it works very well. In addition to Sher, other outstanding performances were turning in by Jasper Britton as Henry IV, Oliver Ford Davies, whose television and film credits are extensive, as Shallow, and Jim Hooper as Silence. Except for Rumour’s Chorus that was presented by Antony Byrne (who later played later Pistol) in the extended-tongue Rolling Stones’ t-shirt, costuming was traditional. The staging was spare but highly effective and allowed for rapid scene changes and pace. The cast was uniformly strong, but I found Elliot Barnes-Worrell weak in the capitulation scene with the rebels and Alex Hassell’s Prince Hal did not seem to me as charismatic as the role requires. I might have felt different if I had seen his performance in 1 HENRY IV. This production was so good that it makes one wonder if this play may not be better than 1 HENRY IV. There is no doubt, however, that Antony Sher’s performance dominated the entire production.


Despite my initial misgivings, the RSC’s city comedy THE ROARING GIRL in the Swan Theatre (Dir. Jo Davies) was highly enjoyable and a triumph for lead actor Lisa Dillon as Moll. THE ROARING GIRL is, of course, a fictionalization of the life of Mary Frith, cross-dresser and pickpocket. Dillon’s swagger produced a Moll as Dekker and Middleton must have intended: she smoked, she fought, she uncovered wrongdoing, and she managed to get the two lovers together. Sebastian (Joe Bannister) has a plot to enable his marriage to Mary Fitzallard (Faye Castelow) and outwit his father Sir Alexander Wengrave (David Rintoul): he will pretend to be in love with a totally unacceptable alternative Moll Cutpurse, who has the reputation of being a thief. In a subplot, Moll frustrates the designs of both Ralph Trapdoor (Geoffrey Freshwater) and Jack Dapper (Ian Bonar). The production is accompanied by a band that is usually in sight and is joined by Moll who sings and, at one point, plays an on electric guitar. This was a terrifically fun production and a wonderful way to end my week in Stratford. 


Images from the Folger Library Digital Image Collection 

Shakespeare and Science

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.362  Thursday, 21 August 2014


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

Date:         August 20, 2014 at 1:22:25 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Shakespeare and Science


>Sorry, but it’s Lawrence Weiss who is having a breakdown 

>of historic proportions. Saxo’s Amleth was a 12th century 

>invention. Shakespeare’s guy is 16th century, and goes to 

>school in Wittenberg (founded 1502) ... where the Copernican 

>model was taught from ca. 1543. Anachronisms were a common

>device employed by Shakespeare and other authors, a tactic for 

>introducing current hot topics into ancient settings:


Good grief! The Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play is the same character in essentially the same story previously told by Saxo-Belleforest-Kyd(?). i.e., an 11th C. Danish (Viking) prince. Hence, the references in the play to “our neglected tribute” (Danegeld) and the election of Danish kings, which was no longer the case in Ren. Denmark. The king of England referred to in the play was Edward the Confessor. Sure there are anachronisms—this is Shakespeare, after all—including Wittenberg. But so what? To say that the anachronisms were some sort of a political device goes far beyond the evidence. The play is not intended as history; even Shakespeare’s histories aren’t especially historical. Hugh Grady said it all in his post and I don’t have to add anything.


>Enough of this.



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