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Classless

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.167  Thursday, 3 April 2014

 

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

Date:         April 3, 2014 at 12:24:58 PM EDT

Subject:    Classless

 

National Theatre Live:  Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse, starring Tom Hiddleston.  Directed by Josie Rourke.

 

Josie Rourke’s production of Coriolanus makes it hard to tell the patricians from the plebeians, since Rourke does little or nothing to distinguish the ruling class in appearance, manner or otherwise.  Volumnia wears a nondescript housedress; Menenius’ clothes have a second-hand look; Martius is angry but not haughty; and none of them shows any special marks of breeding. Apparently, Rourke finds class distinctions to be so invidious that she disdains to represent them, even in a play of which they are the raison d’etre. Of course, the text draws the necessary distinctions, but since the production doesn’t bother to realize them, they remain largely notional throughout. One would never have imagined a Coriolanus set in a classless society, but that is the oxymoronic spectacle on display at the Donmar Warehouse. 

 

Rourke is equally unattuned to the play’s valorization of military prowess, commitment and courage (i.e., heroism), all of which she sees as macho savagery. An interpolated vignette depicts Martius standing beneath a shower, washing off the accumulated gore of Corioles while wincing at his newly-inflicted wounds. This sets up the production’s conclusion, in which Aufidius strings Martius up by the heels, guts him like a pig, and then gleefully showers in his blood as the lights fade to black. Rourke can achieve this final image only through heavy cutting, conflation of scenes, an incoherent mismatching of word and action, and a reduction of Aufidius’ complex emotions to a simple delight in barbarism. For her, these are small prices to pay in order to flaunt her conviction that warriors are atavistic brutes, an equation that seems a trifle simplistic, not to say cheap. In an interview shown during the intermission, Rourke appears pleased that her Martius, Tom Hiddleston, has been dubbed “the Sexiest Man Alive” by MTV News; and of course it was she who cast him in the title role. But why trade upon your leading man’s masculinity while denigrating the very modes by which it is expressed in the play?

 

This raises a more basic question, viz., Why did Rourke wish to direct Coriolanus when she is so clearly out of sync with what the play is about? Perhaps she was inspired by the difficulties of mounting an epic drama on the Donmar’s postage-stamp of a stage. Well and good, but she has responded to this challenge with empty posturing and a bottomless reserve of clichés. In the opening moments, a child (Martius’ son) enters and paints a large square on the floor by outlining the edges of the stage in red. Since the square is congruent with the stage’s own borders, its delineation of an acting space is pointless, however portentous, and its neat red lines are in no way suggestive of blood. Of course, geometric figures on the stage floor are hardly original: witness the “Magic Circle” in Trevor Nunn’s 40 year-old Macbeth. Quite familiar, too, is the use of a child to introduce a play riddled with violence: see Jane Howell’s 30 year-old Titus for the BBC. For Rourke, everything old is new again. In fact, some things are merely old.

 

But wait, there’s more (or less). The entire cast immediately enters to assume sitting or standing positions at the rear of the stage, from which actors move forward to perform their individual scenes. This metatheatrical mustering of the acting company was all the rage some decades ago until it died of overexposure, but apparently it wasn’t buried deeply enough. The rear wall of the set bears graffiti, a common feature of classical productions in the 60s and 70s. Back-projections soon make their appearance, while pounding techno-music covers the scene-changes. And so it goes, Rourke ceaselessly deploying the stale conventions of yesteryear as if they were still fresh and vital, hoping that sheer profusion will offset their triteness and pass for creative energy.

 

Could the production be justified as a showcase for Tom Hiddleston, the Sexiest Man Alive? Alas, a fundamental pallor and blandness undermine his claim to that title. For the rest, Hiddleston gives a clenched performance, speaking throughout in low, menacing tones suggestive of a simmering charisma that he does not possess. His line-readings are lucid, if monochromatic, and he is in good physical shape; but he lacks variety and wit, and is finally (make you a bore of me?) a little dull.

 

Most of the other leading roles are miscast. Deborah Findlay turns the unsettling Volumnia into a dear little woman without a formidable or frightening bone in her body. When Volumnia describes herself as a “hen” that “cluck’d [Martius] to the wars,” the effect should be ironic (a “falconer who launched him from a gloved fist” would be a better characterization), but as vocalized by Findlay, the homely trope is all-too-appropriate. Mark Gatiss’ airy, lightweight Menenius is too young to be a putative father-figure for Martius, and too diffident to be credible as a man who pacifies a raging mob single-handedly. In a strained attempt to inject some liveliness into Martius’ recessive wife Virgilia (surely the most thankless female role in all of Shakespeare), Rourke has cast the fiercely Nordic Birgitte Hjort Sørensen in the part. Ms. Sørensen works hard to find moments of authority and passion, but the material isn’t there, and she comes across as a strident cipher. The other performances range from competent to abysmal, the worst being Hadley Fraser’s vulgar, sneaking pipsquesk of an Aufidius. Far from a lion that Martius would be proud to hunt, he is a hyena that no self-respecting warrior would deign to kick.

 

The most interesting turns are those of Elliot Levey and Helen Schlesinger as the tribunes Brutus and “Veluta,” here feminized from Shakespeare’s Velutus. What impresses is their sheer unflappability:  even when Martius is at the gates of Rome, they do not lose their coolness, but continue to calmly weigh their options and thoughtfully consider remedial measures. Like cockroaches, they will survive the Apocalypse, their self-possession assuring us that mediocrity can always find a home and flourish. But then this production and its rapturous reception are proof enough of that.

 

--Charles Weinstein

 
The Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.166  Wednesday, 2 April 2014

 

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

     Date:         April 1, 2014 at 6:29:55 PM EDT

     Subject:    RE: Sonnets 

 

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

     Date:         April 2, 2014 at 8:01:25 AM EDT

     Subject:    Sonnets 

 

 

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

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

Date:         April 1, 2014 at 6:29:55 PM EDT

Subject:    RE: Sonnets

 

I don’t wish to drag out a thinning thread but . . . 

 

It occurs to me that, in contra-distinction to his plays, Shakespeare prefers ‘thou’ over ‘you’ in the Sonnets, and that ‘you’ occurs in clusters—see Sonnets [13, 15, 16, 17, 24 though 24 is intriguingly mixed], [52, 53, 54, 55, 58], [71, 72, 75, 76], [80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86], [102, 103, 104, 105, 106], [111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 118, 120]. Of those after 120, only the anomalous 145 has ‘you’.

 

Nothing much follows from this, except the fact that this clustering is not random and only Shakespeare would have done it. It points to Shakespeare’s hand in ordering the sequence (at least in part). It also poses a puzzle or two: eg. why?

 

Duncan Salkeld

University of Chichester

 

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

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

Date:         April 2, 2014 at 8:01:25 AM EDT

Subject:    Sonnets

 

Harry Berger asks what sort of biography emerges from the generalizations specifically derived from close reading of complex poems? The answer, I suggest, is: none reliable—unless supported by sufficient objective, independent evidence. 

 

John Drakakis appears to doubt the worth of  “any attempt to provide a coherent and knowing narrative for the Sonnets as a developmental sequence”. If so, it seems he thinks that: (i) success is impossible (though he has yet to undermine the detail of the narrative which I have put forward in this thread); or (ii) any motive for the attempt is worthless.

 

I am the first to accept that many versions of “biography” in the Sonnets have been perceived by those leaning to one underlying faith or another. The sheer variety of stories lends fuel to rational skepticism. However, rational interest is justified when: (1) a sequential narrative is derivable from the poems without undue strain; and (2) this narrative includes many extraordinary features (unique in the combination), which (3) are mirrored by the realities of history, without inconsistency. When the implied biography also explains circumstances of the poems, otherwise yet to be satisfactorily resolved, it is, I suggest, worthy of serious attention.          

 
 
Global Shakespeare (with Warwick)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.165  Wednesday, 2 April 2014

 

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

Date:         April 2, 2014 at 10:58:33 AM EDT

Subject:    Global Shakespeare (with Warwick)

 

http://www.qmul.ac.uk/postgraduate/coursefinder/courses/125726.html

 

Global Shakespeare (with University of Warwick)

Master of Arts (1 year Full-time / 2 years Part-time )

 

Overview

 

This is the only programme in the UK to focus on Shakespeare through the eyes of others. It allows you to form a critical perspective on Shakespeare as a global cultural phenomenon from Elizabethan England to the twenty-first century. You will examine the afterlife of his plays as they have been read, performed, adapted and translated not only linguistically but in performance practices, cultural contexts and various forms of new media across the world.

 

The programme combines theoretical, historical, performance and pedagogical approaches, with a strong digital and new-media component. You will be involved in developing cutting-edge methodologies for understanding Shakespeare as a product and catalyst of globalisation.

 

The Global Shakespeare MA provides a unique opportunity to experience postgraduate life with two world-leading institutions with strong expertise in the fields of Shakespeare, Renaissance studies, performance and Modern Languages- Queen Mary University of London (QML) and The University of Warwick. You will spend the first semester at QML, and spend time in the heart of London, accessing a wide variety of theatrical performances in venues such as the Globe, Donmar Warehouse, National Theatre and visiting the unrivaled museums, libraries and archives of the capital. The second semester, spent at the University of Warwick, will see you in close proximity to Stratford-upon-Avon with access to performance at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the outstanding research facilities of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

 

On this programme you will:

  • Have access to the expertise and scholarship at both institutions
  • Benefit from webinars with established Shakespeareans across the globe such as Brazil, South Africa, Italy and China
  • Attend performances of Shakespeare at local theatres and engage with actors and directors in London and Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Learn academic journalism through editorial experience and reviewing on the new electronic journal – Global Shakespeare
  • Engage with local communities in exploring the significance of Shakespeare for them

This programme is ideal for graduates wishing to enter careers in academia, research, cultural organisations, theatres, teaching, publishing and new media.

 

 

Structure

 

The MA Global Shakespeare is available for one year full-time and two years part-time. You will spend semester one at QML and semester two at Warwick. You can choose at which institution you spend your dissertation period.

 

You will take four assessed modules before proceeding to a 15,000-word dissertation.

 

Part-time students take one module per semester, spreading the course over two years.

 

Full-time

Assessed modules are taught in weekly two-hour seminars. In addition to these timetabled sessions, you will attend discussions and seminars on local Shakespeare productions and with visiting Shakespeareans from across the globe. You will be expected to attend meetings with your adviser and course tutor. The progress of your dissertation will be discussed in sessions with a designated supervisor. You will also need to undertake independent learning and research in order to progress at the required level.

 

Part-time

Part-time students take one assessed module per semester. You are encouraged to begin work on your dissertation at the end of the first year. Teaching is generally done during the day.

 

Compulsory modules

At Queen Mary University of London:

  • Global Shakespeare: History and Theory and Performance

This module introduces you to historical, methodological and material dimensions of studying Shakespeare in a global context by a generic study and close reading of Shakespeare and his writing in a historical context, and an examination of the afterlife of his plays as they have been read, performed, adapted and translated both linguistically and through various media in a global context.

 

At the University of Warwick: Practices of Translation: Or How to Do Things with Shakespeare

This module focuses on the transformations of Shakespeare’s texts by a range of translational practices, in the broadest sense of the word. Offering you the chance to experiment with different models of translation it will allow you to develop your own models and practice as a “translator” of Shakespeare in relation to performance criticism, literary translation and active pedagogy, especially in relation to the ways in which Shakespeare has been 'translated' into languages, performance practices, cultural contexts and in the new media across the world.

 

Optional modules

You will choose two modules from a full list of options across varied disciplines such as English, Drama and Theatre, Modern Languages, History and Geography.

 

At QML options may include:

  • Global Interests in the Shakespearian World
  • Public and Private Cultures in Renaissance England
  • Post-colonialism Language and Identity
  • Early Modern Drama in Performance

 

At Warwick options may include:

  • Reviewing Shakespeare
  • World Literature and World Systems
  • Translation Studies in Theory and Practice
  • The Legacies of Caliban in Latin America and the Caribbean

 

For more information contact:

Anna Boneham

Executive Officer Global Shakespeare

Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Phone: +44 (0)20 78826670

 
 
The Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.164  Tuesday, 1 April 2014

 

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

     Date:         March 31, 2014 at 3:19:11 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnets 

 

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

     Date:         April 1, 2014 at 5:19:58 AM EDT

     Subject:    Sonnets 

 

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

     Date:         April 1, 2014 at 6:58:11 AM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnets 

 

 

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

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

Date:         March 31, 2014 at 3:19:11 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Sonnets

 

>there is, I suggest again: no rational reason to dismiss 

>the probability of pervasive biography in the Sonnets. 

 

Sure, let’s accept this probability. But let’s also accept the probability that these are complex poems which invite close reading. The question then is, what sort of biography emerges from the generalizations specifically derived from close reading?

 

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

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

Date:         April 1, 2014 at 5:19:58 AM EDT

Subject:    Sonnets

 

At the beginning of the exchanges on this thread were posed the challenges: what evidence is there (i) for a male addressee of Sonnet 18 and (ii) for the dating of the latter to 1595.

 

In response, I provided relevant evidence of probability—albeit that this suggested an original dating some months prior to the first publication (in 1593) of Venus & Adonis.

 

So far, that evidence remains intact despite testing within this thread (and, over some years, from a wide spectrum of Shakespearean commentators). Consequently, there is little need at this stage to elaborate on my earlier comments.

 

However, it is fun to stray from the subject or to indulge in flights of fancy, unsullied by such gross considerations as “evidence”. I am moved, therefore, to follow the example of David Basch and to offer competing opinion on a line in Sonnet 20, which he has highlighted: “A man in hew all Hews in his controwling” (albeit that David’s note did not reveal that the second “hew” is further distinguished by its italicized reproduction in the original printing).

 

In my 2010 translation of the Sonnets, I rendered this line as follows: A man in kind, all kinds in his control. I reasoned that “hew” could mean”carve” (a sense extant in the English of the time). This sense aligns with the pun perceptible later in the sonnet, which evokes a man as a creation of Mother Nature (by her skilled shaping of raw material): But since she prickt thee out for womens pleasure. (Of course, the pun also depicts the addressee as being equipped with a prick).

 

With this slant, the interpretation of “Hews” as a collective noun - meaning carvings or results thereof - represents unremarkable poetic shorthand. I suggested that the unusual upper case letter, “H”, and the italicization of the word represented the poet’s intention to convey that this collective noun represented a special case of carvings, ie human beings. Accordingly, the line may reasonably be expanded to the form of the following prose: “A man who has manly attributes and who is able to charm people of each sex and every ilk, and bend them to his will”.

 

Interestingly, the line thus interpreted mirrors the characteristics of a young man, described elsewhere within the original printing of Shake-speares Sonnets:

 

That he did in the general bosom reign

Of young, of old, and sexes both enchanted,

To dwell with him in thoughts, or to remain

In personal duty, following where he haunted:

Consents bewitch'd, ere he desire, have granted,

And dialogued for him what he would say,

Ask'd their own wills and made their wills obey.

 

None of this, of course, removes the carnality suggested in Sonnet 20, which David is so anxious to avoid.   

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         April 1, 2014 at 6:58:11 AM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Sonnets

 

Harry Berger makes an excellent point that radically disrupts any attempt to provide a coherent and knowing narrative for the Sonnets as a developmental sequence. Re-reading them recently I was struck by how many of them seem to echo issues that crop up in the plays. e.g. Sonnet 134 and The Merchant of Venice. We could follow through themes that appear in Much Ado, Othello, and Macbeth. Of course, there is no way of knowing whether these sonnets were written at the same time as plays with which they might be thematically (or even structurally) linked, or whether these are retrospective reflections. It is clear that Shakespeare and co. reworked issues in successive plays but . . . 

 

Also Harry’s point about the identity of the speaker raises some fundamental questions about how we might construct a subjectivity (and a history) and what critical and analytical tools we might use to do so.

 

Cheers

John D

 
 
Lukas Erne's Book Trade (Correction)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.163  Tuesday, 1 April 2014

 

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

Date:         Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Subject:    Lukas Erne's Book Trade (Correction)

 

In Steve Roth’s submission of yesterday, I mistakenly made a change that he did not intended. I have corrected the passage below and in the archive to read as Steve wished it to read. My apologies. 

 

______

3. By arguably his most prized audience, Elizabeth and James’ courtiers.

 

These were also the most educated, attentive, and perspicacious of his customers, those who (Shakespeare could hope) would plumb the density, complexity, allusions, and multilevel ironies he offered up. (Think: Jonson’s frequently expressed obsession with this audience, and Hamlet’s “caviary to the general.”)

 
 
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