Martin Freeman to Play Shakespeare’s Richard III
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.170 Friday, 4 April 2014
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: April 4, 2014 at 8:24:22 AM EDT
Subject: Martin Freeman to Play Shakespeare’s Richard III
[Editor’s Note: This article appeared on The Telegraph Facebook page. – Hardy]
Martin Freeman to play Shakespeare’s Richard III
Martin Freeman joins fellow Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Gatiss in tackling Shakespeare on stage
By Charlotte Runcie
10:44AM BST 04 Apr 2014
Martin Freeman, star of Sherlock and The Hobbit, will play Richard III in “a provocative production” on the London stage this summer.
Freeman will play the title role in Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios in London, a year before his co-star Benedict Cumberbatch will play Hamlet at the Barbican.
Freeman joins a roster of stars taking on Shakespearean roles on stage in London, with David Tennant playing Richard II, Jude Law as Henry V and Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus all receiving positive reviews for their performances in recent months.
Mark Gatiss, who co-writes Sherlock and stars as Mycroft, also recently appeared in the Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus. The stars of Sherlock are making a habit of taking similar career directions, with Freeman and Cumberbatch co-starring in The Hobbit (as Bilbo Baggins and Smaug the dragon, respectively).
Freeman, who made his name playing Tim in The Office with Ricky Gervais, has a stage career including performances at the Royal Court in London and the National Theatre. Richard III will run from the 1 July to 27 September 2014.
Jamie Lloyd, artistic director of Trafalgar Transformed, said: “I am confident that, with the brilliant and hugely popular Martin Freeman playing the title role in a provocative production, we will continue to attract a generational mix of theatregoers to our corner of the West End. I have wanted to work with Martin for many years and am sure he will bring something unexpected and unique to this iconic role”.
[ . . . ]
CFP: Rome and Home: The Cultural Uses of Rome in Early Modern English Literature (EMLS Special Issue)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.169 Friday, 4 April 2014
From: Daniel Cadman <
Date: April 4, 2014 at 4:54:11 AM EDT
Subject: CFP: Rome and Home: The Cultural Uses of Rome in Early Modern English Literature (EMLS Special Issue)
Rome and Home: The Cultural Uses of Rome in Early Modern English Literature
Ancient Rome had a pervasive hold over the early modern imagination and its influence can be discerned in a variety of sources, discourses, and practices during the period. Episodes from Roman history provided the inspiration for numerous plays and narrative poems, as well as offering an effective means of interrogating such political and philosophical positions as republicanism, absolutism and stoicism. Roman history also provided a host of good and bad exemplary figures, as well as highlighting the dangers of civil war and political factionalism. Roman authors like Seneca, Juvenal, Horace, and Terence also had a considerable influence on the development of various literary genres during the period and many historical and political works were influenced by both the style and content of such commentators as Cicero and Tacitus. The influence of ancient Rome also had a bearing upon English national identity. The myth of the translatio imperii, as promulgated in the histories of Geoffrey of Monmouth, was often appropriated in propaganda as a means of legitimising England’s imperial ambitions. James I also set out to refashion himself as an Augustan ruler whose iconography owed much to the resonance of imperial Rome.
This special issue will explore the influence of ancient Rome upon the literature and culture of early modern England and the related issues it provoked. We therefore welcome proposals for articles that consider any aspect of this subject; topics for discussion may include (but are not restricted to):
· Roman history as a narrative source in early modern drama, satire, and narrative poetry.
· Translation, rhetoric, and the influence of Latin.
· The influence of republicanism and stoicism and the bearings of Roman political ideas upon debates relating to sovereignty, citizenship, and absolutism.
· The relationship between ancient Rome and English (or British) national identity.
· The use of imagery associated with the Roman Empire in royal propaganda and iconography.
· The influence of Roman sources in debates relating to political factionalism and civil war.
· The resonance of Roman culture compared with the influence of ancient Greece.
· The links between Rome and Catholicism.
Please send abstracts (250-300 words) to Professor Lisa Hopkins (
), Dr Daniel Cadman (
), or Dr Andrew Duxfield (
) by Friday 2 May 2014.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.168 Thursday, 3 April 2014
From: David Basch <
Date: April 3, 2014 at 10:54:02 AM EDT
Subject: Re: SHAKSPER: The Sonnets
Ian Steele is gracious enough to allow that others may come up with different scenarios interpreting the meaning of the Sonnets. He claims that his interpretation answers, if not all, most of the ambiguities of these poems and that, further, it comports with the history of events surrounding the poet and his mysterious loved one.
But what better clue to the meaning of these poems is there than that given by the poet himself in Sonnet 144, in which he describes two of his friends as “spirits,” “angels,” and “friends”? (Read the full poem presented below.)
I also venture that the poet’s “friend” is far more than a single personality and includes the poet’s addresses to the friends who are male and female spirits, God, admired poets, including Christopher Marlowe, and some admired historic personalities.
Just as Ian thinks he has a strong case for his version of the meaning of the Sonnets, I feel the same way about mine. And just as Ian needs a whole book to present his case, I too need more text space than our list will allow to do so. If anything, I hope I made the case that other interpretations are possible than that which presents a poetic personality in contradiction to the nobility to be expected from the one who wrote those magnificent plays. I think the poet can hardly be the disturbed masochist, groveling before a self-centered youth. This is a pose that is redeemed when we learn that the addressee in this case is in fact the Lord, to Whom the poet dutifully expresses a worthy fealty.
In brief, these poems are written in a cryptic style meant to challenge readers, just as Cabbalists—Jewish and Christian—assert is the mode of the Bible. We do the poet wrong to reduce the meaning of his great poetic series down to the level of popular psychology and ought to be receptive of a deeper meaning of consequence to life better lived.
 TWo loues I haue of comfort and dispaire,
 Which like two spirits do sugiest me still,
 The better angell is a man right faire:
 The worser spirit a woman collour'd il.
 To win me soone to hell my femall euill,
 Tempteth my better angel from my sight,
 And would corrupt my saint to be a diuel:
 Wooing his purity with her fowle pride.
 And whether that my angel be turn'd finde,
 Suspect I may,yet not directly tell,
 But being both from me both to each friend,
 I gesse one angel in an others hel.
 Yet this shal I nere know but liue in doubt,
 Till my bad angel fire my good one out.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.167 Thursday, 3 April 2014
From: Charles Weinstein <
Date: April 3, 2014 at 12:24:58 PM EDT
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.