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Shylock and the Greek Debt Crisis

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.083  Tuesday, 24 February 2015


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

Date:         February 24, 2015 at 10:58:31 AM EST

Subject:    Shylock and the Greek Debt Crisis


SHAKSPERians may be interested – or maybe appalled, though I hope not – at this recent application of the insights of the Merchant of Venice to the current debt crisis.





Robert Appelbaum

Professor of English Literature

English Department

Uppsala University

Uppsala SE-751 20

Dreaming of Midsummer? We can help!

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.082  Tuesday, 24 February 2015


From:        Actors From The London Stage < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 24, 2015 at 7:28:38 AM EST

Subject:    Dreaming of Midsummer? We can help!


Heat up your campus with A Midsummer Night's Dream!

November 2015 and February 2016 residencies are available now


Five professional British actors

Five days of workshops and performances

One week of Shakespeare your students will never forget


Now in its 40th year, Actors From The London Stage continues to inspire students with the power of Shakespeare. An AFTLS residency brings the Bard to life on the stage and in the classroom. Our British cast—veterans of some of the most respected theatre companies in the world—will tour campuses across the United States with their innovative five-hand staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Residencies are available in November of 2015 and February of 2016.


Availability is limited;  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  to request dates, rates, and details.


See AFTLS in action and flip through our brochure at the AFTLS WEBSITE.


Founded in 1975 by Homer “Murph” Swander and world-renowned actor Sir Patrick Stewart, AFTLS is an actor-driven tour de force. Our actors hail from such prestigious companies as Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre of Great Britain, and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Uniquely, AFTLS actors not only perform a full-length Shakespearean play, but also visit dozens of classrooms during their weeklong residency.


In addition to enlivening theatre and English departments, the AFTLS experience can be tailored to enrich coursework across the academic spectrum. Our dynamic, hands-on approach will heighten each student’s intellectual curiosity regardless of discipline. Whether coaching accounting students on successful presentation skills, or instructing law students in the art of persuasion, these workshops promote a campus-wide dialogue inspired by the works of William Shakespeare. 


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.081  Tuesday, 24 February 2015


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

Date:         February 24, 2015 at 4:28:51 AM EST



Dear Friends,


Following the success of our inaugural summer school in 2014, Shakespeare in Italy is pleased to announce our second summer school in Urbino, Italy from June 30th - July 14th 2015. 


Participants should have a good command of English, and could be students, attending for credit, or anyone interested in studying some Shakespeare plays in a wonderful setting with some excellent tutors all of whom have worked for The Royal Shakespeare Company. 


I would be very grateful if you could pass the information on to any others who the course may appeal to. 


More information can be found on our website, and do contact us for any further information.


Yours sincerely 

Rachel Kruger Hoath

(Marketing & Publicity)

Adventures in Original Pronunciation

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.080  Monday, 23 February 2015


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

Date:         February 22, 2015 at 3:49:08 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: OP


“Jobbe” or “Iobbe” versus “Gobbo”


Early Modern Orthography did not distinguish between “J” and “I.” 


My reference text is Shakespeare’s First Folio in Modern Type, compiled and annotated by Professor Neil Freeman, who states that “though Qq/Ff all set his surname as ‘Jobbe’, most modern texts turn this into ‘Gobbo’, the name Qq/Ff give his father when he enters at the end of this speech. . . .”


I have looked at a number of internet editions of the First Folio. They all spell Launcelet’s surname as “Iobbe.” These sites include (1), whose First Folio and First Quarto both spell the name as “Iobbe.” (2) The State Library of New South Wales. (3) Brandeis University. (4) The University of Virginia Library. (5) The Bodleian. (6) The Folger. (7) and (8)


I quote from Jonathan Bate, The Case for the Folio,


“For the 3 plays where the Folio text was printed from a marked-up copy of a First Quarto (Love’s Labour Lost, Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing) all other modern editors use Q1 as their copy text but import stage directions, act divisions and some corrections from Folio. The Folio-led editors will follow the reverse procedure, using Folio as copy text but deploying Q1 as a ‘control text’ that offers assistance in the correction and identifications of compositors’ errors. Differences are for the most part minor.”


In the case of Launcelet’s surname, both Q1 and F use “Iobbe.” I stand by my post, unless someone can provide me with a link to either a First Quarto or a First Folio that uses “Gobbo.”                         


God versus Angel or Satan?


The Geneva Bible, which Shakespeare used most often, uses Satan. 


I do believe that Shakespeare wrote Shylocke as the Devil, poorly disguised as a Jew. Let’s put aside our preconceptions and focus on Shakespeare’s words, which are the only evidence we have as to what the play is about. Take these words seriously; that is, do not assume that some of them were used in a joking or ironic manner. After all, we have no evidence concerning how Shakespeare and his fellow actors performed the play. Give the words their plain, ordinary meaning (circa 1596) unless there exists some reason to give them a different meaning. 


Shakespeare first let it be know that Shylocke was not a Jew:


(a) Shylocke to Bassanio: “Yes, to smell porke, to eat of the habitation/ which your Prophet the Nazarite conjured the divell/ into... .” A Jew would not cite a New Testament reference as a reason not to eat pork. However, this reference is applicable to the Devil, whom Jesus cast into a herd of pigs which then promptly committed suicide.


(b) Shylocke to Jessica: “By Jacobs staff I sweare... .” A Jacob’s staff was a instrument shaped like a cross, used for surveying and for navigation. Shylocke was in his own home with Jessica and Launcelet. It would be quite odd for a Jew to swear by a cross.


Shakespeare provided us with a number of instances in which he had his characters refer to Shylocke as the Devil:


(1) Antonio to Bassanio, referring to Shylocke just after the Laban speech: “Mark you this Bassanio [and audience], The divell can cite Scripture for his purpose. . . .”


(2) (Already mentioned) Launcelet says “certainely the Jew is the verie divell incarnation. . . .”


Jessica to Launcelet: “I am sorry thou wilt leave my Father so,/ Our house is hell, and thou a merrie divell. . . .”


(3) (Already mentioned) Solanio: Let me say Amen betimes, least the divell crosse/ my praier, for here he comes in the likenes of a Jew./ How now Shylocke. . . .”


(4) Duke to Antonio: “I am sorry for thee, thou art come to answere/ A stonie adversary, an inhumane wretch,/ Ucapable of pittie, void and empty/ From any dram of mercie. . . .”


(5) Shylocke to Bassanio: “What wouldst thou have a Serpent sting thee/ twice?” This remark does not quite follow from what Bassanio and Shylocke had previously been  arguing about. Note all the hissing sibilants and the capitalized “Serpent.” The trial scene is actually a New Testament version of the Fall of Man. (But that takes some explaining.)


(6) Bassanio to Portia as the Judge: “And I beseech you/ Wrest once the Law to your authority./ To do a great right, do a little wrong,/ And curbe this cruell divell of his will.”


(7) Bassanio to Antonio: “I would loose all, I sacrifice them all/ Heere to this divell, to deliver you.”


I stand by my post.


Best regards, 


Sad Stories of the Death of Kings

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.079  Monday, 23 February 2015


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

Date:         February 23, 2015 at 11:31:48 AM EST

Subject:    Sad Stories of the Death of Kings


[Editor’s Note: Both articles are from The Guardian. –Hardy]


Alan Howard: ‘A perfectly-tuned musical instrument made flesh’

Mark Lawson


It is a commonplace memorial to say that the like of the departed will never be seen again. But in the case of Alan Howard, that seems certain to be the case.


His death, at the age of 77, comes at a time when even the most accomplished modern Shakespearean performer is likely to appear in Broadway musicals or big-budget movies in between their Richards and their Lear. Howard, however, was fundamentally a classical stage actor who, in the tradition of John Gielgud and Paul Scofield, was a perfectly-tuned musical instrument made flesh, producing an extraordinary range of notes – bass to alto, fortissimo to pianissimo – to orchestrate the score of the text, especially Shakespearean verse.

Apart from King John, Howard played all of Shakespeare’s British kings: Richards, Macbeth, all three Henrys and Lear. Monarchical casting came so naturally to him that as early as 1971, when the BBC was casting an adaptation of Churchill’s history of England, he was signed up to be King Alfred.


He was always a pleasure to watch on stage, but the biggest thrill was in the listening. There has recently been a rumbling media controversy over the escalating tendency of actors to mumble, but no member of his profession was less likely to face that charge than Howard. While psychological realism interested him, his ideal was verbal clarity and resonance.


[ . . . ]


As a younger actor for the Royal Shakespeare Company – the official historian of which, Sally Beauman, he married – Howard also had compelling physical vigour. His frequent RSC director, Terry Hands, at one stage had a penchant for dressing the actors in black leather, and Howard was able to carry off this high-risk fashion.


He also thought and spoke intelligently about theatre. In one of the most illuminating TV arts programmes ever made, an edition of ITV’s The South Bank Show, he gave an interview about Shakespeare performance while actually performing. Melvyn Bragg sat in Howard’s RSC dressing room during a production of Coriolanus and the actor would intermittently rush in, sweating and breathless, for a towel-down or costume change, during which he would discuss Shakespearean text and performance method, even as his next cue approached on the dressing room intercom. It was a thrilling off-stage insight into an electrifying on-stage style.


[ . . . ]


Such was the admiration and affection in which Alan Howard was held that, when illness latterly made mobility difficulty, thoughtful admirers found ways of keeping him working: in static Beckett and Sophocles roles in theatre, and on radio. In 2007, to mark the actor’s 70th birthday, a friend, the writer Julian Barnes, organised a quintet of specially-written new pieces for performance on BBC Radio 4, including On Dover Beach, a monologue by Tom Stoppard about the poet Matthew Arnold.


In those almost-last roles, Howard was all voice, which was fitting as, for all his presence and power on stage, the core of his performing greatness was vocal. It would be a fitting tribute if some of his radio work – either the birthday project or his Radio 3 recordings of Christopher Logue’s Homer translation, War Music – were now repeated. Unlikely to see his like again, we will definitely never hear it.



Alan Howard Obituary


When the great Shakespearean actor Alan Howard, who has died aged 77, returned to the stage after a five-year absence in 1990, all of his special qualities came into focus, ironically, in a piece of Victorian hokum by Henry Arthur Jones. The occasion of this revival of The Silver King at Chichester was a reminder that the history of British theatre is, in the first place, written by its actors.


Howard had played almost every Shakespearean king (and Coriolanus) for the Royal Shakespeare Company over 16 years from 1966, as well as the double of Oberon and Theseus in Peter Brook’s legendary 1970 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in an all-white gymnasium; Howard as Oberon scornfully surveying the muddled lovers while swinging languidly on a trapeze is an indelible image of the RSC in this period.


More usually, he was attired in cloaks and leathers and, as in his preferred director Terry Hands’s version of Henry V, isolated in a spotlight. His clarion voice, the most distinctive (with Ian Richardson’s) of his generation, would reverberate to the rafters, his myopic demeanour – his face was studded, it seemed, with eyes like currants either side of a banana nose – seeking refuge in an audience’s sympathy. Solitude was his mindset, grand spiritual debauchery his inclination.


[ . . . ]


It was as fantastical a performance as any of his Shakespearean monarchs, or his star turn as Carlos in Peter Barnes’s The Bewitched (1974), culminating in a King Lear for Peter Hall at the Old Vic in 1997 in which his trumpet-tongued voice invoked goose bumps on his cry of “O reason not the need”. This Lear, a long-haired ancient of days, may not have been as moving as Robert Stephens’s or Ian Holm’s in the same decade, but it conveyed the decline from a majestic, mystical hauteur more powerfully than anyone since Paul Scofield.


Alongside Ian McKellen, Howard was the leading heroic actor of his generation, someone whose voice, even in a misfired 1993 National Theatre Macbeth (known as the “gas-ring” Macbeth on account of some circular ground level lighting of blue flames), thrillingly encompassed, said the critic Irving Wardle, a sardonic croak, a lyrical caress, a one-man brass section and a whinnying cry of horror. His Hamlet was a model of melancholic introspection without a jot of sentiment or self-pity, his Benedick (opposite Janet Suzman as Beatrice) in Much Ado a genuinely funny and self-deluded popinjay, his Achilles in a famous Troilus and Cressida the most sensual and riveting in RSC history.


[ . . .]


He played in rep with Judi Dench and John Neville at the Nottingham Playhouse and started quietly at the RSC with a melodious, virtually sung, Orsino in Twelfth Night before exploding as an outrageous, vile Lussurioso in Trevor Nunn’s black-and-white revival of The Revenger’s Tragedy in 1966. This launched him into the repertoire of Jaques in As You Like It, Edgar in King Lear, followed in the 1970s with his sequence of kings (Hands’s Henry VI trilogy was the first time these plays had been performed uncut in the modern theatre), his glorious Jack Rover in the landmark rediscovery of John O’Keefe’s 18th-century comic melodrama Wild Oats, and his only serious RSC failure, opposite Glenda Jackson, in Peter Brook’s surprisingly flat Antony and Cleopatra in 1978.


[ . . . ]


As well as Lear at the Old Vic in 1997, he played Vladimir in Waiting for Godot directed by Peter Hall (who had directed the play’s British premiere); he and Ben Kingsley (as Estragon) were the king and the dustman of comedy, a superlative pairing of former RSC Hamlets.

Howard’s film performances were few, though he was brilliant in Peter Greenaway’s colourful modern Jacobean shocker The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) with Michael Gambon and Helen Mirren, notable in Howard Davies’s 1993 film of David Hare’s The Secret Rapture and was the voice of the ring in the Lord of the Rings saga.


[ . . . ]


He was appointed CBE in 1998. He regretted not having more film work, but appreciated the ownership one had in theatre, relishing the room to manoeuvre a good director would leave him with, he said, a degree of leeway and moments of discovery every night. Quiet and reflective away from the stage, he was happiest in his house on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, where his great-uncle had written Whisky Galore.


His first marriage, to the actor and scenic designer Stephanie Hinchcliffe Davies, ended in divorce. He met his second wife, the novelist Sally Beauman, when she interviewed him for the Sunday Telegraph; she subsequently wrote a fine history of the RSC. He is survived by Sally, whom he married in 2004, and their son, James.


• Alan Mackenzie Howard, actor, born 5 August 1937; died 14 February 2015


• This article was amended on 20 February 2015. Alan Howard did not appear opposite Corin Redgrave in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, as originally stated.

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