The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0012   Tuesday, 11 January 2011

From:         Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         December 24, 2010 9:25:32 AM EST
Subject:      Kenneth Rothwell

One cannot shield a dubious statement from rejoinders by placing it in a memorial notice.  A statement 
implying that the intellectual bona fides of Shakespeare on Film are no longer questioned is much more 
than dubious.  
--Charles Weinstein

Long Editor's Note:

On Thursday, 11 November 2010 (SHK 21.0432), I announced the death of my friend Ken Rothwell, who died on 
November 8.


I just learned from Mike Jensen of Ken Rothwell's death on Monday, November 8, 2010, 
in Burlington, Vermont.

Ken was major figure in Shakespeare studies, who helped to change the manner in 
which Shakespeare was taught, studied, and contemplated. 

At the beginning of my late-blooming scholarly career, Ken paid me one of the nicest 
professional compliments I have ever received. At the 1986 Annual Meeting of the 
Shakespeare Association of America in Montreal, Quebec, Ken audited Herb Coursen's 
filmed _Lear_ seminar in which I presented a paper, "Two _Lears_ for Television: An 
Exploration of Televisual Strategies" (_Literature/Film Quarterly_ 14.4 (1986): 179-86) that was the 
theoretical basis of my dissertation. Comparing the 1982 _King Lear_ (directed by 
Jonathan Miller for the BBC Television Shakespeare Plays) with the 1984 _Laurence 
Olivier's KING LEAR_ (directed by Michael Elliott for Granada Television), I noted 
that "Having these two recent productions of the same play to compare and contrast 
provides us with a valuable opportunity to examine some of the choices that the 
directors of each production made in 'translating' _King Lear_ to television." Using 
Andre Bazin's distinction between directors "who put their faith in the image 
[montage techniques] and those who put their faith in reality [depth-of-field 
techniques]" (_Qu'est-ce que le cinema?_ 24), I argued that Miller's depth-of-field 
approach, using a relatively static camera and emphasizing actors performing in 
ensemble, was "more effective" for realizing Shakespeare to television than was 
Elliott's more "cinematic" approach, featuring editing and visual equivalents and 
highlighting individual performance (especially Laurence Olivier's) with closely 
framed one-shots and rapid cutting that accentuated the facial expressions of the 
actors. I concluded that "Miller's televisual strategies enable viewers to watch 
Shakespeare on television in a manner that is similar to the theatrical experience. 
. . . Miller's style accomplishes this through a greater, uninterrupted, continuity 
of dramatic space and time; a more active relationship between the spectator and the 
object; more personal choice about where and how to direct one's attention; and a 
greater weight given to the spoken word." After the seminar, Ken approached me and 
said "What a terrific idea; I wish that I had thought of it." If anyone is 
interested, you can find an early draft of my paper in the SHAKSPER archives: 
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/files/twolears.for_tv.html .

Mike Jensen provided a link to Ken's obituary in the online Burlington Free Press: 


From that obituary, I have pieced together this information about Ken.

Kenneth Sprague Rothwell, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of 
Vermont, passed away on Monday, November 8, 2010. For much of the past year, he had 
been a resident of Burlington Rehabilitation Hospital. Ken was born in Bay Shore, 
N.Y. (in Suffolk County) on May 26, 1921, and grew up in New York City; Shanghai, 
China; and San Antonio, Texas. He completed high school in Bay Shore and attended 
Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning an 
M.A. and Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. 
During World War II, he served in the 159th Infantry. He held full-time appointments 
at the Universities of Rochester, Cincinnati, Kansas, and went to the University of 
Vermont as department chair in 1970. 

Ken is probably best known for his work incorporating Shakespeare on film into his 
teaching and scholarship. At that time, many consider the using of such practices as 
a "dumbing down" of Shakespeare. He co-founded and co-edited with Bernice W. Kliman 
_The Shakespeare on Film Newsletter_ (1976), and with Annabelle Meltzer he compiled 
_Shakespeare on Screen: An International Filmography and Videography_ (1990). In 
1999, his _A History of Shakespeare on Screen: A Century of Film and Television_ 
(Cambridge University Press; 2nd ed., 2004), was published to scholarly acclaim. 
When _The Shakespeare on Film Newsletter_ was incorporated into _ Shakespeare 
Bulletin_, he became a contributing editor. In 2000 at 79, he presented the plenary 
lecture at the International Conference on Shakespeare Movies at the University of 
Malaga, Spain. He published widely in professional journals (_Shakespeare Survey_, 
_Shakespeare Quarterly_, _Comparative Drama_, _Cineaste_), and presented many papers 
at national and regional meetings. He edited _The Merchant of Venice_ (2008) and 
_King Lear_ (2010). 

For further information, consult his obituary at 

On Thursday, 18 November 2010(SHK 21.0455), Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> wrote, 


>Ken [Rothwell] is probably best known for his work incorporating 
>Shakespeare on film into his teaching and scholarship. At that 
>time, many considered the using of such practices as a 'dumbing 
>down' of Shakespeare."
Some still do.

I responded (SHK 21.0456), 


I had my differences with some of Ken Rothwell's beliefs, so to maintain 
civility I simply did not bring them up and stuck instead to subjects we 
both loved: Shakespeare, Shakespeare in performance, and Shakespeare in 
performance on film.

For someone to use a tribute I was making to a scholar for whom I had 
the greatest respect, a scholar who significantly changed the way that 
most of us thought about Shakespeare in performance and changed the way 
we used performance in our classrooms, a man I loved for his kindness 
and gentleness and enthusiasm, for someone to use that tribute to make a 
snide and hurtful remark borders on the inexcusable. 

Fortunately, such a display of ignorance can in no way tarnish the 
contributions this wonderful man made to Shakespeare studies. Ken 
Rothwell will be remembered much longer than his opponent "whose frown, 
/ And wrinkled lips, and sneer of cold command" will be reduced to the 
endless sands of nothingness and the "hand that mocked them, and the 
heart that fed" will be moved only by the ceaseless winds of time and 

[ . . . ]

This message is Charles Weinstein's response to me.

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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