The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0324 Tuesday, 9 July 2013
Date: July 9, 2013 4:51:01 AM EDT
Subject: Re: Rewriting Shakespeare? Not really.
I suppose I am of somewhat “purist” tendencies, but only, I think, because Shakespeare is so good and most of those who meddle with him are not. On the other hand, there is a long and rich tradition of adaptations of Shakespeare in various media. Winterson makes the well-worn point that Shakespeare himself borrowed and adapted most of his plots, so why not follow suit? The only point I would make is that he didn’t try to pass off his plays AS the works of his predecessors—i.e., Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, adapted by, or in a new version by Wm. Shakespeare (and John Fletcher). I think that’s what irritates me. Of course it’s largely marketing, capitalizing on the Shakespeare brand, but still. A few years back at Washington’s Wooly Mammoth Theater I saw a delightful adaptation of Calderon by Sheila Callaghan called Fever/Dream. It was especially delightful in that, while Calderon was mentioned in the program, it didn’t claim that it WAS his play, merely a contemporary response to/adaptation or rewriting of it. This seems more honest to me. Such adaptations can thus be judged on their own merits (as Shakespeare’s plays were and are). I think it highly unlikely that Winterson is going to be up to the level of The Winter’s Tale, and I’d be irritated if the play were presented as somehow Shakespeare’s. But it might be worth seeing on its own merits nevertheless.