The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0366  Friday, 26 July 2013


From:        Jed Serrano <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         July 26, 2013 11:32:57 AM EDT

Subject:     RE: Carlo Carlei’s Romeo and Juliet Film


RE: Carlo Carlei’s Romeo and Juliet Film


Mari Bonomi is thrice mistaken. One, I am to my wallet’s dismay a secondary English teacher. Two, I’m for her on the pedagogical value of pairing text with performance. Three, I did not say Shakespeare ought to be taught in their original pronunciation, but a text purist, if pure, would have it as such because the way he’s spoken now are essentially “emendations for audiences”. 


I was only reacting to a brusque dismissal of the new RJ movie on grounds of “stupidification of the text!” and its “bastardization of what Shakespeare actually wrote”, said amid a rich conversation about F1 editors, compositors, corrupt texts, conflated texts, Shakespeare’s collaborators—all of which are aspects to possible emendations of what S actually wrote. The “goal was playtexts, not integrity,” Gerald Downs writes. “The integrity of the F hodgepodge is doubtful,” he continues. So, it seems that anyone asserting to teach only what S wrote is unaware of its deeper pedigree and its improbability and impracticality in precollege classrooms.


More, never mind that Ms. B only saw the preview; but as teacher who works with students whose reading levels fall below par, I lean on resources that ease the experience of reading Shakespeare’s words (rather than dropping Shakespeare altogether, as some have, or leaving these students behind, as some do). For these students, it is that hard to comprehend the text. For myself, I owe them Shakespeare, however diluted, if only its essence, more matter, less art, if not both. It’s simplistic to think that simplified always means stupid, reactionary to think all emendations are sacrilege, condescending to think they’re of no use to struggling readers, especially those who can’t afford good live Shakespeare at Stauton, much less at the Globe. 


When I was in high school, Luhrmann’s RJ was leveled similar criticism by my then favorite English teacher. But L’s RJ was my gateway drug to Shakespeare. It possessed me, moving me to commit passages to heart, creating a stubborn appetite for the rest of the corpus, and ultimately bringing me . . . well, here. Shakespeare’s infinite capacity for adaptation, for weal or woe, keeps Shakespeare alive and relevant. And seeing that S still has cultural purchase on pop culture in the form of the new RJ ought to be welcomed to the gentle cause of S—unless you’d rather have Carlei adapt another superhero movie. 


Thus, moviemakers, the Luhrmann’s and Julian Fellowes of the wide world: once more and more and more unto the breach!  


Mr. Serrano 


[Editor’s Note: “I grow old. I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” I, alas, was in college when the Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet came out. –Hardy] 


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