Light duty for an older actor?


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.022  Monday, 23 January 2012


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

Date:         January 22, 2012 4:37:35 PM EST

Subject:     Light duty for an older actor?


It occurred to me some years ago while watching a performance of Macbeth, that a number of Shakespeare’s plays have an older character (or a character who can reasonably be played by and as an old man) in Act I who then disappears from the play, perhaps making a nominal appearance at or near the end of the show. For example: 


Macbeth:           Duncan

Hamlet:             Ghost

R&J:                 Montague

Othello:             Brabantio

AYLI:                Adam

MND:                Egeus

TN:                   Captain

C of E:              Merchant

Tempest:          Master, Bos’n

Cymbeline:       The two exposition Gentlemen who open the play

Richard II:        John of Gaunt

Henry IV 2:       Lord Bardolph

Henry V:          Archbishop of Canterbury


Some of these roles are light duty indeed -- the Master in The Tempest has only sixteen words -- but others have some heavy lifting. Gaunt has three or four scenes, gets himself all worked up and has a fierce confrontation with Richard before going offstage to die. The Archbishop of Canterbury has a long comic monologue that runs almost five minutes. And of course there’s the Ghost. But they all had lots of dressing room time (if they’re not doubling) before they were needed for their (possible) late appearance, curtain call and the dance.


Can it be that Shakespeare, at least for some of these characters, was writing roles for some arthritic older actor yet simultaneously cutting him considerable (and considerate) slack? Maybe a company member? Maybe himself? I know that tradition has it that Shakespeare played Adam and the Ghost, both of them early outs. Some of these roles are quite juicy, and it’s very easy to imagine Shakespeare writing them for himself.


Does the membership have any candidates? Or a better theory? Or have I found one more Secretly Encoded Key to the Universe that isn’t there at all?


Best to all,

Bob Projansky

Sleep No More


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.021  Monday, 23 January 2012


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

Date:         January 21, 2012 12:58:18 PM EST

Subject:     SHAKSPER Discussion


I’ll bite on the question about performances. My wife and I saw “Sleep No More,” in New York last week, and I’m still trying to work my way through my response. As someone with a scholarly/pedagogical interest in Shakespeare, and who loves Macbeth in particular, I started with “This isn’t Shakespeare.” Which seems obvious.


But I kept thinking of other performances of Macbeth that are Shakespeare, especially Polanski’s, as I wandered through the scenes. So I think the questions that I’m chewing on at the moment are, “What does this piece say about Shakespeare, theatre and Macbeth? How does it say it? Do I agree?”


If anyone on the list has seen this production (which is worth your time, IMO), I’d be interested in hearing responses.



Pat Dolan

University of Iowa

Shakespearean Appropriations


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.020  Monday, 23 January 2012


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

Date:         January 21, 2012 11:50:19 AM EST

Subject:     SHAKSPER Discussion


As I looked at Hardy’s list of “wow” moments, what struck me is that we also have in the community of Shakespeare lovers a dichotomy between those who love the appropriation of Shakespeare’s characters and even words into settings and concepts foreign to the original (I’m not talking Shakespeare in language translation here) and those who find it annoying or deeply distressing or even sacrilegious.


Case in point: I truly loathed "Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet", in part because Luhrmann called it William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, which to my mind it most definitely was not, and in part because I found certain changes distortions beyond acceptability.


Yet I’ve seen excerpts of a Taming of the Shrew done in the Chicago area by director/choreographer David Bell set in the US gangster '30’s which seemed to me spot on and screamingly funny.


I’ve seen the same actor as Mercutio twice in the span of a couple of years, loathed him in the first production (jammed into Victorian England by the old Stratford CT theatre) and loved him in the second, indeterminate-setting production at Circle in the Square, NYC.  (Granted, that could easily have been directorial conceits.)


Taymor’s Titus blew me away . . . but then I don’t know the text of Shakespeare’s Titus well, as I do many of the other plays.  Is it a matter of beloved texts not honoring our own conception of them?

I’ve seen so many Hamlets, set in so many places, but the ones I liked least were the ones that put the issues of the play into some other, non-antique-Denmark/England political/social setting where to me they just no longer rang true.


I lean toward “I don’t like resetting and reconfiguring Shakespeare,” but perhaps its partly “I don't like doing so and calling it Shakespeare’s own work”?

 If you do not feel this is too trivial a topic, or too likely to descend into heat instead of light (I recall the fuming over a former list-member’s repeated contributions of pornographic “Shakespeare”!), perhaps we can have a lively discussion on this topic?


Name the version and defend/attack it based on texts?


Mari Bonomi

Hoping to get to Staunton VA this spring, at last . . .


CFP: ESSE Seminar: Shakespeare and Renaissance Period



The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.019  Monday, 23 January 2012


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

Date:         January 21, 2012 12:20:40 PM EST

Subject:     CFP: ESSE Seminar: Shakespeare and Renaissance Period


Prof. John Drakakis and Dr. Sidia Fiorato will host a seminar on the performances of the Body in the Renaissance Period during the next ESSE conference at Bogazici University, Instanbul, Turkey, from 4 to 8 September 2012.


Here is a brief description of the seminar


S3) Performances of The Body In The Renaissance Period


The seminar intends to analyze the concept of the "body" in the Renaissance period and its subsequent re-articulations and re-interpretations. Modernity considers the body as a place of regulation, shaped by social and political ideologies and specific networks of power; it is strictly connected with the representation of individual identity and the shaping of the juridical persona. Literature and the performing arts (through a language that is written on the body and with the body), can absorb and retain the effects of political power as well as resist the very effects they appear to incorporate in structures of parody, irony, and pastiche.


Please send your proposals for the seminar with a 200-word-abstract by January 31, 2012 to


Prof. John Drakakis (University of Stirling, UK)

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Dr. Sidia Fiorato (University of Verona, IT)

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This is the link to the conference:<http://www.e>

SHAKSPER Discussion


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.018  Saturday, 21 January 2012


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

Date:          21 January 2012

Subject:     SHAKSPER Discussion


Dear SHAKSPEReans,


As I was repairing digests in the Archive that were truncated during the transfer from the old site to the new, I was reminded that in the past SHAKSPER was a site of vigorous debate. In 2002, a decade ago, there were almost 2,500 yearly digests. Granted, at the time, frivolous discussions were in evidence, but I am afraid that in my quest to return SHAKSPER to its academic roots that some of the liveliness of the conference has become my victim. True, SHAKSPER has a number of new scholarly features—the Roundtables, the SBReviews (that’s SHAKSPER Book Reviews), and many additions to the Scholarly Resources section of the web site (—but a dearth of engaging exchanges is apparent of late. 


So let me attempt to prime the pump. 


I vividly recall the 1997 Washington, DC, Shakespeare Theater “photo-negative” casting production of Othello with Patrick Stewart, when the Duke played by Craig Wallace delivered the “I think this tale would win my daughter, too” line with a venom I had not previously thought possible. Before this production, I had considered the Duke one of the only characters in the play who appeared to be without racial hatred. Or my excitement when in 1999 I saw the opening 30 seconds of Julie Taymor’s Titus and knew immediately I was viewing one of the best Shakespeare films I had ever seen.


Have there been any performances on the stage (perhaps the Old Vic-BAM Richard III directed by Sam Mendes with Kevin Spacey, or film (The Tempest with Helen Mirren directed by Julie Taymor) that have suggested possibilities you had not previously considered? 


Have you recently, or not so recently, read a book or article that you found particularly thought-provoking? 


With some trepidation, I ask what effect would PIPA/SOPA have on academic Internet discussions like those on SHAKSPER?


I will stop my questions for now, but be aware that others will undoubtedly follow.


My best to all subscribers of the past 23 years who have made this electronic conference what it is.


Hardy M. Cook



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