Isuzu Yamada (Kurosawa’s Lady Macbeth)


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0298  Friday, 13 July 2012


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

Date:         Friday, July 13, 2012

Subject:     Isuzu Yamada (Kurosawa’s Lady Macbeth)


I learned this morning of the death of Isuzu Yamada, who played the Lady Macbeth character in Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, a film that is important to me in many ways. What follows is from today’s Washington Post.


Isuzu Yamada, 95, acclaimed Japanese actress

By Adam Bernstein


Isuzu Yamada, who became one of Japan’s most formidable and revered actresses and is perhaps best remembered as the treacherous wife of a warlord in “Throne of Blood,” director Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth,” died July 9 at a hospital in Tokyo. She was 95.


She died of multiple organ failure, the Japan Times reported.


A second-generation actor, Ms. Yamada appeared in more than 120 film and television roles in addition to her extensive theater career. She rose to movie stardom in the mid-1930s playing a series of “fallen women” — sometimes tragically sympathetic, sometimes tragically opportunistic —under the director Kenji Mizoguchi, whose films explored societal hypocrisies toward women.

In Mizoguchi’s “Sisters of the Gion” (1936), Ms. Yamada played one of two sisters who become geishas in Kyoto’s red-light district. Asserting that men use her as a plaything, she schemes to take her customers for every penny they have. She ultimately meets a ruinous end in what remains a man’s world.

Ms. Yamada played a self-sacrificing geisha in Mizoguchi’s “Oyuki the Virgin” (1935), which is based on a story by Guy de Maupassant and which is often considered a basis for John Ford’s landmark western “Stagecoach” just a few years later.


Her tour de force under Mizoguchi was “Osaka Elegy” (1936), in which she plays a telephone operator who sleeps with her boss to support her drunken, debt-ridden father and to pay for her brother’s education. Ultimately, she is scorned by all the men in her life and turns to prostitution. The film was lauded for its powerful ending: Ms. Yamada, all but enveloped in darkness, walks toward the camera — essentially accusing the audience of complicity in her fate.


Peter M. Grilli, president of the Japan Society of Boston, said Ms. Yamada specialized in portrayals of intense and willful women who “flew in the face of all stereotypes of submissive Japanese women. She was always the tough girl in movies. If I had to compare her to an American actress, I’d say she was a combination of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford — a very tough, self-aware, aggressive personality.”


Ms. Yamada’s fame coincided with a period of intellectual liberalization, including a flourishing of feminist writing, before the country descended into militarism and world war.


“She was riding that initial crest of independence, with a rethinking of the significance of women in society,” said Grilli, an authority on Japanese cinema, who created the Japan Society of New York’s film center in the 1970s. “Because she’s so assertive and so strong, she usually suffers for it, as Japanese women do suffer for it. She always comes to no good for being powerful.”


Ms. Yamada’s run of determined women continued after the war. In 1947, she starred in “Actress,” a biography of Sumako Matsui, a stage performer who helped introduce Shakespeare and Ibsen to Japanese audiences in the 19th and early 20th century.


As she shifted to character roles, she continued working with Japan’s top directors, including Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse and Kurosawa.


She played a vicious landlady in Kurosawa’s “The Lower Depths” (1957), based on Maxim Gorky’s play, and was a brothel keeper in “Yojimbo” (1961), which was later transformed into Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western “A Fistful of Dollars.”


“Throne of Blood” (1957), starring Toshiro Mifune as the warlord undone by his wife’s ambition, was performed in the stylized and austere Noh theater form, which forces passion inward and relies on subtle body language to convey emotion. The film elevated seduction, betrayal and madness to high art, notably when Ms. Yamada scrubs maniacally at her bloody hands.


Film critic Pauline Kael lauded the film as a masterpiece and wrote of Ms. Yamada that “there may never be a more chilling Lady Macbeth.”


Mitsu Yamada was born Feb. 5, 1917, in Osaka, Japan. Her father was an actor, and her mother was a geisha. She studied traditional Japanese dance as a child, made her film debut at 13 and became one of the biggest stars of the 1930s.


[ . . . ]


New DVD: Shakespeare’s Sonnets


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0297  Friday, 13 July 2012


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

Date:         July 13, 2012 7:15:49 AM EDT

Subject:     New DVD: Shakespeare’s Sonnets


For Release 20 July 2012 by Illuminations

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 


Illuminations, with Touch Press, Faber and Faber and The Arden Shakespeare, present an exclusive DVD release, Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Released alongside the acclaimed iPad app, The Sonnets by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets features specially filmed performances of every Sonnet by a star-studded cast of 42 actors and Shakespearean experts, including Sir Patrick Stewart, Kim Cattrall, David Tennant, Simon Russell Beale, Dominic West, Fiona Shaw, Dame Harriet Walter, Simon Callow, Stephen Fry, and poets Don Paterson and Sir Andrew Motion. Other prominent experts on Shakespeare include Professor James Shapiro and voice coach Cicely Berry.


The mysteries and marvels of Shakespeare's Sonnets are revealed as never before in these vivid, compelling and accessible performances.

The DVD also includes a beautiful 24-page booklet featuring every actor, a listing of Sonnets performed by that actor, photograph, and biography.


DVD information

Price: £14.99 including VAT / length: 180 minutes / format: PAL Region 0

Shakespeare’s Sonnets DVD is available from,, Amazon, Moviemail and other good retailers.


The Sonnets by William Shakespeare for iPad is available from the iTunes App Store for £9.99.


Illuminations is a producer and publisher of television, films and DVDs about the arts and performance. Recent productions include Hamlet (2009) with David Tennant, Macbeth (2010) with Patrick Stewart, and Being Shakespeare (2012) with Simon Callow. Gregory Doran’s Julius Caesar with the RSC will be released on DVD in September 2012.


For more information contact Louise Machin on 020 7288 8409 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes to editors:


Faber and Faber ( is one of the great independent publishing houses in London, with no fewer than twelve Nobel Laureates and six Booker Prize-winners among its authors.


Touch Press ( is a London-based digital publisher who UK and US founders have a distinguished track record of interactive software development. Their launch title, The Elements for iPad, has become an international publishing phenomenon, selling over 280,000 copies.


The Arden Shakespeare ( is the long-running and pre-eminent publisher of editions of Shakespeare's work for scholars and general readers.


Louise Machin


19-20 Rheidol Mews, London N1 8NU

+44 20 7288 8400 F: +44 20 7288 8488


Shorthand and so on


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0296  Thursday, 12 July 2012


[1] From:        Steve Urkowitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 10, 2012 10:05:39 PM EDT

     Subject:     Shorthand and Richard III and Nameless Characters 


[2] From:        Steve Urkowitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 11, 2012 11:07:09 PM EDT

     Subject:     Shakespeare Revising or Not Revising KING LEAR 




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

Date:         July 10, 2012 10:05:39 PM EDT

Subject:     Shorthand and Richard III and Nameless Characters


Doesn't anyone know how to play this game?


Gerald Downs galumphs after John Jowett for Jowett’s arguments about relationships between the texts of RICHARD 3. And in spots I do agree with Downs about Jowett’s plodding arguments, especially where Jowett is trashing my own working-through of the same problems.  But Downs is blowing smoke about the alleged stenographic source for speech prefixes designating actors by numbers rather than names: “1 Lo. ,  2 Lo.  3 Lo. “   He claims, “At Q1 5.2 Richmond enters to address his ‘fellows in arms.’ Their prefixes are 1 Lo., 2 Lo., and 3 Lo. Why? They aren’t named in the dialogue, that’s why. F identifies them, but that’s F’s job. That would have been necessary also in any theatrical transcription.”  Nope. Not so.  Wrong-o.


Very theatrical scripts left all kinds of things like this, see for some cute examples my essay “’All things is handsome now’: Murderers Nominated by Numbers  in  2 HENRY VI and RICHARD III”  in George Walton Williams, ed. Shakespeare’s Speech-Headings Newark: U of Delaware P, 1997. where  I show that these pairs of very funny murderers in Q and F have only numbers, no names, in both versions.


Or, for a really enlightening exploration of playhouse manuscripts, thoroughly grounded in first-hand experience with the documents themselves, I heartily recommend Grace Ioppolo, DRAMATISTS AND THEIR MANUSCRIPTS IN THE AGE OF SHAKESPEARE, JONSON, MIDDLETON, AND HEYWOOD: AUTHORSHIP, AUTHORITY AND THE PLAYHOUSE (2006).  Prepping for a return to the bibliographic battlements, I re-read this last month and feel much the stronger, wiser, and more familiar with the extant objects that contain the texts we talk about.   (Gerald, are you listening?)


You see, I finally realized that unless someone, anyone, rides shotgun on this scholarly enterprise, the noisiest folk get all the attention and hijack the discourse. That’s why I am on Gerald Downs’ case.


Stenography? Well, I’ve been trying to track down English examples where we could compare a written composition and a later steno report of that written text.  I’d hoped to find one of Donne’s sermons transcribed while he spoke it and then later printed from his original. But is seems like it didn’t ever work out that way, and where we have two versions of a Donne sermon, the longer one was an after-the-fact expansion done specifically at the request of the King.   (I just remembered that I have to look for Jesus Tronch-Perez’s piece on the Great Memory guys who memorized Lope de Vega’s plays in performance and rushed them into print.  But no one claimed similar powers in England.)  So far, no pairs of documents I’m happy with.


So it isn’t that these things aren’t possible, it’s just that a standing-around gang of interested people has to agree to the kinds of evidence that the community can find convincing.  Yikes, Gerald, we’re getting back to rhetoric!  I disagree with Gary Taylor about many crucial issues in our field, but he has consistently prevailed in the academic marketplace because he has been the stronger rhetorician. He works at it harder, and more consistently, and more boldly, than I have.  He’s STILL wrong, but boy is he convincing.  So my current strategy is to get better at the game.  “Irish poets, learn your trade,” says Yeats.  “Jewish Textual Scholars, learn your rhetoric!” I tell myself.


Getting late, time to dream, and the living is fine.



Steven Urquartowitz


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

Date:         July 11, 2012 11:07:09 PM EDT

Subject:     Shakespeare Revising or Not Revising KING LEAR


Short note, I hope.


Gerald Downs has adopted a tactical myopia to explain away or render irrelevant the many large-scale differences between Q and F LEAR. He takes a tiny variant, “take up to keep” in an uncorrected chunk of Q1, changed during the press-run to “take up the king” in the press-corrected version of Q1, which then appears in the Folio as “take up, take up.”  (Pardon any errors here, please, I am working without my facsimiles at the moment.)  And he concludes that the repetition “ take up, take up” found in F was somehow so minor a change that it must be considered beneath Shakespeare’s magnificence. He says, “I tend to agree with Philip Edwards; a revision by the author would have contained at least something other than the pussy-footing around corruption—something like revision.”


Two points: (1) How does Gerald Downs know that Shakespeare wouldn’t make little changes like this? and (2) the little change is part of a sweeping (not timid) change in the dramatic rhythms of this scene and the scene immediately following, and moreover it resembles similar changes made at the endings of other scenes in the Folio version of the play. (I’ve spelled them all out in my LEAR Revision book.)


If Gerald Downs would look at the abundance of evidence offered by Grace Ioppolo and others, he would see how flawed are his assumptions about how authors of the time actually marked up their own texts and texts of other writers.  Ioppolo shows that even W W Greg was simply wrong in many of his conclusions about manuscripts and the ways they were manipulated, inscribed, and used.


For those still interested in the underlying anatomy of debates (or rather hopeless, lobbing exchanges) such as the one ranging here, I invite you to read Kathryn Schulz, BEING WRONG: ADVENTURES IN THE MARGIN OF ERROR, a delightful study of how our brains click predictably and unavoidably into unsupported fairy-worlds of error.  “Oops, I thought I understood what that broker was doing!  He lost how many BILLIONS of dollars?” I’m just a little better at detecting certain kinds of error than some people, likely because I’ve made so many more errors in so many different fields than most people.


Sorry.  Not short.


Steve Errorowitz

Professor Demeritus

English and Theatre Departments

The City College of New York

Shakespeare and James I


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0295  Thursday, 12 July 2012


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

Date:         July 10, 2012 2:49:34 PM EDT

Subject:     RE: James I


In response to the post by Larry Weiss on “Polonius” as an agnomen (July 7), let me recommend an article by Abraham Shiff: “Transition from Corambis to Polonius: The Forgotten Pun on a Diplomatic Scandal in a Hamlet Q2 Stage Direction.” This article is accessible at the Hamlet Criticism tab on the website.  It can be downloaded in one or another format.  This is a rather long and involved piece, so it may take time to download.


Nick Clary 



The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0294  Tuesday, 10 July 2012


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

Date:         July 9, 2012 7:03:38 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Shorthand


Gabriel Egan advises:


> I’d be interested to hear Downs defend this claim:


>> . . .  Q1(c) at 3.6 has 'take vp thy master . . . Take

>> vp the King . . . '. F at line 102 has 'Take vp, take

>> vp . . .'; which Urkowitz describes as "unrelievedly urgent,

>> compelling, and threatening". That is, a Shakespearean

>> revision; who else could be so quick on the vp-take?

>> Well, Q1(uncorrected) has 'Take vp to keepe', an obvious

>> misreading (the compositor elsewhere proves to be

>> unconcerned with nonsense). F's reviser, without recourse

>> to the correction, sophisticated with a second 'take up';

>> nothing to do with the author, compelling or not.


> It’s not clear to me why F’s second “take vp” is

> attributed to the compositor by Downs.


Could be I wasn’t clear. I didn’t attribute the second “take up” to F’s compositor, but to F’s reviser (whoever the responsible party was at this point). Q2 also prints “take up to keep,” so the F compositor could have sophisticated that reading (which is not meaningful unless one is playing marbles or without them). One of the beauties of Q1 is that it preserves nonsense for analysis that doesn’t have to be nonsense.


I don’t know that the Q1 compositor misread the phrase or whether he followed someone who did. But as I say, the Q1 compositors were often content with terrible readings. “Take up the king” sounds correct; since that’s what the corrector came up with, presumably he’s right; but the important evidence is the error, compounded in F.


> Suppose we grant Gary Taylor’s claim that Shakespeare

> revised King Lear by annotating a copy of Q1 . . . and that

> F reflects the revised version.


That’s a two-parter. I grant that F revises Q1 anyhow; I credit Taylor for advancing that (following Stone, and possibly Blayney). The claim that Shakespeare revised Q1 itself sticks in a lot of craws that would otherwise swallow the revision rhetoric (Taylor wrote a whole article justifying his own brand of that).


Editors welcomed Howard-Hill’s bad argument that the “and appointed guard” mix-ups had nothing directly to do with the Q1 text. They did so because they didn’t like the “revised on Q1” hypothesis but did like the “revised foul papers” solution, which gets to be earlier than 1608. But F revises Q1; evidence of this sort proves it. Taylor hedged, as I recall, reducing ‘on Q1’ to ‘began on Q1.’


> In Q1(u) Shakespeare would have found the words

> “Take vp to keepe”. Not remembering what he had

> originally written (“Take up the king”)—why should he

> remember it 5-6 years later when doing the revision?


Maybe he doubled the King and was unconscious in that scene—for 5-6 years. But we are proliferating hypotheses; I don’t buy either one.


> —Shakespeare might easily have deleted the

> meaningless [we agree it's meaningless] “to keepe”

> and written above/near it “take up”, producing the F

> reading with the merits that Urkowitz identifies.


Highly unlikely: for one thing, “take up” looks very much like emending “to keep” on the assumption of a graphic error; achievable by anyone, and not to be taken as evidence for Shakespeare. Possibility? That’s not argument. More important, this is one of many shortcomings that Shakespeare (if the reviser, which I don’t believe) overlooks alongside, and inside, his revisions. Followers of the Oxford Shakespeare have to buy into that—even to express it. Non-Shakespearean revision accepts the Q1 text for what it was; something that needed fixing more than it got fixed.


I don’t believe Shakespeare would stoop to revising Q1 and leaving the F mess, nor would he be directly behind Q1. A few corollaries could be mentioned again.


First, it is a mistake to judge Q1 by F “merits.” The best way is to study Q1 for its own sake, as Blayney advises, and as Stone does. You’ll get a better idea of the corruptions. Second, the author can have done that much better than us, and found a travesty of his text. Heywood said of his reported play (thirty-five years on), “scarce one word true.” Would Shakespeare have felt different? I tend to agree with Philip Edwards; a revision by the author would have contained at least something other than the pussy-footing around corruption—something like revision.


Gerald E. Downs

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