“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”

Today is (supposedly – at least it’s the agreed-upon date) the birthday of William Shakespeare. April 23, 1564.

shakespeare_portrait.jpg

One of the things I think about when I think about Shakespeare, or one of the things that inevitably comes into my mind, is my late great teacher Doug Moston, who died in 2003 (check out the comments there, too – I don’t know any of those people, but they all had worked with Doug at one time or another and found their way to my post. Beautiful). Moston (an awesome awesome teacher) was responsible for getting Shakespeare’s first folio (from 1623) published in facsimile. In facsimile, people. So it’s basically well-done Xeroxes of the folio’s pages. I own it. It’s indispensable for actors, I think, but would also be fascinating for anyone interested in Shakespeare in general.


Modern versions of Shakespeare, modern editors ironed out his punctuation, regularizing it, etc. But … in a lot of cases, the modern editors are looking at these plays as academic texts, works of literature – as opposed to scripts meant for actors to play. If you have the plays in facsimile (ie: how they looked in the first folio) – you can see an even deeper level of Shakespeare’s intent as a playwright. Modern editors sometimes have added exclamation points, which I find a bit insulting. An exclamation point is an editorial comment – it says: “Here’s how to say this line”. It’s directorial, mkay? You are saying, with that punctuation: “The emotion behind the line should be THIS.” Shakespeare used very little “emotional” punctuation marks in his work. Almost none. He used periods and commas, and that’s pretty much it. I don’t want some EDITOR to tell me how to play Lady Macbeth.

Let’s do a little compare and contrast, shall we?

Awhile back I wrote about what came to be known between me and Michael as the “twixt clock and cock” monologue from Cymbeline which I was working on at the time. I had the folio by me – and I wanted to compare it to the Riverside Shakespeare version – and check it out. Line by line. Fascinating. (And yes – “f” are “s”s in the folio. You get used to it after a while.) Here is how the two stack up, side by side. I’ll comment after.

Riverside Shakespeare version:

False to his bed! What is it to be false?
To lie in watch there and to think on him?
To weep ‘twixt clock and clock? if sleep charge nature,
To break it with a fearful dream of him
And cry myself awake? that’s false to’s bed, is it?

Folio version:

Falfe to his Bed? What is it to be falfe?
To lye in watch there, and to thinke on him?
To weepe ‘twixt clock and clock? If fleep charge Nature,
To breake it with a fearfull dreame of him
And cry my felfe awake? That’s falfe to’s bed? Is it?

Let’s look at the differences. The first “false to his bed” in the monologue is NOT an exclamation in the folio -although it appears in the Riverside as an exclamation. In the folio it is a QUESTION. Enormous difference, in terms of the playing of it! Also – in terms of the MEANING. What is Imogen DOING here? What is she actually saying?

My interpretation is: when it’s a question, she – after reading his letter – is still trying to process what her husband just said to her. She is still in a state of shock, where she must just repeat what she just heard. “False to his bed?” She’s stunned, disoriented. She can’t believe this has happened. Whereas, with an exclamation mark, like in Riverside – she immediately jumps to the anger and the hurt. She is pissed, and defending herself. “False to his bed!” (Subtext: the NERVE of that guy!)

But no – the folio has it as a question. HUGE difference.

Also, the last line:

In the Riverside, it’s all one sentence – with commas added.

“that’s false to his bed, is it?”

It’s all one thing, one thought. In the folio – it’s more choppy. “That’s false to his bed? Is it?” Her thought process is still erratic (Olivier was right: the thought is IN THE LINE.) … so she’s asking one question: “That’s false to his bed?” Then she realizes she is not done, and questions again: “Is it?”

To me – the folio is MUCH more plain, in terms of emotion. You can feel Imogen’s processing of the betrayal – in the punctuation. In the Riverside, it’s ironed out a bit – modernized. And so the thought itself has been changed. Tsk tsk tsk.

That’s false to his bed? Is it?

I prefer that one.

Let’s move on.

In the same way that Shakespeare does not overdo it in terms of exclamation points and emotional punctuation, there are no stage-directions in his plays (as written) except for: Enter and Exeunt. Shakespeare put all of the stage directions INTO the language. Fascinating. If someone needs a torch to see through the darkness, Shakespeare will have the character say something along the lines of, “I can’t see. It’s too dark. Hand me that torch.” The action (“hand me”), the props (“torch”), the motivation (“I can’t see”), everything, is all in the language. Modern playwrights would add a stage direction to fill in the blanks: Horatio picks up a torch and squints through the darkness. See the difference? Although it’s funny, I knew a playwright once who took the cue from Shakespeare, merely because she had been burned so many times with productions of her plays not being true to her intent. She said, “I have learned that if you want a character to be drinking a cup of coffee during the scene, if you think it is crucial to your plot that your character be drinking coffee – as opposed to tea, or as opposed to not drinking anything at all – you have to have the character say, ‘I am going to have a cup of coffee’ or something thereabouts. It has to be in the language, not in the stage directions- because then they can’t cut it.”

Shakespeare’s plays, back in the day, were not extensively rehearsed. There wasn’t much planning out beforehand. There was a troupe of well-trained actors who could learn things quickly, and knew, basically, how to project their voices, how to fight with swords, and how to play make believe. And because paper was expensive and scarce, they wouldn’t be given the whole script – they would only be given their part. Imagine!! So you have to fit it in to the whole, you have to know how to do that. That’s where the word “role” comes from: each part was written out on a “roll” of paper, and so you would be handed your “roll” to learn. Moston, as an experiment in classes, would do the same thing … he would have parts written out on “rolls” and you would have to get up with other actors … and try to make the scene happen, the way they did back in the day. I mean, people make jokes about Shakespeare’s “O! I am slain!”s at the end of sword fights, but if you think about it: that is a stage direction. That is telling the actor (who might not have the whole play at his disposal) Okay. Die now. Those actors at the Globe were pros, man, they knew how to do crap like that … You see “O I am slain” and you know: Yup. Time to die. Shakespeare doesn’t write as a stage direction: Elaborate sword fight. Macbeth eventually dies. Uhm, no. Everything you need to know (as an audience member, and as an actor playing it) is in the language of the play. Marvelous.

The story of the “folio” is an amazing story, and I am so grateful that I studied under Doug Moston, that I worked on Shakespeare, using the folio as opposed to modern versions of the script.

All of this reminds me of something I began on the blog last year and never really followed through with – basically because life happens, and so did Dean Stockwell, and I couldn’t keep it going … but it is on the back burner, as something I would like to continue: read the plays in chronological order – or at least in what is generally agreed-upon to be their chronology – and write posts on each play. I decided to start with Two Gentlemen of Verona – it was either that or Comedy of Errors or the Henrys … but I went with Two Gents. It was fun – I would like to start that series up again. Many of the plays I have not read in years. There are the old favorites – I read As You Like It and Hamlet for fun, they’re plays I dip into all the time – but Richard III? It’s been years. Anyway. Just another example of all of my plans and there not being enough time in the damn day.

Came across a very fun article which lets you know only a couple of the phrases (and words) invented (or co-opted) by Shakespeare :

Eaten out of house and home
Pomp and circumstance
Foregone conclusion
Full circle
The makings of
Method in the madness
Neither rhyme nor reason
One fell swoop
Seen better days
It smells to heaven
A sorry sight
A spotless reputation
Strange bedfellows
The world’s (my) oyster

And don’t forget:

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Thanks, Bill, for your greatness. Maybe you were born to it. Maybe you achieved it. Maybe it was thrust upon you. Or maybe Christopher Marlowe wrote all the plays, and you just get all the credit. I doubt it, but who knows. Thanks anyway. And happy birthday.

In honor of the Bard, here is a huge post, made up mostly of excerpts from other people. But first – let’s look at what the facsimile looks like, what you will get if you look at the folio:

pub02-02.jpg
Awesome!!

I’ll start with a wonderful excerpt from the book Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, by Stephen Greenblatt.

Here he discusses Midsummer Night’s Dream. One of the cool things about Midsummer is that, of all of his plays, it is the one where scholars have been unable to find a souce for it. Shakespeare did not invent plots, he used stories that were already in existence. But scholars believe that Midsummer may very well be the only one of his plays directly from his imagination.

By 1595, Shakespeare clearly grasped that his career was built on a triumph of the professional London entertainment industry over traditional amateur performances. His great comedy [Midsummer] was a personal celebration of escape as well as of mastery. Escape from what? From tone-deaf plays, like Thomas Preston’s A Lamentable Tragedy, Mixed Full of Pleasant Mirth, Containing the Life of Cambises, King of Persia, whose lame title Shakespeare parodied. From coarse language and jog trotting meter and rant pretending to be passion. From amateur actors too featherbrained to remember their lines, too awkward to perform gracefully, too shy to perform energetically, or, worst of all, too puffed up with vanity to perform anything but their own grotesque egotism. The troupe of artisans who perform “Pyramus and Thisbe” — the weaver Nick Bottom, the bellows-mender Francis Flute, the tinker Tom Snout, the joiner Snug, the tailor Robin Starveling, and their director, the carpenter Peter Quince — are collectively an anthology of theatrical catastrophes.

The laughter in act 5 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream — and it is one of the most enduringly funny scenes Shakespeare ever wrote — is built on a sense of superiority in intelligence, training, cultivation, and skill. The audience is invited to join the charmed circle of the upper-class mockers onstage. This mockery proclaimed the young playwright’s definitive passage from naivete and homespun amateurism to sophisticated taste and professional skill. But the laughter that the scene solicits is curiously tender and even loving. What saves the scene of ridicule from becoming too painful, what keeps it delicious in fact, is the self-possession of the artisans. In the face of open derision, they are all unflappable. Shakespeare achieved a double effect. On the one hand, he mocked the amateurs, who fail to grasp the most basic theatrical conventions, by which they are to stay in their roles and pretend they cannot see or hear their audience. On the other hand, he conferred an odd, unexpected dignity upon Bottom and his fellows, a dignity that contrasts favorably with the sardonic rudeness of the aristocratic spectators.

Even as he called attention to the distance between himself and the rustic performers, then, Shakespeare doubled back and signaled a current of sympathy and solidarity. [Note from Sheila: It occurs to me that this is what Christopher Guest accomplished in Waiting for Guffman. Anyone who has been an actor has suffered through shows like that one. Most of us have done loads of community theatre. You can scoff at it, and scorn it ... and there's a lot to scorn. But Christopher Guest approaches it with affection. Which is why I think that movie is so wonderful. Yes, we laugh at those people, but we love them too. Okay, back to Will.] As when borrowing from the old morality plays and folk culture, he understood at once that he was doing something quite different and that he owed a debt. The professions he assigned the Athenian artisans were not chosen at random — Shakespeare’s London theatre company depended on joiners and weavers, carpenters and tailors — and the tragedy they perform, of star-crossed lovers, fatal errors, and suicides, is one in which the playwirght himself was deeply interested. In the period he was writing the “Pyramus and Thisbe” parody, Shakespeare was also writing the strikingly similar Romeo and Juliet; they may well have been on his writing table at the same time. A more defensive artist would have scrubbed harder in an attempt to remove these marks of affinity, but Shakespeare’s laughter was not a form of renunciation or concealment. “This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard,” Hippolyta comments, to which Theseus replies, “The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse if imagination amend them.” “It must be your imagination, then, and not theirs,” is her rejoinder (5.1.207-10) — the spectators’ imagination and not the players’ — but that is precisely the point: the difference between the professional actor and the amateur actor is not, finally, the crucial consideration. They both rely upon the imagination of the spectators. And, as if to clinch the argument, a moment later, at the preposterous suicide speech of Pyramus –

Approach, ye furies, fell.
O fates, come, come,
Cut thread and thrum,
Quail, crush, conclude and quell
(5.1.273-76)

– Hippolyta finds herself unaccountably moved: “Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man” (5.1.279).

When in A Midsummer Night’s Dream the thirty-year-old Shakespeare, drawing deeply upon his own experiences, thought about his profession, he split the theatre between a magical, virtually nonhuman element, which he associated with the power of the imagination to lift itself away from the constraints of reality, and an all-too-human element, which he associated with the artisans’ trades that actually made the material structures — buildings, platforms, costumes, musical instruments, and the like — structures that gave the imagination a local habitation and a name. He understood, and he wanted the audience to understand, that the theatre had to have both, both the visionary flight and the solid, ordinary earthiness.

That earthiness was a constituent part of his creative imagination. He never forgot the provincial, everday world from which he came or the ordinary face behind the mask of Arion.

I think that’s kind of a beautiful analysis of that play. Mitchell – (a friend who just played Puck in Indiana Rep’s production of Midsummer): what say you?

Additionally, I’m going to post a couple of quotes from a book I positively adore: Michael Schmidt’s Lives of the Poets.

This was a book recommended to me by the doppelganger, and I tore through it ferociously. If you like poetry, I highly recommend you pick it up. What’s really great about this book (a survey of English-language poets, from Richard Rolle of Hampole to Les Murray – quite a wide span of time) – but what’s great about it is that Michael Schmidt is not an academic. He has nothing to do with academia. He is a publisher, and a reviewer. He is a poetry fan. He doesn’t write from the dusty halls of a university, and he is not trying to impress. He chooses poets he loves, and tells us why he loves them and why he thinks so-and-so is important. It’s a wonderful book, really accessible.

How he deals with Shakespeare is especially interesting. Because this book spans so much time, Shakespeare is just another name on a long long long list … and yet … of course … he overshadows pretty much everything. His shadow even goes backwards, so that the poets that came just before him don’t stand a chance either. It’s very interesting.

In Michael Schmidt’s view, the poet whose legacy suffers the most is Ben Jonson. Here is what he has to say about that:

Jonson suffers one irremediable disability: Shakespeare. Alexander Pope underlines the point in his Preface to the Works of Shakespeare (1725): “It is ever the nature of parties to be in extremes; and nothing is so probable, as that because Ben Jonson had much the more learning, it was said on the other hand that Shakespeare had none at all; and because Shakespeare had much the most wit and fancy, it was retorted on the other, that Jonson wanted both. Because Shakespeare borrowed nothing, it was said that Ben Jonson borrowed everything.”

In the plays the proximity of Shakespeare does Jonson the most harm, though he writes plays so different from his friend’s that they seem distinct in kind and period. Part of that difference is Jonson’s poetic balance, deliberate artistry: he knows what he wants to say and has the means of saying it, no more or less. He speaks for his age, while Shakespeare speaks for himself. Jonson’s art is normative, Shakespeare’s radical and exploratory. In Jonson there’s structure and gauged variegation, in Shakespeare movement and warmth. Coleridge disliked the “rankness” of Jonson’s realism and found no “goodness of heart”. He condemned the “absurd rant and ventriloquism” in the tragedy Sejanus,staged by Shakespeare’s company at the Globe. At times Jonson’s words, unlike Shakespeare’s, tend to separate out and stand single, rather than coalesce, as though he had attended to every single word. His mind is busy near the surface. He is thirsty at the lip, not at the throat….

Dryden’s criticism is telling at one point: Jonson “weaved” the language “too closely and laboriously” and he “did a little too much Romanise our tongue, leaving the words he translated almost as much Latin as he found them.” Dryden ends with the inevitable verdict: “I admire him, but I love Shakespeare.”

The following excerpts are from Schmidt’s chapter on Shakespeare.

When drama began to be printed, blank verse was an ugly medium. Printers did their best to set it out prettily but got little enough thanks for their labors. Not wholly unconnected with this, some of my predecessors harbored bad feelings about William Shakespeare. About the work and the way it broke upon the world. Not about the man, born in the same year as Marlowe yet somehow seeming his junior an dhis apprentice. The great painter William Turner once said of Thomas Girtin, who died at twenty-seven, “Had Tommy Girtin lived, I should have starved.” But Girtin died, Marlowe died; and Turner lived, Shakespeare lived. Laurels are awarded accordingly.

Poems vs. the plays – here’s what Schmidt has to say:

The greatest poet of the age — the greatest poet of all time, for all his corruptions — inspires in publishers and in other writers a kind of vertigo. For Donald Davie Shakespeare represents “a vast area of the English language and the English imagination which is as it were ‘charged’, radio-active: a territory where we dare not travel at all often or at all extensively, for fear of being mortally infected, in the sense of being overborne, so that we cease to speak with our own voices and produce only puny echoes of the great voice which long ago took over that whole terrain for its own.” This is true of the plays. But had Shakespeare produced only the epyllia, the Sonnets and the occasional poems, we’d have a much more proportioned view of him, smaller in scale than Jonson, Donne, Spencer and Marlowe. The poems are excellent, but it is the language and vision of the plays that dazzles. The slightly absurd scenario of Venus and Adonis, the excesses of Lucree and the unevent brilliance of the Sonnets would not by themselves have changed the world. Venus and Adonis was, it’s true, Shakespeare’s most successful poem. By the time he died, ten editions had been published, and six followed in the two decades after his death. There was money in that large, bossy, blowsy goddess almost eating alive the pretty lad. Nowadays it is read because it is by Shakespeare. And Lucree, with its cruel eloquence, its harsh tracing of one of the most brutal tales of rape in the classical repertory, while better balanced and constructed, touches unreflectingly on matters that require a less restrained psychology than the poet can provide…

This is a story about poetry, not drama or literal prostitution; the plays I’ll leave to someone else. I’m concerned with “the rest”, a handful of works that the poet took most seriously; the epyllia Richard Field published, the 154 Sonnets and “The Phoenix and the Turtle”. I could add songs from the plays, but once you dip into a drama, where do you stop? A monologue is like an aria, a description can be like a whole pastoral or satire. And which songs are Shakespeare’s, which did he pull out of Anon.’s bran tub? Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Lavours Lost, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venic, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Cymbeline, A Winter’s Tale and The Tempest all include detachable songs, but the plays snared them and that’s where they belong.

Shakespeare is so much at the heart — is the heart — of this story that even by skirting around him we take his measure. Apart from his genius, Shakespeare had some real advantages. The world for him was new, as it had been for Chaucer. There were the navigators’ discoveries, there was the rising power of the monarch, new industry, new learning.

Here Schmidt talks about the mystery hidden within the Sonnets:

The Sonnets have attracted a critical literature second in vastness only to that on Hamlet, and so various that at times it seems the critics are discussing works entirely unrelated. They contain a mystery, and the critic-as-sleuth is much in evidence. Unlike sonnets by his contemporaries, none of these poems has a traced “source” in Italian or elsewhere; most seem to emerge from an actual occasion, an occasion not concealed, yet sufficiently clouded to make it impossible to say for sure what or whom it refers to. Setting these veiled occasions side by side can yield a diversity of plots: a Dark Lady, a Young Man, now noble, now common, now chaste, now desired, possessed, and lost. All we can say for sure is that desire waxes and wanes, time passes. Here certainly, the critic says, are hidden meanings; and where meanings are hidden, a key is hidden too. Only, Shakespeare is a subtle twister. Each sleuth-critic finds a key, and each finds a different and partial treasure. A.L. Rowse found his key, affirming that Shakespeare’s mistress was the poet Emilia Lanyer (1569 – 1645), illegitimate daughter of an Italian royal musician and also an intimate of the astrologer Simon Forman, who gives a brief picture of a brave, cunning operator. Her 1611 volume of poem includes ten dediocations and cleverly celebrates the Dowager Countess of Cumberland, the poet’s particular quarry, in company with Christ and biblical heroines. The words she attributes to Eve are the first clear glimmer of English feminism in verse. Eve may — almost innocently — have handed Adam the apple, but Adam’s sons crucified, in the bright light of day and reason, Jesus Christ. “This sin of yours hath no excuse, or end.”

There is a further mystery: Who is “the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets Mr. W.H.” to whom the poet (or the publisher?) wishes “all happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-living poet”? The T.T. who signs the dedication is Thomas Thorpe, publisher-printer in 1609 of the poems: W.H. may have been his friend, who procured the manuscipt, or Shakespeare’s lover, or a common acquaintaince – William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke? Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton (dedicatee of the two epyllia)? William Hervey, Southampton’s stepfather, getting the poet to encourage his stepson to marry? Much passionate energy is expended on a riddle without a definitive answer. Thomas Thorpe was a mischievous printer. I suspect he knew what he was doing: no title page in history has been more pored over.

You can tell Schmidt is a publisher, right?

Here’s more on the Sonnets:

There is not a linear plot to the sequence of the sonnets. Ther are “runs”, but they break off; other “runs” begin. Is it a series of sequences, or a miscellany of them? Some editors reorder the poems without success. Sonnets 1 – 126 are addressed to a young man or men; the remainder to a Dark (-haired) Lady. There may be a triangle (or two): the beloveds perhaps have a relationship as well. The poems are charged with passionate ambiguities.

Those who read the poems as a sonnet sequence were for a long while baffled. The Sonnets were neglected, or virtually so, until 1780, when they were dusted down and reedited. They did not immediately appeal, but gradually, during the 19th century, they caught fire — fitfully, like wet kindling. Wordsworth, Keaths, Hazlitt, and Landor failed to appreciate them. Those who love them properly are fewer than those who enjoy them. Those who love them properly are fewer than those who enjoy arguing about them. W.H. Auden argues (credibly) that “he wrote them … as one writes a diary, for himself alone, with no thought of a public.” T.S. Eliot suggests that like Hamlet they are “full of some stuff that the writer could not drag to light, contemplate, or manipulate into art. And when we search for this feeling, we find it, as in the sonnets, very difficult to localise.” Now the public clambers over them, prurient, with several dozen authoritative guides.

And now (you can sense reluctantly) Schmidt talks about the plays.

Drama could be profitable: this discovery coincided with “the coming into the field of the first pupils of the new grammar schools of Edward VI”, men who did not resent or distrust commerce and entrepreneurship. A new class of “mental adventurers”, the classically educated sons of merchants, made the running. Marlowe was the son of a cobbler, Shakespeare of a prosperous glove maker of Stratford-on-Avon, where the poet was born in 1564. Both were provincials, one educated at the grammar school at Stratford, the other at King’s School, Canterbury. They were harbingers of the social change that would culminate in the Commonwealth.

One of Shakespeare’s advantages was an apparent disadvantage. He was not university-trained. “When Shakespeare attempts to be learned like Marlowe, he is not very clever.” That is part of the problem with his epyllia. But Ford Madox Ford reminds us that he had “another world to which he could retire; because of that he was a greater poet than either Jonson or Marlowe, whose minds were limited by their university-training to find illustrations, telles quelles, from illustrations already used in the Greek or Latin classics. It was the difference between founding a drawing on a lay figure and drawing or painting from a keen and delighting memory.”

Sidney advises: “Look in thy heart and write.” In the Sonnets, Shakespeare takes Sidney’s counsel without the platonizing the great courtier intended. The heart he looks into is singularly complex and troubled, and the poems he writes from this impure “I” are as full of life as the plays.

I’ll let Puck’s words that end Midsummer close this post. They seem appropriate:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

This entry was posted in On This Day, writers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”

  1. ted says:

    Great post – I love how Dean Stockwell worms his way into your Shakespeare birthday post!!! Ha-ha-ha. I love to how word-people like you (and I) get about Shakespeare. He’s like a favorite place we’ve visited many times or a favorite food we’ve tried prepared in many different ways. We have such preferences for the way minute details of that experience can bring out this or that. We connect one experience or another of it with things in our lives. And that view can change through our lives. I’ve read Richard II, A Winters Tale and Hamlet so many times! I think the first scene between Hamlet and Horatio is one of the best scenes ever written. God – what you know in that little time you spend with them about their friendship, about Hamlet’s fears, his anger at his mother, his love for his father.
    Happy Birthday, Will.

  2. red says:

    Ted – it’s amazing to me how the plays never ever seem the same if you read them multiple times. I mean, the essence is the same, obviously – but I experience them as shape-shifting … and like you said, it’s connected to so much in my own life that I’m not even sure where the play ends and I begin. i have so many personal associations with As You LIke It for example, that I am pretty much unable to see it just as a play. But then, too, I have the memory of the Arden Theatre’s production of it -outside on a thundery night – in Philadelphia – and it is, to date, one of the most exciting productions I have ever seen in my life. So when I read the play, I still see those actors … but then the play is also about ME.

    I just love that.

  3. red says:

    And then of course I have memories like Sam making me do the To Be or Not To Be speech in class – off the cuff – he knew I knew it by heart so he just asked me to start it – and do it in an Irish brogue. He was making me try to connect to something, if I recall … something deeply personal … and I think I was pretty depressed at that point in my life (surprise surprise) – and that “To be or not to be” was an actual question I was asking myself …

    I’ll never forget that class!

    But yeah … Shakespeare is never just one thing to me – a playwright. He’s just kind of woven in to all of these stories of my life.

  4. red says:

    And yes, hahahaha about Dean Stockwell … He is omnipresent still! One of my dream productions that lives in my head (I do that sometimes) is a production of King Lear with Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell – alternating the roles of King Lear and The Fool. I know it will never happen, but I still get to live it in my mind.

  5. Den says:

    Another famous Shakespeare quote-”I’m all lost in the supermarket…” Wait that was Joe Strummer…or you in the Pathmark the other night.I’m not a Shakespeare expert by any stretch but I am going to see Patrick Stewart in Macbeth tomorrow night and taking my twelve year old son and eleven year old daughter. We’ve been reading through the play and all laughed when Macduffs son tells his mother”He has killed me mother. Run away I pray you.” Duaghter says um Dad…how does he say that when he’s already dead?…stage direction kid stage dirction. I am new to your site and have been enjoying it for the past few days…very nice.
    Den

  6. red says:

    Den – I saw that Macbeth when it was at BAM! Enjoy! My favorite part of the production was how the witches were handled and also how the ghost of Banquo was handled.

    And that’s a great anecdote about your kids and Macduffs poor dead family!! Great example of what I was trying to say in the post.

    Oh, and yes. The scope of that Pathmark was truly Shakespearean!!

  7. Den says:

    Red, (I guess its ok if I call you that?)
    Did you post anything about Macbeth at Bam? I wouldn’t mind reading if you did…I heard about how they staged the banquet scene twice…also I don’t know if you remember what age you were when you first read Macbeth but it was funny reading it with my kids when Malcolm doubts his ability to be king(I think to Macduff) because he would basically be looking to nail every woman in Scotland…from daughters to grandmothers…we laughed at that too…who knew Macbeth could be so funny?
    Den

  8. red says:

    Sure – call me ‘red’!

    Here’s what I wrote about it – I kind of go off on how great I thought the witches were – that is my main take-away from the play.

    You’ll have to stop by after you see it and let me know what you think. I know Patrick Stewart has been having voice issues – he was a bit hoarse the night I saw it … but it’s an exciting production. I’ve seen it so many times that it’s cool to see someone do something new wiht it and make me think: Wow – awesome idea!!

  9. nightfly says:

    “Elaborate sword fight. Macbeth eventually dies.” HAHAHAHAHA! It reminds me of something Kevin Kline once said about Shakespeare – as I recall, he said that the plays are supposed to be fast and energetic, but a lot of modern actors don’t know how to play them straight; they audition entirely on the subtext to the point that there’s no text left. I remember him actually reciting Hamlet’s line beside Ophelia’s grave: “Is it not… I? Hamlet? The…. Dane?” It just killed me. (Hamlet’s already sort of emo, but the way Kline did it was priceless, with this hugely confused look on his face: Really? I’m Hamlet in this play? Like, THE Hamlet?)

    Speaking of which, Shakespeare also gave us “something is rotten in the State of Denmark.” (And “It’s all Greek to me” – from Julius Ceasar, I think early in Act II.)

  10. red says:

    Nightfly – right. The trick is: speak the words. Don’t add anything.

    Your thought is in the line. Anthony Hopkins tells the story of his early days at RSC – and his acting idols were Brando and Method dudes – so he was doing all of this subtext stuff, adding pauses, all of that – which works perfectly (within reason) with Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller – but KILLS it with Shakespeare. And Olivier gave him that note: “The thought is in the line.”

    So pause where Shakespeare tells you to pause (comma, semi-colon) and stop where Shakespeare tells you to stop.

    You don’t need to ADD.

    This is really really hard to do – especially for American actors.

    I’m thinking now of Slings & Arrows – the WONDERFUL Canadian TV series about a Shakespeare theatre festival – and an American movie star (a la Brad Pitt or someone) comes in to do Hamlet “to give him more legitimacy” … Oh God, it’s so so good – the series really addresses that whole Method thing … and how the actor neeeds to learn another way to say those speeches.

    To be honest, I felt like Patrick Stewart added too many pauses to his speeches. The overall effect was fine – and I loooove his command of the language … but there were some pauses that were so long I wondered if he had lost the line. You don’t need it. You lose the thought. The thought is in the line.

  11. red says:

    Oh – and I believe “green-eyed monster” is Shakespeare too!!

    I’d love to see that clip of Kevin Kline – do you remember where you saw it?

  12. red says:

    Also: Hamlet’s already sort of emo

    hahaha So true.

  13. Brendan says:

    There is no half-assing in Shakespeare. If you don’t find a way to go 100 % you’re going to look like an idiot.

    You can’t shriek to the Gods and mumble at the same time.

  14. Den says:

    Hey Red….saw Macbeth last night and really enjoyed it…as I mentioned in an earlier comment I am not as well versed in Shakespeare than either you ot most of your posters and don’t have all that many experiences to compare and contrast this particular production with so I will just say we enjoyed it for what it was…my 11 and 12 year old were really into it and asked a lot of good questions afterward and I was happy for them to have this kind of exposure…my only real beef was with the audiencce itself…sometimes I’m thrilled that New York is such a cultural capital of the world and we can support all these great arts but other times….I’m sure the crowd was much cooler at BAM but last night at the Lyceum there was a chorus of throat clearers throughout the show-the guy a few seats to my left decided he had to get up for some reason right at the beginning of act 1 …the ushers had to come down and tell him to get back in his seat…then there was a bored teenaged girl behind me-her mother felt the need to tell her what was going on in the plot…not even whispering but speaking until the whole row had to tell her to stop…and the kid had a shopping bag from Aeropostale which she kept hitting with her leg….and twice I heard cell phones behind me during the show…not to sound too prissy but I really wanted to apologize to the cast…it must have been disytracting in such a small theater….
    Den

  15. red says:

    I’m so sorry to hear the audience was distracting … BAH – I have been in that situation too and it sucks!! It’s the best when you feel like the group of you have all become one and you can just lose yourself in the play … (and don’t even get me started on the morons who don’t turn off their cell phones even though they are reminded to – like: honestly – as far as I’m concerned the ‘Ladies and gentleman please turn off your cell phones” message really ruins the mood … and I’m PISSED when someone doesn’t obey. )

    I’m glad to hear the kids liked it, though, and you all had a good discussion!

Add Comment Register



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>