Shakespeare

Started by Karl Henning, July 16, 2014, 05:15:08 AM

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(poco) Sforzando

Quote from: Jeffrey Smith on July 23, 2015, 06:05:57 PM
Appropriately, the most suitable response is a line uttered by Touchstone
There's much virtue in an if

A line, btw, left out of the Branagh film.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

kishnevi


Brian

Quote from: SimonNZ on July 23, 2015, 05:47:02 PM
I'm looking forward to the Michael Fassbender film, which should finally be released later this year.

I'm looking forward to it because Marion Cotillard is always mesmerizing (see: Two Days, One Night, the best acting performance of 2014) but advance word is the director simple-mindedly pursues blood and guts.

(poco) Sforzando

Quote from: SimonNZ on July 23, 2015, 05:47:02 PM
Was that the same production as the National Theatre Live performance I saw at the cinema? I thought the staging of that had many interesting elements, in their use of the converted church, using most of the long aisle space for performance with the audience on each side facing each other, and the mud packed floor that was constantly rained on. But oh boy Alex Kingston (who again is fine elsewhere) was far outside of her abilities as Lady Macbeth.

I might have felt better disposed towards the Branagh (when he brought it to New York, using the very long space of the Park Avenue Armory) were it not for the nonsense the audience was subjected to as part of the "fun." Not only were ticket prices outrageous, but before the performance started audience members were segregated into "clans," and were marched to their sections by "leaders" who started us off with "clan-building" shouts at the top of all our lungs, and then we found that the benches were precariously high and without seat backs. I saw one elderly man who was so afraid to mount his bench that he asked to be led out of the auditorium. From my location in one of the cheaper seats, I saw hardly anything and could hear little besides. But when I caught the affair on YouTube later on, I didn't feel I had missed much.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

(poco) Sforzando

Quote from: Brian on July 23, 2015, 06:17:14 PM
I'm looking forward to it because Marion Cotillard is always mesmerizing (see: Two Days, One Night, the best acting performance of 2014) but advance word is the director simple-mindedly pursues blood and guts.

Yes, I saw that one too, but am sorry I missed her doing Honegger's Joan of Arc with the NY Philharmonic. But she also had the good fortune to work with the Dardenne brothers, whose films - The Son, The Promise, The Kid with a Bike - are consistently intense and as you say mesmerizing. Just bought the Criterion BluRay of Rosetta and am looking for to it too.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

SimonNZ

Quote from: Brian on July 23, 2015, 06:17:14 PM
I'm looking forward to it because Marion Cotillard is always mesmerizing (see: Two Days, One Night, the best acting performance of 2014) but advance word is the director simple-mindedly pursues blood and guts.

I'll forgive a bit of blood and guts...and I feel cautiously optimistic about the film based on the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgH_OnrYlCk

(and the brief glimpse of the witches suggests they're done along the lines that poco was wanting)

(poco) Sforzando

Quote from: SimonNZ on July 23, 2015, 07:13:36 PM
I'll forgive a bit of blood and guts...and I feel cautiously optimistic about the film based on the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgH_OnrYlCk

(and the brief glimpse of the witches suggests they're done along the lines that poco was wanting)

For blood and guts, I doubt it'll out-do Polanski.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Jaakko Keskinen

#87
One of the flaws in Shakespeare's writing is the protagonist-centered morality. There are several other authors massively guilty of this though (Rowling, Tolkien, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Alexandre Dumas sr., Pushkin...). For ex. in Hamlet and King Lear the protagonist acts like a massive asshole to almost every person and yet they are rarely if ever called out for their actions. Lear's ridiculous overreactions to smallest things tend to be comical. Hamlet drives Ophelia to suicide with verbally abusing her and then killing her father, mocks Laertes in Ophelia's funeral, has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed (who most likely had no idea about Claudius's plans to kill Hamlet)... What do all of these people have in common? No-one of them had nothing to do with Hamlet's father's murder. Almost every single character's death in the play is Hamlet's fault. Yet when he finally hits the true target at the end of the play, all his sins are absolved (or rather, they never even happened) and he is hailed as a hero. Hamlet's treatment of Gertrude I could possibly understand because depending on the interpretation it is actually plausible that she conspired with Claudius to murder Hamlet sr. Although Hamlet still didn't have much proof about it. There are several other plays of his where the heroic intended character appears to be insufferable at best and monstrous at worst.
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

- Victor Hugo

(poco) Sforzando

#88
Quote from: Alberich on July 26, 2015, 07:30:18 AM
One of the flaws in Shakespeare's writing is the protagonist-centered morality. There are several other authors massively guilty of this though (Rowling, Tolkien, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Alexandre Dumas sr., Pushkin...). For ex. in Hamlet and King Lear the protagonist acts like a massive asshole to almost every person and yet they are rarely if ever called out for their actions. Lear's ridiculous overreactions to smallest things tend to be comical. Hamlet drives Ophelia to suicide with verbally abusing her and then killing her father, mocks Laertes in Ophelia's funeral, has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed (who most likely had no idea about Claudius's plans to kill Hamlet)... What do all of these people have in common? No-one of them had nothing to do with Hamlet's father's murder. Almost every single character's death in the play is Hamlet's fault. Yet when he finally hits the true target at the end of the play, all his sins are absolved (or rather, they never even happened) and he is hailed as a hero. Hamlet's treatment of Gertrude I could possibly understand because depending on the interpretation it is actually plausible that she conspired with Claudius to murder Hamlet sr. Although Hamlet still didn't have much proof about it.

I more or less agree with all your statements about Hamlet and Lear - though I can't see any possibility that Gertrude is complicit.
But I don't know what you mean by "rarely if ever called out" or "all sins absolved." Are you saying that there is no omniscient authorial voice telling us what we ought to think about Hamlet or Lear or Othello? Surely as readers or audience members we can see the flaws in each of these characters, and our response to the play depends on how we interpret the juxtapositions of their actions, their statements, and the statements of others about them.

But the most important determinant is always the character's own actions. Hamlet himself is in many ways highly admirable (consider, for example, his genuine courtesy towards persons of lower rank and his desire to marry Ophelia - something which Polonius can't understand simply because Hamlet is a prince), but also a character with grave faults who can be judgmental, intolerant, abusive, and the direct or indirect cause of six or seven innocent deaths. And Shakespeare's characters often misjudge his other characters; for example, Claudius is hardly the debased drunkard Hamlet thinks he is; the King's own actions portray him as a highly capable and attractive ruler. Inevitably, however, we are drawn into the protagonist's point-of-view rather than his antagonist's, but that need not prevent us from recognizing the flaws in the protagonist's character.

ETA: There seems to me a problem as well with your use of the term "intended heroic character." How do you know what was intended? Sounds like you are looking for the plays to offer little morality lessons, but that is not Shakespeare's method. All you have to go on are the character's actions and statements, and if you and I are able to perceive how insufferable and even monstrous Hamlet and some of his fellows are, how do you know Shakespeare did not perceive Hamlet this way himself? Not that what Shakespeare 'intended" really matters; all that matters is what he put in the plays.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Jaakko Keskinen

#89
Well, considering the plays have no narrator contrary to novels, it is sometimes hard to know which was the author's personal view or whether he even had one and was merely encouraging people to find their own interpretation. And don't get me wrong: I love Hamlet as a character. He is one of the best examples of Byronic heroes I can find (long before Byron was even born), the character type I have major liking towards anyway. He is very entertaining, funny, engaging, and like you said, likable, despite of his flaws. And Hamlet is indeed far from black and white morality. One of the most humane monologues in this play comes from the villain, Claudius.
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

- Victor Hugo

vandermolen

#90
Never liked the 'humour' in Shakespeare. Probably had them rolling in the aisles in 1603 but leaves me stone cold. The Paul Schofield version of King Lear saved me from disaster in 1973 when I was doing A Level English Literature at school and made me understand the play. Probably the only reason I got into university. Orwell's essay 'Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool' was another revelation to me at around the same time. Appeared as 'Prospero' a few years back in a local 'Shakespeare in the Pub' amateur dramatic production. My wife and daughter never saw my performance as they were convulsed with laughter as soon as I appeared on stage.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

(poco) Sforzando

Quote from: vandermolen on July 26, 2015, 11:32:52 AM
Never liked the 'humour' in Shakespeare. Probably had them rolling in the aisles in 1603 but leaves me stone cold. The Paul Schofield version of King Lear saved me from disaster in 1973 when I was doing A Level English Literature at school and made me understand the play. Probably the only reason I got into university. Orwell's essay 'Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool' was another revelation to me at around the same time. Appeared as 'Prospero' a few years back in a local 'Shakespeare in the Pub' amateur dramatic production. My wife and daughter never saw my performance as they were convulsed with laughter as soon as I appeared on stage.

A lot depends on good direction. Undoubtedly some of the wordplay is lost to us today, unless you're a scholar who knows all the allusions. But much of the physical comedy can survive if a director is found who can handle the situations.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

vandermolen

Take on board the last two comments although Launcelot Gobbo remains a figure I can't stand in any literature.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Jaakko Keskinen

#93
Quote from: vandermolen on July 26, 2015, 11:32:52 AM
Never liked the 'humour' in Shakespeare.

I do but amusingly, I find the humour in his tragedies often funnier. Hamlet for ex. can be played as a black comedy and it's hilarious.
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

- Victor Hugo

Jaakko Keskinen

 (Talking about Polonius's corpse) "But if indeed you find him not within this month, you shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby."

Black comedy at it's best. :D
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

- Victor Hugo

Ken B

Quote from: vandermolen on July 26, 2015, 11:32:52 AM
Never liked the 'humour' in Shakespeare. Probably had them rolling in the aisles in 1603 but leaves me stone cold. The Paul Schofield version of King Lear saved me from disaster in 1973 when I was doing A Level English Literature at school and made me understand the play. Probably the only reason I got into university. Orwell's essay 'Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool' was another revelation to me at around the same time. Appeared as 'Prospero' a few years back in a local 'Shakespeare in the Pub' amateur dramatic production. My wife and daughter never saw my performance as they were convulsed with laughter as soon as I appeared on stage.

Moliere is much funnier. As is Plautus, Terence, Sheridan, Wilde, Congreve, ... Well pretty nearly everyone.

But Lear cracks me up.

(poco) Sforzando

Quote from: Ken B on July 28, 2015, 07:31:15 PM
But Lear cracks me up.

I guess we all have different ideas about what's funny.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Mandryka

#97
I remember seeing a Lear from The Royal Shakespeare Company in London where they played it for laughs, an audience stuffed with tourists and kids some of whom hardly spoke English, and they tittered all the way through, especially when Gloucester thinks he has survived the fall.

I think Midsummer Nights Dream is one of the funniest things ever written, I love the bit where Bottom becomes a wall with a chink in it.

Someone mentioned Molliere. He obviously knew a thing or two about comedy but I wonder how deep it is really. I saw Bourgeois Gentilhomme just a few weeks ago and I thought how Shakespearian it was, but Shakespeare would have made more of the internal comflicts, Jourdain's class conflicts. Somehow Jordain is less humane than Malvolio, for example, or Falstaff. And not enough probing questioning about class aspirations.  Maybe it was the performance, Bouffes du Nord, but it was enjoyable, as always there. I laughed out loud at Louis de Funès playing Harpagon, but there I think the character is more 2D than Shakespeare would have made him.

There's a whole genre of Shakespeare's plays which look like comedies but which are really looking at major moral problems, plays like Measure for Measure.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

(poco) Sforzando

#98
Quote from: Mandryka on July 29, 2015, 06:40:57 AM
I remember seeing a Lear from The Royal Shakespeare Company in London where they played it for laughs, an audience stuffed with tourists and kids some of whom hardly spoke English, and they tittered all the way through, especially when Gloucester thinks he has survived the fall.

Yeah, that part's a scream. Actually, the RSC brought five plays to New York a few years ago and I bought seats for all; the Julius Caesar and Romeo were atrocious, the Lear and As You Like It mediocre, and only The Winter's Tale was a success. I was looking forward to this for months; turned out to be the biggest waste of my money since the last time I saw Levine conduct the Ring.

Not to be pedantic, but it's Snout rather than Bottom who plays Wall; nonetheless, I agree that the play can be very funny when staged well, and most productions I have seen have risen to the challenge. One of our local colleges, Hofstra University, did such a marvelous 6-actor 1-hour condensation of the play intended for high schools that I actually pleaded with them (in vain) to upload it to YouTube. Anyway, the Shakespearean original is such a miracle of invention that it scarcely needed operatizing; even so, Britten on the whole did rather well with it, but his leaden, "ha-ha, look at how funny I am" treatment of the play-within-a-play is by far the weakest part of an otherwise imaginative work.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

jochanaan

Quote from: sanantonio on July 26, 2015, 12:01:23 PM
I have no trouble laughing at the humor in the Porter scene (Macbeth).  Often the puns lose nothing over the centuries, Mercutio's "I'll be a grave man tomorrow" (R&J) - and other similar puns throughout his plays never fail to amuse me.
That one, and Dame Quickly's "'Hang hog' is Latin for bacon, I'll warrant you." ;D (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
Imagination + discipline = creativity