Shakespeare and His Interpreters

Report
Shakespeare and His Interpreters
Bevington, Welsh and Greenwald
SHAKESPEARE script, stage, screen
Chapter 4
The spectrum of interpretive
possibilities
• Reviewers, critics, directors, and actors all
bring their own backgrounds, prejudices and
personal experiences
• Jonathan Miller: With the passage of time
Shakespeare’s plays have quite properly
assumed the status of myths... The director
has a responsibility to interpret these myths
• Richard David: Miller’s imaginative distortions
are a form of translation...a process if
diminution
• Both men are talking about “concept”
directing
Elizabethan and Jacobean
Interpretations
• No professional theatre critics...Acting
companies did not employ directors...Our
accounts today are based upon writings of
diarists and theatregoers
• Simon Forman, an astrologer and
theatregoer

• Henry Jackson, an Oxford don
• Acting styles were not what we’d recognize
today
• Actors spoke rapidly
• Gestures were conventional
• Transitions were quick because of lack of
scenery
• The audience consisted of “practiced listeners”
• No female actors
Shakespeare enjoyed a strong
reputation as a dramatist,
unusual for his time according
to contemporary authors like
Francis Meres and Ben
Jonson.
Jonson viewed Shakespeare
as an untutored genius
writing undisciplined if
brilliant plays for an unrefined
age.
Restoration Age: The Rise of the
Actor-Manager
Samuel Pepys, the
most notable
diarist of the age,
saw and wrote
about numerous
Shakespeare
revivals
Restoration Age: The Rise of the
Actor-Manager
Shakespeare’s plays
were adapted to
neoclassical ideals.
Most notable in John
Dryden’s ALL FOR
LOVE (1678)
Restoration Age: The Rise of the
Actor-Manager
Performance was licensed to two companies in
London and gave rise to powerful actormanagers. The first licenses were awarded to
Thomas Killigrew and William Davenant
Restoration Age: The Rise of the
Actor-Manager
Thomas Betterton (16351710) succeeded Davenant in
1668. He consolidated the
two licenses at Drury Lane in
1682...As an actor, he is
noted for his formal acting
style.
Plays, like Nahum Tate’s adaptation of
KING LEAR, changed the endings of
Shakespeare’s plays.
The actress emerged on the stage, the most
famous Nell Gwynn, known also as the King’s
mistress.
18th Century: Neoclassical Rules and
Tastes
Carried on the neoclassical
traditions of the
Restoration...also known as
the Augustan Age or “The
Age of Reason.”
Shakespeare was still
considered a “native”
English writer whose
“natural” genius needed the
polish of refinement.
Alexander Pope was one of
the great critics of the age.
18th Century
• David Garrick (1717-1779) the great
actor-manager of the day
• Theatre buildings grew in size and
capacity. Under his leadership,
which begag in 1740, Drury Lane
grew to a capacity of 2000.
• Garrick organized the Shakespeare
Jubilee at Stratford-on-Avon
• As was common in the day, Garrick
and others, produced plays that
were “altered”
18th Century
Garrick as Richard III by Hogarth, 1745
18th Century Acting
An age of great
acting...in addition
to Garrick, the
most famous
actors of the age
included Charles
Macklin, James
Quin, Hannah
Pritchard, Peg
Woffington and
Susanna Cibber.
(Pictured, Macklin as Shylock.)
Peg Woffington
19th Century--Character Criticism and
Spectacle
• Generally, the early 19th century was a period of
decline in the English theatre
• The great poets of the Romantic period
(Wordsworth, Keats, Byron) did not write for the
stage
• Romantic critics considered Shakespeare in their
terms, as a poet and not as a man of the theatre
19th Century--Character Criticism and
Spectacle
Productions were treated as opera is in our
time:
– Lavish productions
– Huge spectacles
– Large auditoriums
– High declamatory style
Great Shakespearean actors of the day were
international stars. They included…
19th Century
EDMUND KEAN
as Richard III
19th Century
William Charles Macready
Charles Kemble as Romeo
19th Century Actors
Edwin, John Wilkes
and Junius Brutus Booth
19th Century Actors
Henry Irving
Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth
19th Century Actors
Sarah Bernhardt (in her coffin)
Eleanor Duse
Early 20th Century
Lavish spectacles
were popular at
turn of century
under the
influence of
Macready and
Irving. Herbert
Beerbohm Tree
was one of the
outstanding actormanagers of the
Edwardian age.
Tree’s famous production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Early 20th Century
William Poel founded the Elizabethan Stage Society to return
Shakespeare to its roots. It influenced Harley Granville-Barker,
Tyrone Guthrie and Lilian Baylis at the Old Vic. (In 1964, the
Old Vic became the National Theatre.) Pictured above is
Poel’s production of Hamlet.
Early 20th Century
The 20th century saw
the rise of the
“director”
New ways of viewing
Shakespeare viewed his
characters in modern
terms...in Freudian
terms, for example
Mid-20th Century
Historical criticism (professed by F.R.
Leavis and others) sought to present a
close reading of Shakespeare
unencumbered by biographical or
historical information. This approach
heavily influenced modern directors like
Sir Peter Hall (pictured)
Mythological criticism, as argued by
Northrup Frye and others, suggests that
Shakespeare’s plays well up from our
primal associations with nature and
seasons.
Post-WW II: Marxism and
Existentialism
Jan Kott published Shakespeare Our
Contemporary (1964) His work strongly
influenced Peter Brook.
Post-WW II: Marxism and
Existentialism
Kott was influenced by the
epic theatre of Bertolt Brecht
Counter-culture movement of
the 1960s further influenced
approaches to Shakespeare
Contemporary Criticism and
Interpretation: Deconstruction,
New Historicism and Feminism
• These movements have encouraged an
openness to the other, an acceptance of
multiplicity of perspectives--ethnic, feminist,
gay
• Shakespeare’s plays are elastic--exceptionally
responsive to new questions and new
approaches
Shakespeare also borrowed
and adapted
• The only original plays in the are LOVE’S
LABOURS LOST, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S
DREAM and THE TEMPEST
• Sometimes, as in KING LEAR and MUCH ADO
ABOUT NOTHING, he combined stories from
two sources
ADAPTATIONS, SPIN-OFFS and
PARODIES
• First memorable adaptation was
Dryden’s ALL FOR LOVE (1678)
that was based upon ANTONY
AND CLEOPATRA
• Classical composers have
adapted many of Shakespeare’s
plays such as Verdi’s OTELLO
(1887) and FALSTAFF (1893)
• Mendelssohn wrote famous
incidental music for an 1843
performance of A MIDSUMMER
NIGHT’S DREAM, most famously
the wedding march
ADAPTATIONS, SPIN-OFFS and
PARODIES
1957 - WEST SIDE STORY follows the
plot outline although it does not use
any of the dialogue of ROMEO AND
JULIET.
ADAPTATIONS, SPIN-OFFS and
PARODIES
Cole Porter’s KISS ME KATE (1947)
FILM SPIN-OFFS
MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO
(1991) based on Henry IV
plays
FILM SPIN-OFFS
TEMPEST (1981)
an inventive tale
by Paul Mazursky
FILM SPIN-OFFS
BROKEN LANCE (1954), A THOUSAND ACRES
(1997), KING OF TEXAS (2002) are all based
upon KING LEAR
FILM SPIN-OFFS
THRONE OF BLOOD (1957) is a Japanese
retelling of MACBETH
SATIRES AND PARODIES
• California gold miners
presented oddities like
Romeo and Suet: or, A
Cup o’ Pizen and Odd
Fellow, the Boor of
Venice
• During the Vietnam
years, Lyndon Johnson
was mocked in a play
called Macbird!
TOM STOPPARD
• Tom Stoppard had successes
with Dogg’s Hamlet and
Cahoot’s Macbeth in
addition to Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern Are Dead
• He also co-scripted
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE,
based on Shakespeare’s life
and ROMEO AND JULIET. It
won the Oscar for best
picture in 1997.
ON TELEVISION
Sid Caesar’s YOUR SHOW
OF SHOWS often spoofed
Shakespeare in sketches
written by Mel Brooks
A famous episode of
Moonlighting starring
Bruce Willis and Cybill
Shepherd spoofed THE
TAMING OF THE SHREW
ON TELEVISION
A Happy Days episode featured Fonzie as
Hamlet
SLINGS AND ARROWS
In recent years, the Showtime comedy Slings
and Arrows centered on a single play each
season (Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear) as
produced by an imaginary Canadian
Shakespeare festival.
Shakespeare has become
familiar enough to find a place
in popular culture.

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