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Old July 1 2013, 10:40 PM   #79
stj
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Re: Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing

DevilEyes wrote: View Post



Actually, the time and place Shakespeare intended for them was 16th century England. If you put "Julius Caesar", "Antony and Cleopatra" or "Troilus and Cressida" in the title, that would not be funny... It would really be new and original to stage those plays in the time and place Shakespeare "intended", i.e. the way his company played them: with Julius Caesar, Brutus, Antony, Cleopatra, Achilles etc. wearing the costumes of 16th/17th century English people. Which is exactly what's usually done in traditional productions with Hamlet or King Lear - despite the obvious anachronism. Why not his Roman or Ancient Greek/Trojan plays as well? Why are they wearing togas in Julius Caesar?

And then there are those comedies and romances of his like A Midsummer Night's Dream or Winter's Tale that are staged without any regard towards geography or history.

Staging Shakespeare's plays in a modern setting is, in fact, far more faithful to Shakespeare, since that's exactly what Shakespeare himself was doing.
Either you are assuming the conclusion, or you didn't even understand the question. Which is, to what extent did Elizabethan/Jacobean audiences regard themselves as "modern," distinct from ancient or mediaeval? Mediaeval religious art also had a tendency to dress its figures in contemporary dress, but it would be foolhardy to assume those artists were modernizing for their audience. Shakespeare was much closer to mediaeval times than to us. At the outset of his career, drama was a branch of poetry. No, it is by no means assured that our version of modernization was "exactly" what Shakespeare was doing.

Err... I don't think so. That description reads more like an account of watching Olivier's version of Henry V (or to a smaller extent Branagh's) than reading the actual play. Both of these films removed all subversive elements from the play - and there certainly are in the text, to the point that some critics have read the play as a smart, subversive satirical play under the guise of a patriotic hero story. Shakespeare was a smart fellow.

I almost wonder at moments how he got away with some stuff, such as a prose conversation between two minor characters who compare Henry V to Alexander the Great - which is a good thing, right? Or maybe not... When their point of comparison is that Alexander killed his best friend (they are commenting on Henry's treatment of Falstaff, and IIRC it comes shortly after Henry orders the execution of prisoners), and the Welsh comic character keeps calling him "Alexander the Pig"... which I'm sure was seen as just a big of lowbrow comedy for the masses (you see, the Welsh comic character mistakes "big" for "great" and mispronounces his "gs" as "ps")... That's all it was... or maybe not, since it's a bit too convenient - especially when you keep in mind the less than flattering way Shakespeare portrayed Julius Caesar and the Greek conquering heroes in Troilus and Cressida.
A female ruler such as Queen Elizabeth threatens her throne and her life by permitting military adventures of the state. The consequences of defeats are all too obvious, but for the queen personally a victorious general is a personal threat. Your certainty that those "elements" in Henry V are "subversive" rests largely on a naïve and uncritical assumption.

Or perhaps not so naïve. You can write "Welsh comic character" easily enough. But it doesn't take a hugely sophisticated writer to put unpalatable opinions in the mouths of despised, "comic" characters as a way to blunt the edge. You don't know how London audiences felt about the Welsh. The Tudors were despots, like their successors the Stuarts. We know that there was much resentment of the tyrants boiling beneath the surface. A propaganda piece that pretends to present all sides is far more effective. But Henry V still gets the St. Crispin's Day speech.

Actually, [McKellen's Richard III] translated wonderfully. And for 99.999% the audiences today, as well as a hundred years and two hundred years ago, Richard III isn't about the Tudors or their predecessors. Most people don't care about the Tudors or the Yorks or about the historical Richard (who, BTW, doesn't really seem to have been any nicer in real life, based on the available evidence; he's certainly likely to have ordered the death of his nephews). I would argue that it was never what the play was about; it was just why it was written. The play is about ambition and ruthlessness - about his incredibly ambitious guy's obsessed with power because of his other deficiencies, and will stop at nothing to become the ruler. That's a timeless story.
If bullshit is timeless, then it's a timeless story. None of that Fascist décor meant a damn thing in the McKellen staging. Shakespeare's Richard achieves power in a way completely irrelevant to modern politics, fascist or democratic. Anyone who thinks that this is a probe of human nature is a fool. While he or she looks for the scheming villain, the machinery of power grinds away, undisturbed, unnoticed, undangered.
I suppose poverty is the modern equivalent of a hunchback, though. In that sense Richard III is a relevant cautionary fable about the threats posed by the manifestly inferior trying vainly to cure their discontents. This is not a kind word for Shakespeare.

The vision at Banquo's feast is meaningless to us. A woman's statue coming to life (I've forgotten if that's Cymbeline or A Winter's Tale) had resonances that simply do not apply today.
There's this thing called Suspension of Disbelief. By your logic, most people today believe in vampires, zombies and superheroes, or how else is the fiction about them so popular?
There might be a language problem here. The term "resonances" has nothing to do with suspension of disbelief. It is a fairly common way of referring to the associational images and references and allusions of a scene. Scene:resonance::word:connotation is a pretty good analogy. The march of kings in Macbeth is a straightforward exercise in dynastic glorification. I do hope it doesn't inspire patriotic feelings in its audience today. The statue coming to life reference mediaeval religion (Catholicism) with bleeding and weeping and floating statues. Again, I do hope religious awe is not a part of an audience's response to such a scene.
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