asked: Please to blog about Shakespeare. A favorite production you worked on as either actor or director.
To be honest, I've only ever acted in one Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
and assistant-directed one Shakespeare, Richard III
. Both my high school and my college did no Shakespeare (ridiculous!), and the gestalt in my MSP group was mostly toward modern dramas.
So! I will instead blog about Shakespeare and text and my favorites.
I took as many Shakespeare courses as I could in college (enough to get a double minor in English and history). I have read every single Shakespeare play and sonnet. (I can't seem to get through Venus and Adonis
or The Rape Of Lucrece
to save my life.) I've seen most of the plays performed, either live or via the BBC productions. Of course, I have my favorites, the ones that stick in my memory, the ones that shaped my worldview.Richard III
. The play can definitely be classed as libel, and yet Richard is one of the most powerful characters ever
. He is an arrant sociopath (much like Iago), and is yet so bloody charming that the audience can't help but to fall in love with him a little bit. "Was ever woman in this humour wooed? Was ever woman in this humour won?"
Queen Margaret (Mad Margaret) makes her most powerful appearance in this play, as well: Thus hath the course of justice wheel'd about
And left thee but a very prey to time,
Having no more, but thought of what thou wert
To torture thee the more, being what thou art.
Thou didst usurp my place, and doest thou not
Usurp the just proportion of my sorrow?
Now thy proud neck bears half my burthened yoke,
From which, even here, I slip my weary neck,
And leave the burthen of it all on thee.
Shakespeare is also showing off his mad skillz with language and its tricks - anaphora
(which is most used in Hamlet
, etc. It's a pleasure to read, and an absolute pleasure to seen done well (or to do well). Love's Labour's Lost
. It's a problematic play, in that it's heavy on the meta and the in-jokes and is therefore difficult to perform now. I still enjoy it, because it's just... fun
. (It's more fun when you're reading the Arden edition and have the in-jokes laid out for you.)Much Ado About Nothing
. I prefer this version of the star cross'd lovers trope (as opposed to Romeo and Juliet
), because Claudio does exhibit youthful stupidity (and frankly, Hero should kick him to the curb), but he isn't acting in solitude - he listens to his trusted friend and sets a course of action that the Duke must approve of (for which I frown at you, Don Pedro. You should have better manners). Plus, Beatrice and Benedick! A woman not settling, but having a clear idea what she wants out of a relationship and demanding to be treated as an equal. Romeo & Juliet
does have a few saving graces, primarily Mercutio
. Shakespeare famously said that he had to kill off Mercutio before Mercutio killed him. Macbeth
, I go back and forth on. It's fascinating (and so gawthik!), but it's also a little hard for me to take. It's bloody as fuck, with no real line of redemption. (I do not consider Malcolm or Donalbain to be sympathetic, and I have a problem with the blatant "James! Hurrah!" meta-text.)Henry V
. Despite the nationalistic overtones, I quite like this play. "For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." One of the best parts of the play, for me, is the culmination of the journey we saw Prince Hal undertake in Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2
. Hal, though he professes to be a simple man when he is courting Katherine, is actually a quite complex character who cares deeply for the state and his people. Hamlet.
Ah, Hamlet. I don't know that any other play has been written about as much as Hamlet
. So much prose has been spilled in analyzing the melancholy prince, and people are forever finding new ways to attack the text.
I love Hamlet
because how I relate to the play has changed every time in a reflection of my own personal journey. I love Hamlet
because you can make an entirely new play every time, thanks to the length of the play and the existence of multiple versions. (The most common are First Quarto, Second Quarto, and First Folio. There are also Folios 2-6, generally understood to be performance notations.) I love Hamlet because it is one of the most challenging roles an actor can hope to undertake in her or his lifetime.
Hamlet-the-character, however, I have less patience with. At least, currently. I have a directorial précis that outlines How I Feel about the character, and I frankly don't have much patience for him at this point. (I'll write up the précis later.)
Shakespeare himself, I don't have much of an opinion on. I refuse to enter in to the Great Authorial Debate - my personal theory is that he wrote the plays himself, some with massive collaboration, some mostly by himself. I think it's clear that he was a complex and canny man, as well as a veritable sponge of mass culture. He certainly understood how to appeal to the widest market, from low comedy for the groundlings to complex moral debate for the gallery. He also knew how to stay alive and afloat in a rather drama-hostile environment.
I could seriously expound for days, and one of my very favorite games is casting various Shakes plays with... whomever. Simpsons
characters. Bandom. The Founding Fathers. Whatever. But Shakespeare, like any theater, is best expounded upon in person, with a drink in hand. So, next time you see me at the bar, ask me about Shakespeare. I promise you'll be entertained.