Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Sacrifice in Shakespeare?

So last night my daughter comes into the room, hurls her book to the floor, declares that she hates it and never wants to see it again, and bursts into tears. Apparently a main character sacrificed herself to save the ones she loved, and this was my daughter's first experience with such a storyline. I'm not saying the book, but I bet people already recognize it. It's quite popular right now. Don't spoil it.

She's insisting that I read her book so that I can feel her pain. I've already commented to her that I've seen Lear carry Cordelia's lifeless body onstage in the final act, I think I know a little bit about pain.

But then I thought, did Shakespeare ever do a similar storyline? Is there any character in Shakespeare, tragedy or not, who sacrifices him/herself for the good of others? Was that even a thing, in Shakespeare's time? Would that storyline have been recognizable to anyone?

The closest I can think is Coriolanus. He signs the treaty with Rome, knowing full well that Aufidius will end him because of it.




Thursday, February 26, 2015

First Folios for Every State!

Folger announced today the 52 exact locations that will be receiving a visit from the First Folio this spring as part of their celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

Here's my thoughts, in pretty much the order they occurred:

"Boston...Boston...come on, Boston.....DAMNIT!  Amherst." <reads Garland Scott's explanation> "Oh, ok, I guess that makes sense."

"Portland, Maine, eh? Interesting, I've got a vacation weekend planned in Portland for April 10-11, I wonder if the timing will work out?" I don't think so, I don't think this is happening until later in the year. But I do plan to check!

"There's 52 entries in this list, WHO GETS TWO? WHO THE F%^&*( GETS TWO?  Oh...D.C. and Puerto Rico count.  Fine, I guess."

Seriously for a minute there I felt like the kid at the birthday party monitoring the cake slices to make sure nobody gets more than anybody else.

UPDATE : Looking back I see that this is a list for 2016, so (a) my Portland plans this April will definitely not be at the right time, and (b) I've got a whole year to plan a separate trip!

Then again I once got to do this (also thanks to Garland :)), so everything else is just gravy at this point.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Edit for Length, Not for Antisemitism

Making the rounds today is Mark Rylance's visit to see the newly discovered First Folio, and what he said while he was there:
The former artistic director of the Globe Theatre in London, who is starring in the BBC’s Wolf Hall, said: “I don’t think there’s pressure [to remove] the bawdy jokes. He’s bawdier a lot more times than people realise. 
“The pressures I feel are more for times where he will say something very antisemitic,” he said.
Why?

Seriously, why do we single out antisemitism but leave in all the racism and sexism and every other -ism of which Shakespeare is guilty?

How about Claudio's great head-smacking moment in Much Ado About Nothing? Forced into marrying a woman he's never seen and asked if he's ready to go through with it, he replies thusly:
LEONATO
Good morrow, prince; good morrow, Claudio:
We here attend you. Are you yet determined
To-day to marry with my brother's daughter?

CLAUDIO
I'll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope.
In case you missed it, Claudio basically gave "I won't say anything, even if she's black" as a worst-possible-case scenario.

Or should we talk about what Roderigo and Iago say about Othello?  Calling him "thick lips" is about the least offensive thing I can think of as an example.

Maybe we should tackle sexism next? Pretty sure that would just kill the entire "courtship" between Petruchio and Kate.  It could be a one woman show called Untamed Shrew.

The more I think of it the less I can get my head around what Rylance said. How do you even take the antisemitism out of Merchant of Venice? At least I'm assuming that's the play to which he is referring. Isn't it kind of the whole point? If you take out the antisemitic bits, the famous "If you prick us do we not bleed" speech is reduced to, "Actually, you know, people have been very nice to me. I've got no complaints." If you remove the fundamentally antisemitic premise that Shylock is the bad guy *because* he is the jew, then why is he the bad guy?

You don't solve a problem by saying "Let's not talk about it. Let's pretend it doesn't exist." It would seem like much better conversation can come from presenting it as Shakespeare wrote it and then discussing what it means.