Friday, May 25, 2007

Will @ Warwick Podcast

I don't really track every podcast that claims to be about Shakespeare - there's too many of them, and many are too specific to either one particular project (like Shakespeare By Another Name) or theatre (I believe there's a Chicago production that does a podcast).  ShakespeareCast was good when I was listening to it, but in general I prefer to listen to people talk about Shakespeare, rather than listening to people perform it.  Performance I leave as a live treat.

Anyway, this podcast came up and lately I've been in the mood to get more into the text and the academic discussion around it (probably having something to do with reading Shakespeare Wars).  I like it.  The first episode is an interview with Professor Jonathan Bate, editor of a new edition of the Complete Works.  It starts out a little painful where he says, for example, that "Fifty years ago we could expect the reader to have an understanding of the classical mythology, and these days they don't have that."  Ouch.  Probably true, but still, ouch.

But then, and maybe this is my geek side coming out, it gets pretty neat.  Why he used First Folio almost exclusively.  Why he put in even more bawdy sex references than anybody has in the past.  He has a particular emphasis on punctuation.  An example?  Lady Macbeth's line:  "We fail!  But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we'll not fail."  He chose to edit the first punctuation mark as a question mark rather than an exclamation point:  "We fail?"  The character change is substantial.  In the first and more common interpretation, Lady MacBeth is answering her husband's concern with a very aggressive, "What are you, nuts?  How dare you even think of failing!  Failing is not an option!" sort of a tone.  But with the question mark it's different.  She considers it.  It's more of a "Hmmm, well yes, there is the possibility that we might fail.  So get your courage up, and let's not do that, k?"  That is my wildly paraphrased recollection of what he actually said.  He does point out that he doesn't feel either is particularly the "right" way, but seemed to feel that the question mark left more room for the actor to interpret.


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