This oughtta be good for some discussion. What, exactly, is “bad Shakespeare”? If you saw 6yr old children attempting Henry V, would you call it bad? What about prisoners behind bars, or juvenile delinquents, or any other situation where it’s to be performed by people who are not actors by trade? What about a good actor who does a less than stellar job?
Here’s my thinking. The only way that it’s bad is when it doesn’t show appropriate respect for the source material. If your production is attempting to do a good job, then by definition I think you’re on the positive side of the scale because even if the words aren’t coming out of your mouth properly, you know that you want them to, you are striving to make that happen, and that’s a good thing. But if you’re phoning it in, and you couldn’t care less whether you’re reciting Lear or the phone book, that’s where I think I have a problem.
Make sense? I will be disappointed with a production not because of its quality, but because of its effort (or lack thereof).
I’m tempted now to apply this reasoning to movie version of the play like Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet, or Al Pacino’s Merchant of Venice, but it’s not that easy since I don’t know rationale that went into some directorial decisions. Did they really think they were doing Shakespeare justice in some of their choices? Or did they think that the source material needed a serious overhaul to make it better? I can say I didn’t like Hawke’s Hamlet (I’ve not seen Pacino’s Merchant, only read reviews), but I couldn’t necessarily call it “bad Shakespeare” unless I sat down with the man himself and got his opinion on why he did what he did.