Friday, August 13, 2010

Wish To Know More?

Which play do you wish you knew more about?  

That doesn’t necessarily mean least staged, or least popular.  You may not care in the least about Timon of Athens, for instance.  I mean for you, personally, which play do you wish you knew more about?

For me, at least at the top of the list, is Richard III.  I just have very little experience with it.  I’ve read it once upon a time, like I read all the others.  But I’ve never seen a production, live or on film, and I think that if I went about plugging the many gaps in my Shakespeare experience, that’s probably the biggest one.


Cass said...

King Lear. I've seen a couple different -- and very good -- productions, but it's not a play I've ever personally spent a lot of time with. I've always enjoyed it, but I've never had that experience of really digging my fingers into the play and finding out what's making it tick.

Ren du Braque said...

Timon is ok by me. It's so damn mean, but that might not suit everyone's tastes. I say read them all. But wait, you're talking about productions..., I'll climb back down off my ledge. If you want to be surprised by an overlooked play, I'd recommend King John.

I have never found a single Shakespeare play unworthy of consideration. With The Two Noble Kinsmen I'll finish reading all plays published by Folgers. Its prologue is wonderful. The first act is the first one I've ever struggled with. I'd like to, as gently as I can, counter your assertion that some plays just are not so good. They may not have those soaring and profound images like in Lear or Hamlet, but they still are eerie, striking and surprising. They deserve a little respect. Please. :)

Duane said...

I don't think you've understood the question, Ren. It has nothing to do with performance, or with quality. What I'm wondering is which play you wish you knew more about (not what play you wish other people knew more about). Reading all the plays is a task many people have undertaken, but that does not mean that they are all understood/enjoyed/appreciated equally. I used to talk people out of "read them all" because I think depth is better than breadth, I'd rather have a detailed conversation with someone about a single play they know and love, than a shallow one about somebody who read them all just to say he did it.

Whether there are any Shakespeare plays that are "not so good" gets back to the quality thread, and ends up being a subjective debate. Have we simply reached a point in time where we come into the discussion thinking "All Shakespeare is good by definition", or is it even possible for him to escape such an idea?

Ty Unglebower said...

I should probably spend more time with The Tempest. It is probably the most loved of the Bard's plays with which I have spent the least amount of time. I read it once years ago, and never looked back to it. Nor do I read about it. I have changed a lot since I first read it, so I should give it a second chance to make an impression on me.

Ren du Braque said...

Just trying to have a little fun with this. I'm not sure I'm saying the things you've implied, but I did not write with care... My idea was not "all Shakespeare is good" by idolatry or by definition handed down by the almighty purveyors of taste. It is, if you take the time to read any play, even Timon, you can find many things worth having an in depth conversation or find things in the play that relate to your life. For example, after reading Timon you could talk about his bitterness and disappointment after a life of incredible, perhaps foolhardy generosity or the fickleness of the Athenians. Once again, it seems in this "problem" play Shakespeare is struggling to develop his theme of forgiveness or the lack thereof. You can discuss the parallels and connections with the other problems plays that deal with the same themes, like The Winter's Tale or The Tempest. You could discuss the viciousness of Timon, his lashing out at his fellow bloggers, oops I mean Athenians. This is all very interesting. Was he over-reacting? Isn't it great that when you read the play you feel his pain and wince at his severity, his transformation from extreme openness to bitter rejection or at least it seems that way to me, that is someone who just can't escape my own superficiality.

Sorry for my carelessness and lack of gentleness. Oh, and my blind servitude to those awful purveyors of taste. They're really terrible!

Oh, why not? I just can't resist. What is wrong with subjectivity? Are subjective debates wrong? You know, I used to fear them too, but what I've found is that by delving deep into a topic, by avoiding putting words in other people's mouths, by really looking at something, which is what you are trying to do, you can transform these terrifying debates into something worthwhile... If they have been leading to dead ends, then one or both are being kind of obstinate, too stuck with his idée fixe, too much like Timon.

Shakespeare, by only lightly touching the surface of things, shows us the incredible deepness of our existence. I'm just saying you can get to this depth with any of them. Dive in.

Just a thought.

Well, I've just thought I should probably answer your question the way you wanted it, after wasting your time.

Good grief. I don't think I can. That's the bummer with reading them all. It's true. After I was finished with all of them, I was kind of bummed out... So I can't answer your question. I have no desire to look deeper into any of the plays. I've already read them 2 or 3 times. Now that I've started to go to performances I just read ahead of time and that is really great.

I've recently re-read Hamlet. I would suggest as a fun evening activity to read Act III, Scene 3. Go over each word. Look at the relationship Shakespeare establishes between the King, R and G, Polonius, and Hamlet. Start with the massy wheel and roll down to oblivion. It's great.

See you Duane. Next time I'll try to behave better.

Gregg said...

Not really an answer to your question - but regarding RIII: Duane - there is no excuse! At the very least, rent the Ian McKellan dvd! It's been chopped up and modernized - but still a very worthwhile rendering of Richard III.

Duane said...

I have to say, Ren, that I think what you describe is simply impossible. There is a lifetime of depth, an infinity even, to be discovered inside the works. To say that you have no desire to go any deeper with any of them because you've read them a couple of times?

Ren du Braque said...

My fault. I wrote I have "no desire to go deeper". I should have added I have no desire to select, direct my attention on a play and go deeper that way. I am simply wandering along, and I believe all paths and plays are good.

Can't one go deeper by another route besides the most direct one?

I also wrote "Now that I've started to go to performances I just read ahead of time and that is really great." That's my plan. I did not ever mean to imply that I've got it all. When I wrote, "I'm just saying you can get to this depth with any of them. Dive in." I am just saying in a different way your sentence, "There is a lifetime of depth, an infinity even, to be discovered inside the works."

Timon, c'mon. Lighten up a little. Maybe I've been awful getting my point across, which is pick any of them and go... Wait a second! It just occurred to me that the reason I believe in this is that I need some element of surprise. A new angle to look at them. Something random. A review, a performance, someone declaring that Claudius is innocent and Hamlet is crazy, something. Anyway, I just can't pick anymore. I know, I know I'm just not seeing that infinite splendor.

But... Timon, have you lost all of your generosity regarding other people's opinions? Haven't I evoked these things in previous comments? No? Oh, well. You'll find something I've missed, but maybe, just maybe, I've given you that random jolt to read this disparaged play called Timon of Athens?

:) <- that's a smiley face.

Duane said...

See, I'm lost on why you think I'm disparaging Timon of Athens. I just selected a random play. Nothing personal about it. I don't know much about it, myself, but if I were going to chase down plays to learn more about, that one would not be high on the list. If a movie version of it suddenly showed up in my Netflix? Sure, I'd watch it. But will I go seek it out? Not in any great hurry. Even if I had the time to read them all equally, I'd have to start somewhere, and it wouldn't be there. No matter where I start, I'd be leaving one to the end, and you could always say then that I'm not giving that one a fair shake. It's just the way it works out. Way back in the early days of this blog I asked the question differently, I asked which plays you'd recommend people skip. I led with King John, mostly because I don't know anything about it. I was soundly thrashed over that one.

Ren du Braque said...

Rats! Picked the wrong word again, disparaging. Perhaps, ignoring, but you do imply that it's not worth an interest, no? And that sort of got me going. Anyway, that's all right.

I don't mean to be a thrasher.

Your question is excellent. It really took a lot of thought to figure out what was going on in my head. It took some prodding, but the randomness point that finally surfaced was a revelation to me. And in fact, after writing my last comment I have gained even more insight on why I feel the way I do. It really boils down to how one reads and keeps things interesting, which could be a question posed in a post. Joe probably has his way, you have yours and I have my very strange way too. Hehehehehe...

By no means am I encouraging you to follow my random path. I just wanted to contribute. My view tends to be completely off the wall and difficult even for me to explain.

Did you know that "Rendu Braque" means driven looney?

Duane, a sincere thank you for posting.

Monica said...

I really want to read TKN. Everyone always does Midsummer but no one ever gives love to TKN. I don't even think there has ever been a film version done of it. But they both revolve around Thesus, or rather, sidestep him. I read the story back when it was The Knight's Tale (the portion of the Canterbury tales not the Heath Ledger movie) and would love to see what Shakespeare did with it. I've started it a few times but never finished it.

That said. I want to know more about all of Shakespeare's plays, and then play with the endless possibilities of preforming them.

Katja said...

I'd have to answer "The Taming of the Shrew". I have read it once and was a bit unsettled because of Kate's development from Shrew to perfect, happy housewife. I am sure that there is so much more to the play than I could see then. Watching the Elizabeth Taylor film version has helped me a bit because it shows Kate as strong, independent woman and not so much as suppressed housewife but I'd still really like to have a look at the play in detail again.

Duane said...

I'm trying to figure out what TKN is, Monica. Is that Two Noble Kinsmen? Which would actually be TNK?

Monica said...

Right, yes. I kinda have a problem distinguishing letter order (and numbers too). I try really hard not to invert things but sometimes I slip up.

JM said...

I think Olivier's version is available on DVD. You MUST see it--for his makeup, if for no other reason. :) Olivier had this 'thing' about his nose--didn't like it; thought it was his most characterless feature, and always had to adjust it, shade it, reshape it somehow. Well, he must have had a great time with R III.
Gielgud plays Clarence in this version. Ralph Richardson, Pamela Brown, Claire Bloom; great cast, although somewhat dated stylistically. And his editing is sometimes questionable, in my opinion. But all in all, it's a lot of fun. Olivier was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.