Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Big Think : Lear, Hamlet, and Book Burning

Next Installment from Big Think includes a boatload of questions including:

* Which Shakespeare play would you save from a fire? [ Lear for me ]

* Which play would you let burn? (Maybe it's not worded exactly that way, but that's what I'm taking from it). Shrew gets no love here.

* "Are you a Hamlet or a Lear guy?" and is the difference between those two really "a young play" and "an old play"?


Jon said...

* save from a fire?

It's corny, it's predictable... but Hamlet.

* let burn?

There are different levels. A couple interest me so little, I could let them go without qualms. (Timon, Kinsmen, King John) And then there are the ones I actively dislike: 2 Gents? (though at least it gave us an enjoyable musical) Shrew? eh. I guess for me it's Merchant. I understand about history, and actors' love for it, and differing opinions, and all that, but I could really stand never to see it again.

* "Hamlet or Lear?"

As implied already, Hamlet by a mile. and I don't see it as "old" vs. "young," it's a matter of temperament. Lear does one thing thoroughly and single-mindedly. Hamlet has huge variety: of pace, of tone (melancholy through delightful comedy, with all gradations between), of size (soliloquies through big massed effects). It has everything: it's great poetry but it's also a great show. (Which is not something I'd ever call Lear.)

Jen said...

For what it's worth, this dedicated, activist feminist loves Shrew. I love seeing what contemporary companies do with the ending. I love Katherine. I feel tremendous sympathy for her, and I feel sorrow at the compromises she has to make at the end. But I relate to those compromises. I understand how much of my life I have to spend deciding between being who I am and being what people expect me, as a woman, to be. She is the character who most speaks to my own experiences, in any of Shakespeare's plays. Favorite play in the cannon.

Though I'd save Hamlet over Shrew, as I know it's a much better play.

Could we just ditch Two Gentlemen of Verona, though? Except maybe the parts with Launce and Crab?

And maybe get rid of everything in Merchant of Venice after the trial scene. Or really all the parts having to do with the caskets. Bleh.

I am imagining a very precise, selective kind of fire!

Jon said...

"Could we just ditch Two Gentlemen of Verona, though? Except maybe the parts with Launce and Crab?"

I'll drink to that!!

Elleoneiram said...

Love that - are you a Lear or a Hamlet person? It's sort of how I feel about Beethoven and Mozart. Most agree that they are both great, but secretly they like one more than the other. I'm going with Hamlet.

Alexi said...

Jen: But the parts of Merchant you want to destroy are really, really great! Yes, the tone shifts are jarring. Yes, they don't fit into the Shylock plotline. But they're incredibly important if you view Portia as the central character. Merchant is, of course, a troubling and troublesome play. But the plot is probably the best constructed of any comedy besides Comedy of Errors and Midsummer Night's Dream.

Merchant of Venice is *both* a fairy tale and a gritty drama of persecution and revenge. Much of the interest of the play comes from the very eeriness of this duality. Belmonte and Venice. Comedy and Tragedy. Fantasy and Reality. Heaven and Earth. Scandalously intertwined and ultimately inseparable.

Jennifer said...

Was the patronizing tone really necessary to make your point Alexi?

Is there a reason you assumed I just did not understand those things about the play? Or that I was having difficulty dealing with it because it is so "troubling and troublesome"?

Did you consider that I might be very aware of these things and still find that part of the plot to be plodding and dull?

You make some lovely points - I happen to disagree about how much value that actually adds to the play, or how well constructed it is given that, in a contemporary context, Shylock will always, always overshadow Portia (and I suspect always did) - but your points are still lovely points. Was there a need to address them to me as if you were lecturing a student in your Shakespeare 101 class?

Weez said...

Save: Henry IV Part 1 (though I might let the flame singe the "part 1" off, otherwise future generations will be driven mad wondering what happened next).

Burn: The Tempest. I know, unpopular viewpoint, but it's a play much better imagined than experienced in my opinion.

As for Lear vs Hamlet - well, I'd go for Lear, because I think Goneril and Regan have one of the most truthful sororal relationships I've ever seen onstage or in literature, and there are other things I adore about it. But I find myself leaning towards Richard II more than Hamlet these days, so would pick him above the two of 'em any time! :D

Duane said...

To be fair, Jenn, I didn't read anything at all about Alexi's post as patronizing. I was surprised at your comment and even went back and read Alexi's original to see if I'd missed something. Knowing Alexi, I think you may have misread "overly polite" as "patronizing".

Alexi said...

I apologize, Jenn, I didn't mean to come off as patronizing. It's often difficult to convey tone through a written medium, and I tend to avoid emoticons in more formal discussion. It could be I defaulted to "director-writing-program-notes" mode, since Merchant of Venice was my directorial debut. And of course, we can disagree about Merchant, since it is arguably the most controversial play in the canon.