Monday, July 02, 2012

Shakespeare and Me

Well, not *me* -- The Guardian has up a series called Shakespeare and Me, where we get to hear the thoughts of some of our most beloved Shakespeareans.  Here, for a taste, is Dame Judi:

Shakespeare is wonderful for children. It fires their imagination – they recognise people being superstitious, greedy, envious and falling in and out of love.
I didn't get the chance to play Macbeth but I don't half envy his lines.  
If you look at the punctuation of Shakespeare and obey it then you'll never run out of breath. He writes where the pause should be. If you understand that, you unlock the play.

I like the format - short, almost in a question and answer form but not quite (I can't imagine an interviewer asking, "If you look at the punctuation, then.....what?")  I've not yet read them all but other luminaries include Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Ben Kingsley, Simon Russell Beale, Alan Cumming and others.


JM said...

"If you understand that, you unlock the play." ???


Gee Duane, I wonder where Dame Judi could have gotten such a silly idea? Balderdash! say I. ;-)

catkins said...

JM: it does seem difficult to convince people to take Shakespeare's punctuation seriously, doesn't it? Editors just make a mash of it.
Have you read "Shakespearian Punctuation" by Percy Simpson? He wrote it in 1911 (it was reprinted in 1970, I think). It is a classic that was completely ignored by scholars of the day and since. It is well worth reading and there are dozens of copies available at for under $20.

JM said...

Hi Carl,

I kid Duane. Still, "cred" from a Dame ain't bad. :-)

--Totally agree on point #1. Sterile is the word I'd use to describe modern editing.

That's why, ever since I was first exposed to its importance at Riverside, regardless of the printer and/or typesetter arguments, the Folio (notwithstanding some of the Quartos) has become the acid test for me. There I learned, through firsthand application, how it works. I've been teaching it ever since.
And no matter the venue, grade school students or professional, scene study or full blown directing and performance, punctuation is key to understanding how the verse works, both on and off the paper.

I seem to remember hearing of the Simpson book in passing, but never read it. Thanks. I'll definitely seek it out now.

I think I mentioned Dr. Richard Flatter's book "Shakespeare's Producing Hand" to you before. One of my director/instructors at Riverside suggested it and, I now realize, applied some of it in instruction. I managed to get hold of a copy just a year or so ago. It's worth a close examination for some of the same reasons--and more. I think the versification vis a vis original line placement and scansion would be of particular interest to you.
Scholars have also failed to give his investigations the credence they deserve. The book is out of print but fairly inexpensive and not as hard to get hold of as I had thought it might be.

Thanks again for the tip. Nice to hear from you.