PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me

TOPIC: Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging!

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #901

  • akfarrar
  • akfarrar's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Professor
  • Posts: 272
  • Thank you received: 1
This post is in conntinuation of:
Willedever wrote:
We need to talk about what happens in the play, because it's so often done wrong, and for some things, it's always done wrong.



Only just caught up with this thread and am horrified at the idea of "Shakespearian correctness"!

I will start a so named thread in the Bits and Bobs part for people to kick the idea around.

AKF
. . . which I posted on the Hamlet Forum.

To nail my colours to the flag: The idea of a correct way to perform Shakespeare, or even of a correct interpretation is abhorrent to me.

I think it shows a serious lack of understanding not only of the theatre, but also of Shakespeare's original texts (or what we have of them).

(Something to chew on there!)

AKF
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #906

  • William Shakespeare
  • William Shakespeare's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Administrator
  • Posts: 732
  • Thank you received: 18
Thanks for migrating to this area... a more appropriate one for this subject.

I think the phrase "Shakespeare correctness" has about as much correctness as the phrase "political correctness". What is correct in one person's mind is not necessarily so in another's so it's really a matter of perspective. Willedever knows Hamlet very well and has a lot of great ideas about the play and how it should be performed. Despite the strength of his convictions, those are his ideas.

This topic actually came up before in the form of "absolutes". How can anyone say that there are only absolutes in Shakespeare's works? Some might argue there's nothing absolute in the entire canon.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #910

  • akfarrar
  • akfarrar's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Professor
  • Posts: 272
  • Thank you received: 1
As an ex-pedant, I am very much aware of the narrowness of view scholarly interpretations tend to foster - it seems as though the academic battlefield leads people to entrench and fight to the death.

For me, the very fact that the texts of Shakspeare's plays are intended for performance and consequently are incomplete automatically nullifies any definitive statements.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #915

  • William Shakespeare
  • William Shakespeare's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Administrator
  • Posts: 732
  • Thank you received: 18
Correct. Yet that being said, there are points in the plays where doing them (playing a scene or a moment) in a different way makes less sense (or possibly none at all). But it doesn't make it an invalid interpretation. A "flawed" or "incorrect" interpretation is still an interpretation.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #924

  • Charles Pecadore
  • Charles Pecadore's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Senior Player
  • Posts: 75
First of all, let me say that I am relatively new to Shakespeare and far from a scholar, but I do love variety in the interpretation of his plays, though I admit I don't care for radical changes in the text or sequence. What Willedever is doing in the Hamlet forum is interesting and apparently based on in-depth scholarship, however, I must admit I wish I could get a better grip on his motivation and intention. For example, when he tells us how a character thinks and acts is he basing his presentation on what he believes best explains their lines or what he thinks Shakespeare's intent was, or does he practice some form of divination :D ?

I seem to have problems at almost every turn; one good example is his conclusion that Gertrude hides behind an arras during the 'nunnery scene'. Is that because she has no EXIT direction, or because her agreement "I shall obey you." (in response to Claudius' "Sweet Gertrude, leave us too") seems duplicitous?

It seems to me that if you have a character do something unexpected or contrary to what s/he has agreed to do, then there should be a good reason for that behavior - a reason that ramifies into some future action, understanding, or speech of that character. I fail to see how her overhearing the 'nunnery scene' has any such effect on her in the remainder of the play. Otoh, there are clear indications that Polonius' and Claudius' thinking and understanding are significantly altered due to their hidden listening.

Any thoughts?
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #925

  • William Shakespeare
  • William Shakespeare's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Administrator
  • Posts: 732
  • Thank you received: 18
Charles wrote:
First of all, let me say that I am relatively new to Shakespeare and far from a scholar, but I do love variety in the interpretation of his plays, though I admit I don't care for radical changes in the text or sequence.

Then you're in the right place... :)
Charles wrote:
What Willedever is doing in the Hamlet forum is interesting and apparently based on in-depth scholarship, however, I must admit I wish I could get a better grip on his motivation and intention.

You could certainly ask him yourself but I believe his motivation is to outline areas of Hamlet where he feels the text is misinterpreted (naturally, in his opinion). From earlier discussions with him in comiling the version of Hamlet Q2 for the site, he has demonstrated (in my humble opinion) a strong grasp of the play itself as well as the historical references. My approach has always been to let him serve up his smorgasbord of ideas, from which I can select and choose suited to the situation.
Charles wrote:
For example, when he tells us how a character thinks and acts is he basing his presentation on what he believes best explains their lines or what he thinks Shakespeare's intent was, or does he practice some form of divination :D ?

I think all of the above... :)
Charles wrote:
I seem to have problems at almost every turn; one good example is his conclusion that Gertrude hides behind an arras during the 'nunnery scene'. Is that because she has no EXIT direction, or because her agreement "I shall obey you." (in response to Claudius' "Sweet Gertrude, leave us too") seems duplicitous?

If you have questions or issues with his walkthroughs or explanations, feel free to ask him. He's good about answering polite requests. He becomes less diplomatic when a user's comments become combative. While that's a "normal" way of conversing on forums like HLAS, that kind of disrespect is not acceptable here.
Charles wrote:
It seems to me that if you have a character do something unexpected or contrary to what s/he has agreed to do, then there should be a good reason for that behavior - a reason that ramifies into some future action, understanding, or speech of that character.

I fully agree with this...even when you have a character do something expected.
Charles wrote:
I fail to see how her overhearing the 'nunnery scene' has any such effect on her in the remainder of the play. Otoh, there are clear indications that Polonius' and Claudius' thinking and understanding are significantly altered due to their hidden listening.

Again, compile your questions into a thoughtful posting and add it to that thread. It doesn't hurt to ask! :)
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #928

  • Charles Pecadore
  • Charles Pecadore's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Senior Player
  • Posts: 75
Thanks for your response. I moved these comments here to avoid disrupting the discussion at the Hamlet board, given your:shakespeare wrote:
Thanks for migrating to this area... a more appropriate one for this subject.
I had hoped Willedever might follow the discussion here, but apparently not, so I will take your latest advice and present my queries, diplomatically I hope, there.

Regards, Charles
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #934

  • Tue Sorensen
  • Tue Sorensen's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Expert Player
  • Posts: 140
akfarrar wrote:
For me, the very fact that the texts of Shakspeare's plays are intended for performance and consequently are incomplete automatically nullifies any definitive statements.
That's a pretty definitive statement right there, isn't it?

Are Shakespeare's plays wholly, purely, only and entirely intended for performance?

I hold the view that there are two kinds of art. One that is meant to please here and now, and no more. And one that is meant to be delved into, so as to derive some deeper meanings from it.

If Shakespeare's works were only intended for performance, they would be mainly of the first kind of art, not much different from, say, pop music. Good for a dance, and that's it. Tolstoy thought so; he said that Shakespeare essentially has nothing to say.

If, on the other hand, the works can provoke a well-spring of literary discussion and analysis, without anybody quite understanding what is being said, yet having some idea that something important *is* being said, then the works would be of the second kind of art. And they must be, since scholars write entire libraries of literary analysis about Shakespeare's works.

Hence the question ultimately becomes, are the plays mainly theatre or are they mainly literature (because obviously they have important qualities of both)? I find it funny that the plays are mainly treated as literature, but the same people who write weighty tomes about the works often claim that they consider them to be mainly theatre. A bit of an inconsistency there, by my reckoning.

My own honest opinion is this: I think the plays are primarily literature. Performance is a boon, in the exact meaning of the word: a bonus, but single performances simply do not possess the timeless quality of the written word. A performance gives only one way of representing the given play. Reading the play will be a far broader experience, with imagination allowing for many different possible interpretations of each interesting place in the text.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #938

  • William Shakespeare
  • William Shakespeare's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Administrator
  • Posts: 732
  • Thank you received: 18
sorensonian wrote:
Are Shakespeare's plays wholly, purely, only and entirely intended for performance?

In a word: mostly.
sorensonian wrote:
I hold the view that there are two kinds of art. One that is meant to please here and now, and no more. And one that is meant to be delved into, so as to derive some deeper meanings from it.

Hmm..fairly black & white, but OK.
sorensonian wrote:
If Shakespeare's works were only intended for performance, they would be mainly of the first kind of art, not much different from, say, pop music. Good for a dance, and that's it. Tolstoy thought so; he said that Shakespeare essentially has nothing to say.

I'm sure the parallel you're drawing between Shakespeare & pop music is only on the basic level of being a "performance"...Otherwise, you've gone off the deep end! :P

sorensonian wrote:
If, on the other hand, the works can provoke a well-spring of literary discussion and analysis, without anybody quite understanding what is being said, yet having some idea that something important *is* being said, then the works would be of the second kind of art. And they must be, since scholars write entire libraries of literary analysis about Shakespeare's works.

Hmm... the logic doesn't quite follow. Volumes are written about many subjects which aren't worthy of being called "art".
sorensonian wrote:
Hence the question ultimately becomes, are the plays mainly theatre or are they mainly literature (because obviously they have important qualities of both)? I find it funny that the plays are mainly treated as literature, but the same people who write weighty tomes about the works often claim that they consider them to be mainly theatre. A bit of an inconsistency there, by my reckoning.

My take is that they are mainly theatre instead of literature. Otherwise, Shakespeare would have just written poetry or short stories, right?
sorensonian wrote:
My own honest opinion is this: I think the plays are primarily literature. Performance is a boon, in the exact meaning of the word: a bonus, but single performances simply do not possess the timeless quality of the written word. A performance gives only one way of representing the given play. Reading the play will be a far broader experience, with imagination allowing for many different possible interpretations of each interesting place in the text.

Simply put, fictional stories were meant to be read and they play upon the imagination in no other way possible. This becomes abundantly clear when someone decides to make a film version of a popular book and it bombs. What about the idea that it's 80%/20% in the performance/literary ratio?
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Shakespearean Correctness - a scurge that needs scurging! 9 years 4 months ago #940

  • Tue Sorensen
  • Tue Sorensen's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Expert Player
  • Posts: 140
shakespeare wrote:
sorensonian wrote:
If, on the other hand, the works can provoke a well-spring of literary discussion and analysis, without anybody quite understanding what is being said, yet having some idea that something important *is* being said, then the works would be of the second kind of art. And they must be, since scholars write entire libraries of literary analysis about Shakespeare's works.

Hmm... the logic doesn't quite follow. Volumes are written about many subjects which aren't worthy of being called "art".

That depends on what kind of volumes you're referring to. If we're talking about critical, academic volumes, then obviously the scholars involved think the subject is worthy of deep analysis. Of course, individual opinions will always vary. But if Shakespeare's works aren't art, what is? Who will claim that they aren't great art? Not many. Shakespeare's works allow us to be very interested in the motivations and dialogue of scores of fictional characters, debating endlessly about them, almost as if they were real people. Where else do you find that kind of dedicated attention from an audience?
shakespeare wrote:
sorensonian wrote:
Hence the question ultimately becomes, are the plays mainly theatre or are they mainly literature (because obviously they have important qualities of both)? I find it funny that the plays are mainly treated as literature, but the same people who write weighty tomes about the works often claim that they consider them to be mainly theatre. A bit of an inconsistency there, by my reckoning.

My take is that they are mainly theatre instead of literature. Otherwise, Shakespeare would have just written poetry or short stories, right?

That's the question. If he had something important to say, and wanted to make sure it would survive for many centuries, perhaps he deliberately wrote it in the form of plays, because he felt they would be more dynamic that way, always being able to be twisted according to the preferences of each succeeding age, thus always remaining fresh. Had he written them in the form of literature, perhaps they would quickly have been forgotten, or read only by dusty scholars, never to become widely known.
shakespeare wrote:
sorensonian wrote:
My own honest opinion is this: I think the plays are primarily literature. Performance is a boon, in the exact meaning of the word: a bonus, but single performances simply do not possess the timeless quality of the written word. A performance gives only one way of representing the given play. Reading the play will be a far broader experience, with imagination allowing for many different possible interpretations of each interesting place in the text.

Simply put, fictional stories were meant to be read and they play upon the imagination in no other way possible. This becomes abundantly clear when someone decides to make a film version of a popular book and it bombs.

Yes, indeed, and then the audience always has the book to fall back on as the original work. I think we should also see Shakespeare's plays, in their written form, as the original works, and primarily analyze them as such. Which most scholars also do - otherwise they would not be scholars, but theatre critics! :-)

But of course I also think they should continue to be performed. It's just that a performance will always just be one version out of a virtually infinite number. (Which, of course, one may also say that any given textual edition is, since it is impossible to entirely arrive at the definitive, original text, but the textual problems are relatively smaller compared to the huge range of interpretative possibilities in theatrical performance.)
The administrator has disabled public write access.
Moderators: William Shakespeare
 

Log in or Register

Register
Forgot username  Forgot password
Get the Shakespeare Pro app