Author Topic: Shakespeare's Back Pages  (Read 1545 times)

Shakespeare's Back Pages
« on: August 24, 2020, 01:21:46 PM »
Controversial opinion, I know, but I think Shakespeare was quite good. But, I guess like many people who like him, I've read less than half of the plays. And for every Hamlet or Midsummer Night's Dream that are well known, there are a load like Pericles, Timon of Athens,Alls Well That Ends Well, Henry VIII and Two Noble Kinsmen that nobody ever talks about. Do you have have any favourites or experiences reading the lesser known Shakespeare?

Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2020, 02:25:46 PM »
Coriolanus is a magnificent, dangerous play.  Anti-democratic opinions, contempt for 'the People' are expressed very clearly and with passion.  I felt a transgressive thrill when I read it 8 or 9 years ago and was dismayed by the cowardice of Ralph Fiennes' film version in playing down that aspect.  Then a few years later that sort of rhetoric became a reality in Remoanerism and I was dismayed to realise how close I had been to such disturbing elitism.

I really must re-read it soon to see how I respond this time.  And a performance of the play at a disused airfield in south Wales is the best theatrical production I have ever attended.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2020, 02:39:42 PM »
The so-called "Henriad" is my favourite. Henry VI (in three parts) is an absolutely epic, bloody and historically accurate retelling of the War of the Roses with some of the bard's most poignant monologues in it, yet is surprisingly the least well known next to the others in the series, namely Richard II, Henry V and Henry IV. I recommend watching the "Hollow Crown" series that was produced by the BBC (the best Shakespeare adaptations ever, perhaps). They absolutely nailed the varied characters of the Henries and Richards: Richard I is a frivolous tyrant, Henry IV overambitious, Henry V a valiant hero, Henry VI a lost soul and, of course, Richard II a hunchback pervert.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2020, 04:52:04 PM »
I saw a representation of Henry VI a few years ago. it was really long but well worth it

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2020, 11:01:32 AM »
I saw a representation of Henry VI a few years ago. it was really long but well worth it

Are you French, Chveik? You're using the word as in "Shakespeare en représentation"? Or is this also a loanword synonym for "performance" I haven't heard before?

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2020, 01:54:51 PM »

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2020, 02:05:15 PM »
School ruined Shakespeare for me but I quite like Hamlet.

Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2020, 05:41:07 PM »
Henry IV pt 1 for the balance of city comedy & history genres, Roger Allam being my favourite falstaff (need to see Chimes at Midnight though). You can watch globe productions on their site, or find it at the usual places.

Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2020, 06:37:09 PM »
imo reading shakespeare is what puts people off it. it's not meant to be read, it's meant to be seen as a production. and you really can do a great performance of pretty much any of the shakespeare canon.

Titus Andronicus - i always took the opinion this was silly juvenilia until I saw it at the globe. but it makes a good point of about decent into brutality.

I have a soft spot for Measure for Measure. Cymbeline is quite fun even if it just a bit of a light-hearted mashup of King Lear with bits from rescued from the bit. You know what really does suck ass though? Henry VIII. Good reason most people haven't heard of it

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2020, 07:07:09 PM »
Henry VIII is terrible, yes. I can barely remember what happens except for Henry being treated as if he were the new pope, which, in those times, he might well have seemed.

Measure for Measure is wonderful. My favourite of his comedies

...but if I want to read Shakespeare I'm personally going straight to King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth. Bam Bam Bam. Those three are so good I can't believe I chose to comment on Henry VI first. I guess it goes to show how after a while in their acquaintance you take the existence of certain amazing things for granted.

Controversial opinion: Othello what is point?

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2020, 07:10:32 PM »
Controversial opinion: Othello what is point?

It's about jealousy and racism innit?

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2020, 07:11:45 PM »
imo reading shakespeare is what puts people off it. it's not meant to be read, it's meant to be seen as a production.

 and you really can do a great performance of pretty much any of the shakespeare canon.

Typo I suppose yet well said! You can also read it out loud yourself! I'm partial to it.

It's about jealousy and racism innit?

I don't get it. People get jealous jealousy what is point.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2020, 07:16:00 PM »
I don't get it. People get jealous jealousy what is point.

It's a story where characters do things that shape the plot, and it explores themes of jealousy, love, racism etc. I don't love Othello generally but I quite like Iago as a manipulative villain, he's an absolute bastard.

Couldn't you boil anything down to what is point anyway?

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2020, 07:21:06 PM »
You're right. I don't know why it left me cold. I was probably too immature at age 21. I would have a very different perspective on it now perhaps, but I remember Iago just being a horrible force of evilness from the very first page and all the way through I was just thinking "why are you like this?".

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2020, 07:41:32 PM »
Fair enough, makes sense. I can't remember if there is a backstory that's fleshed out to explain why Iago is such an envious and vindictive person or not, but that doesn't really matter much to me.

I feel the same about Romeo and Juliet, not arsed at all about it.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2020, 07:56:26 PM »
I'm actually with you there. I don't know if this can be disproven, but I imagine it was considered fluff in its time but was revived in the Romantic age for being in vogue with huge hits like Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.

Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2020, 09:33:44 PM »
have you seen the BBC 1981 shakespeare series film of Othello with BOBO 'OSKINS as iago? that's fun. also Anthony Hopkins is Othello

Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2020, 12:28:15 AM »
Is it me, or do Shakespeare’s tragedies follow the same pattern: Blisteringly good in the first two acts, and then boringly violent in the last one? It probably is just me, but I’ve seen all the big ones and this is always the impression I have left with. Then again, I’m thick.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #18 on: August 26, 2020, 12:31:22 AM »
Blisteringly good in the first two acts, and then boringly violent in the last one?

The Tarantino Effect.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2020, 03:10:01 AM »
Fair enough, makes sense. I can't remember if there is a backstory that's fleshed out to explain why Iago is such an envious and vindictive person or not, but that doesn't really matter much to me.

Iago's "motiveless malignancy" is a pretty key part of his character.

Some weirdly subverse undercurrent in Othello. The hero and heroine having "Hell" and "demon" in their names (Shakespeare invented the name Desdemona, IIRC); Iago being Spanish for James, at a time when James IV was on the throne... there's something going on under the hood, though I'm not sure what

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #20 on: August 26, 2020, 03:11:20 AM »
Is it Othello that has a play within a play that dissolves into chaos or am I misremembering A-Level English classes?

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #21 on: August 26, 2020, 07:44:35 AM »
That was Hamlet! He stages what he knows to be the true story of his father's poisoning in front of the murderer, his uncle (and king of Denmark) Claudius, convinced the latter will be driven mad by guilt watching it and give away something in the way of proof in his reaction to it.

(googling...) it's Act 3 scene 2.

Just by the way, "Jaime" is the Spanish equivalent of "James." "Iago", of "Jacob".

Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #22 on: August 27, 2020, 06:23:05 PM »
The play within a play might alternatively be the mechanics' Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night's Dream since you mention that it descends into chaos. 'This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard' says Hippolyta while watching it.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #23 on: August 27, 2020, 10:06:26 PM »
That was Hamlet! He stages what he knows to be the true story of his father's poisoning in front of the murderer, his uncle (and king of Denmark) Claudius, convinced the latter will be driven mad by guilt watching it and give away something in the way of proof in his reaction to it.

(googling...) it's Act 3 scene 2.

Just by the way, "Jaime" is the Spanish equivalent of "James." "Iago", of "Jacob".

Ah, bollocks, I can't remember a damn thing then.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #24 on: August 27, 2020, 11:23:42 PM »
Measure for Measure's wise Duke Vincentio was certainly a flattering portrait of James, however. The notion that Shakespeare was constantly thumbing his nose at royalty is down to the "new historicist" school of lit-crit. There was a book called "The Privileged Playgoers of Shakespeare's London, 1576-1642" which convinced me Shakespeare could hardly afford to thumb his nose at royalty. He was in show-business, let's not forget.

Found this interesting summary googling around the topic just now:

Scholars have proposed that Shakespeare was political in the sense that his plays reflect and comment on the crucial governmental issues and figures of his day, that his plays contribute to "pressing problems about prerogative, power, and authority."(1) It has been argued that Measure for Measure, in particular, reflects on James I and his political doctrines and actions. In fact, it is recorded that the play was performed before James in 1604 during the Christmas festivities. Critics have seen parallels between passages in the play and in James's book on his philosophy about governing -- the Basilicon Doron. Shakespeare's fictional character of Duke Vincentio also embodies some of the characteristics of the ideal ruler that James delineates in his book and some of James's own character traits, such as his dedication to virtue and chastity, his reclusiveness, his scholarly nature, and his discomfort with crowds. Because the play was performed for James and because the male protagonist seems a mirror image of James and his model ruler, numerous scholars interpret the play and its main character as a tribute to James and his conception of government, as a dramatic presentation that was meant to entertain and please the king.(2) Although much of the new historicism underscores the subversiveness of Renaissance literature some new historicists -- Jonathan Dollimore and Leonard Tennenhouse, in particular -- continue to see the play as a validation of not only James but also the Tudor doctrines of monarchy.(3)

Other critics are more skeptical of Shakespeare's intentions and suggest that he may be counseling or educating his king on proper governing procedures. Some go so far as to suggest that Shakespeare is covertly criticizing, even demystifying, James's rule. While James touted his virtue, moderation, and piety, the reality of his life and rule was anything but praiseworthy. G. P. V. Akrigg contends that any contemporary of James, and I think we could include Shakespeare, could not "but note a painful discrepancy between theory and practice."(4)

-Carol Brown
https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-19283556/duke-vincentio-of-measure-for-measure-and-king-james

Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #25 on: August 31, 2020, 03:07:33 AM »
I recommend watching the "Hollow Crown" series that was produced by the BBC (the best Shakespeare adaptations ever, perhaps).
Only saw the more famous half (Richard II- Henry IV- Henry V) but it was superb, especially Ben Whishaw's  Richard II, which made me think at times of the last, pathetic years of Michael Jackson.
What are people's other favourite televised or film version of the plays? Not seen it for years but Polanski's Macbeth really shook me up when I saw it at school. Conversely Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet was a source of unintentional delight when the entire cinema, en masse, got a fit of the giggles in the closing scenes.

Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #26 on: August 31, 2020, 03:14:01 AM »
You're right. I don't know why it left me cold. I was probably too immature at age 21. I would have a very different perspective on it now perhaps, but I remember Iago just being a horrible force of evilness from the very first page and all the way through I was just thinking "why are you like this?".
At times I've thought it was that Iago was racist, at other times I've had thoughts similar to Mister Six that there's something a bit occult going on in the play and the race issue is a kind of red herring.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #27 on: August 31, 2020, 10:05:46 AM »
Retinend wrote: The so-called "Henriad" is my favourite. Henry VI (in three parts) is an absolutely epic, bloody and historically accurate retelling of the War of the Roses with some of the bard's most poignant monologues in it, yet is surprisingly the least well known next to the others in the series, namely Richard II, Henry V and Henry IV. I recommend watching the "Hollow Crown" series that was produced by the BBC (the best Shakespeare adaptations ever, perhaps). They absolutely nailed the varied characters of the Henries and Richards: Richard I is a frivolous tyrant, Henry IV overambitious, Henry V a valiant hero, Henry VI a lost soul and, of course, Richard II a hunchback pervert.

Whilst I agree that the Hollow Crown Series was excellent, I think your finger slipped a couple of times? Richard II (Not 1st) was a frivolous tyrant, and of course it was good ole' Richard III who was a 'hunchbacked pervert' not Richard II.

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Re: Shakespeare's Back Pages
« Reply #28 on: August 31, 2020, 01:14:41 PM »
Ah! Of course the first Richard was naturally Richard Lionheart . Yeah add an extra "I" to those Shakespearean Richards I listed and we're square.

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