Shakespeare

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Skuj
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Shakespeare

Post by Skuj »

What's your favourite Shakespeare play then? And why?

I'm not very qualified to answer this yet because I am very recently turned on to the brilliance of this work. (I'm 53. I know, right?) But I think Macbeth is a very early favourite, due to it's concise mix of themes on ambition, supernatural, murder, etc. The "unsex me" speech haunts me, and the speech regarding the merits of sleep is genius.

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Re: Shakespeare

Post by Piano Mouth »

I think U.S schools kiss up to Shakespeare like some god, or treat him like the only playwright that ever existed. I never got much out of the Bard.

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Re: Shakespeare

Post by schiksalgemeinschaft »

I teach in a Belgium, and each year, I give a few classes about Hamlet to seniors, and Romeo & Juliet to juniors, and it never fails to amaze me how good Shakespeare is, language wise.

Skuj
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Re: Shakespeare

Post by Skuj »

Diverting this to film adaptations momentarily if I may:

Is Branagh's Hamlet great? I'm trying to imagine Heston, Williams, Crystal and Lemmon not making me laugh when I shouldn't. The whole play (ie every line) is in this film, apparently. Does it work?

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Re: Shakespeare

Post by Skuj »

Skuj wrote:Diverting this to film adaptations momentarily if I may:

Is Branagh's Hamlet great? I'm trying to imagine Heston, Williams, Crystal and Lemmon not making me laugh when I shouldn't. The whole play (ie every line) is in this film, apparently. Does it work?
Quoting myself....I absolutely loved this film when I watched it today. Many reviews fail to mention Branagh's brilliant sense of humour in many secenes. Hamlet is a killfest, but Branagh finds ingenius ways to inject Laugh Out Loud moments into this wonderful adaptation. What an overlooked film this is!

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Re: Shakespeare

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

My Shakespeare reading group is still continuing. Next month we'll read The Merry Wives of Winsdor, which will be the 33rd play of his we've read and the last of the plays he wrote himself, not counting the three Henry VI plays (his first). Next we'll do the collaborations, and after that we'll tackle the histories chronologically, this time including the HVI plays. We've repeated three so far, and will continue to alternate classics with the new stuff. Some great surprises among the lesser known plays -- Pericles, Coriolanus, All's Well, King John . . . all magnificent.

About five years ago we added a theatrical couple who have greatly raised the bar at our readings, we're all emoting now. The couple just did a wonderful version of Lear in SF, the two of them and dozens of puppets: http://www.independenteye.org/stage

Saw a breathtakingly great As You Like It (Pippa NIxon as Rosiland!) and a good Hamlet in Stratford, when Rita and I spent a month in Europe a couple of years ago.

Anthony and Cleopatra is the least performed of the acknowledged masterpieces, and it's playing now in Ashland. Trying to figure out when to carve out a couple of days to get up there for it.
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Re: Shakespeare

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We had nine tonight for our reading of Merry Wives of Windsor. The group was kind enough to move our scheduled date one day later so I cpould do a choice gig that came in late -- yesterday's corporate party for ask.com at http://www.thedockoakland.com/home/ Great dance and party! All of tonight's cast were old-timers to the group, all comfortable with each other reading, discussing the play, and socializing in general.

I've avoided this play because it is held in such contempt by so many Bardophiles. Auden simply dismisses it as a bad play and substitutes Verdi's opera "Falstaff" for his lecture. Harold Bloom refers to this play's lead character as 'Faux Falstaff,' and I think that goes to the heart of academia's scorn for the play. (I've gone into this and the play more fully in the what are you reading thread.)

We'll continuing to alternate classics that we've already done with the few remaining 'new' plays. We'll do our second reading of As You Like It in early September, followed by starting on the collaborations with Timon of Athens in November, after Conrad and Elizabeth return from an eastern tour of their Lear
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Re: Shakespeare

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

FIRST NOTES ON AS YOU LIKE IT

We're still targeting Wednesday, September 9, for our (second) reading of As You Like It.

It's likely that we'll be welcoming my sister , . . and her husband . . . (both just retired from teaching and principaling), as well as Professor . . . (SSU, computer science) as first timers.


Rosalind is the only woman in Shakespeare who has the most lines in her play. She dominates her play more completely than anyone in the canon except for Prospero; but Prospero commands supernatural powers, while Rosalind's powers are natural and human.

Stuff happens in the first and last act, actions of political and historical consequence, but most of the middle acts are a filled with games of love and rhapsodies to the pastoral life. Susan Snyder (Folger edition) likens the middle three acts to a "time out" in a basketball game.

Auden's essay on the play does a nice job of reminding us of the pastoral ideal that the Forest of Arden represents. He traces it back to Hesiod's "Works and Days" which posits that there was once a Golden Age in which men "lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief . . ." Each succesive age is a deeper decline from the original ideal; and our time is the Iron Age, in which "men never rest from labour and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night . . . and there will be no help against evil."

The opposing view (Lucretius, Virgil, Pliny) is that primitive life was "brutal, disorderly, and savage. . . civilization brings the transformation of the brutal into an orderly, knowing and civil world."

Auden quotes Whitman on the pastoral:

“I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied -- not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.”
(Leaves of Grass)

And in the play we have Duke Senior open Act II by singing the joys of the pastoral:
DUKE: Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, 
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet 
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court? . . .
Sweet are the uses of adversity, 
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, 
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head; 
And this our life, exempt from public haunt, 
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, 
Sermons in stones, and good in everything. 
I would not change it.

Auden notes: "The first lord immediately puts the Duke's speech in perspective:"

AMIENS: Happy is your Grace, 
That can translate the stubbornness of fortune 
Into so quiet and so sweet a style.

Harold Bloom writes: "I love Falstaff and Hamlet and Cleopatra as dramatic and literary characters, but would not want suddenly to encounter them in actuality; yet falling in love with Rosalind always makes me wish that she existed in our subliterary realm." She is the sunniest of characters in the Bard's sunniest play.

We wonder if Orlando can be so dense that he fails to recognize that the boy Ganymede, who is teaching him how to woo Rosalind, is in fact a disguised Rosalind. But there is a wonderful lightness and playfullness to the whole courtship of Rosalind and Orlando, "they are careful to entertain play as a crucial element in keeping love realistic." (Bloom, Shakespeare: The Invention of The Human)

Since Rosalind would have originally been played by a boy, when Rosalind is disguised as Ganymede you had a boy playing a girl playing a boy playing a girl, which is the outer limits even for Shakespeare.

Bloom sees a straight line development of personality from Falstaff to Rosalind to Hamlet, and links the wit in his favorite lines of Rosalind and Falstaff --
Rosalind, responding to Orlando's vow that he will die if she won't have him: "Men have died, from time to time, and worms have eaten them./
But not for love."
Falstaff, responding to the Lord Chief Justice chiding him for speaking of his own "youth:"
"My lord, I was born about three of the clock in the afternoon, with a white head and something of a round belly."


Rosalind has two rancid foils in the play – Jaques and Touchstone. Both are cynical reductionists, believing that only the worst truth about us is true. Jaques' "All the world's a stage" speech is the epitome of that. But Bloom points out that the gloomy end to the speech – "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything" – is immediately followed by Orlando staggering on stage carrying Adam, his beloved, loyal old retainer who sacrificed everything for him. "The rebuke to Jaques reductionism scarcely could be more persuasive than Adam's quasi-paternal love for and loyalty to Orlando."

Any of our non-regulars thinking of coming? We'd love to have you join us for this one!

Steve

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-4ZqhHOFsM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyFD-YevcEM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF2CRaSdjYY
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
Delmore Schwartz

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Re: Shakespeare

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

The earliest source for As You Like It was the "Tale of Gamelyn," from Canterbury Tales, which dealt with the issues of primogeniture, and included the subjegation of the youngest brother by the oldest, the wrestling match, and old Adam helping Gamelyn (Orlando) escape into the forest. The immediate source of the play was Thomas Lodge's 1590 prose tale "Rosalind," based on Gamelyn's Tale, and adding to it the usurping and banished king, the pastoral ethos, and the love stories.

The final scene contains one of the three appearances (and by far the earliest) of a god in the plays – Hymen shows up to share a brief bridal celebration with Rosalind and Celia. Shakespeare doesn't have another god appear on stage until the late romances, when Jupiter appears in Cymbeline and Diana in Pericles. Hymen's appearance immediately follows Touchstone's most brilliant speech and this exchange:

JACQUES: Is not this a rare fellow, my lord?
He's as good at any thing, and yet a fool
DUKE SENIOR: He uses his folly like a stalking-horse, and under the
presentation of that he shoots his wit.

The Epilogue is the only acknowledgement in any of the plays that boys play the parts of women ("If I were a woman"), and is the only Epilogue delivered by a woman character (Rosalind, of course). The earlier gender bending of having a boy playing a girl (Rosalind) playing a boy (Ganymede) playing a girl (Rosalind) is toyed with further in the epilogue.

Why does Oliver hire the professional wrestler Charles to kill Orlando? He seems to be confused about why himself: " . . . for my soul, yet I know not why, hates nothing more than he. Yet he's gentle; never school'd and yet learned; full of noble device; of all sorts enchantingly beloved; and, indeed, so much in the heart of the world, and especially of my own people, who best know him, that I am altogether misprised." He may be confused, but the audience surely hears the envy in the voice.

Rosalind's romantic advice is not restricted to Orlando. She counsels the rustic lovers, Phoebe and Silvius, urging Silvius to regard himself more highly and telling Phoebe (who scorns Silvius and has fallen in love with Rosalind disguised as Ganymede) to "Sell when you can! You are not for all markets."


Penderecki's Threnody for The Victims of Hiroshima:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOnC5X8rWi0


Dion's doo-wop rendering of a Springsteen ballad:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBGO_OBp9y8
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
Delmore Schwartz

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Re: Shakespeare

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

CALL FOR READERS

Greetings, fellow Bardophiles!

It is a mere two weeks until our reading of As You Like It!

Please let me know if you expect to attend. We will read at 7 pm on Wednesday, September 9.

I watched Kenneth Branagh's production of AS YOU LIKE IT (2006) Easy to watch and fun . . .
Pippa Nixon's brilliant and sizzling Rosalind that I saw in Stratford-Upon-Avon: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippa_Nixon) . . .

Act III, scene I is a brief 19 line interruption of the idyllic life in the Forest of Arden – back at the court, the play's two evildoevers plot to kill Orlando. Before leaving, Oliver tells Duke Frederick that "I never loved my brother in my life." He exits, and the Duke comments, "The more villain thou," seemingly oblivious to the self-condemning irony of his words.

Late in Act III, when Phoebe finds herself taken with Rosalind disguised as Ganymede, she quotes Christopher Marlowe's "Whoever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?" (from Hero and Leander). Earlier in the same act, while Touchstone is playing with Audrey, he says, "When a man's verses cannot be understood . . . it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room," and this has been interpreted by some as a reference to Marlowe's death in 1593, presumably in a dispute over a tavern bill. (Marlowe was a spy, hung out with G Gordon Liddy types as well as the literati.)

At the end of Act IV, it seems as though Oliver – having seen Rosiland as Ganymede faint – sees through her disguise. When Rosiland claims the fainting was counterfeit, Oliver tells her to counterfeit to be a man, and addresses her as Rosalind.

Just prior to the climactic quadruple wedding comes the famous song "It was a lover and his lass," most notably set to music by WS's contemporary Thomas Morley. Here's a traditional version by countertenor Alfred Deller and a jazzy version by the New Swingle Singers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSNA57keMxA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ0ckVypiiI

Wonderful though the song may be, Touchstone is unimpressed: "Truly, young gentlemen, though there was no great matter in the ditty, yet the note was very untuneable . . . God mend your voices."


Off-topic: Rita and I saw the wonderful exhibition of Turner's late paintings at the DeYoung – highly recommended. . .


Jump shift to James Joyce:
"He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glasses. He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel."
-- A Painful Case

Couple of mellow musical links: contemporary classical followed by classical Hawaiian:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Kk-FJe43Aw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U8w7Qubx8c


Please let me know if you plan to attend on September 9!

Bright moments,
Steve
www.steveminkin.com

"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
Delmore Schwartz

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Re: Shakespeare

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

We enjoyed a bright and breezy reading of As You Like It tonight, with eleven of us in attendance. Pleased to have newcomers Tia and Lindsay join us, both of whom read beautifully! (Lindsay is the baker at Della Fattoria in Petaluma, and entered the group bearing delicious loaves!)

The group sends its condolences to Emily and Joe, and looks forward to welcoming them to our next reading.

Speaking of which, next up is our first collaboration, Timon of Athens. We'll tackle this after Conrad and Elizabeth return from touring their King Lear back east. None of us have ever seen Timon performed. The last play we said this of was Pericles, which proved to be a wonderful and great discovery for all of us!

Timon has always been among the least frequently performed plays, and the only film is the BBC's as part of their complete set of plays. Since it is a rarity, it is pricey.

Timon was probably co-written with Thomas Middleton. It was included in the First Folio, and so has always been part of the canon. Middleton's plays are still being performed, and TS Eliot considered him second only to Shakespeare as a English dramatist. It is believed Middleton wrote the middle third of the play. Many scholars also believe that the play is an unfinished work. (EK Chambers suggests that Shakespeare had a breakdown during the writing of the play, and abandoned it.) The supposedly unsatisfying denouement, unexplained plot developments, seemingly meaningless characters, etc., support the 'unfinished' theory.

Herman Melville considered the play one of the Bard's best, and writes of Shakespeare that "it is those deep far-away things in him; those occasional flashings-forth of the intuitive Truth in him; those short, quick probings at the very axis of reality:–these are the things that make Shakespeare, Shakespeare. Through the mouths of the dark characters of Hamlet, Timon, Lear, and Iago, he craftily says, or sometimes insinuates the things, which we feel to be so terrifically true, that it were all but madness for any good man, in his own proper character, to utter, or even hint of them."

Timon was written in the mid-1590s, during the period in which he wrote All's Well That Ends Well, King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.

Duke Ellington composed a score for Canadian Shakespeare Festival's production of Timon in 1964. I have the recording of it, not worth getting, the Festival band doesn't do justice to the music. The best tunes are all old Ellington classics (Creole Love Call, The Mooche, Ring Dem Bells, etc.) which are recorded better elsewhere by Duke's band. If you're looking for Ellington does Shakespeare, the great record is "Such Sweet Thunder" from 1956, also commissioned by the Canadian festival, original music and played by his band, highly recommended.

Here are YouTube versions of Amiens song from Act II by composer John Rutter, which Diego did tonight, and the pages' song from Act V by Ken "Snakehips" Johnson, which I did:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfDGepwt5OM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqzw1nsiG8E

BTW, Snakehips – who was a helluva tapdancer, too -- was playing the Cafe de Paris in London in 1941 when Germans bombed the place, and he died in the attack.

Please take a look at your calendars for the Wednesdays of November 11, 18 and December 2, and let me know if you see anything there that might interfere with your coming.


Best wishes to all,

Steve
www.steveminkin.com

"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
Delmore Schwartz

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Re: Shakespeare

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Let's tentatively target Wednesday, December 2 for our reading of Timon.

This has to be one of the strangest of all the plays! It's an unfinished bridge between the Problem Plays and the Romances. It has been classified as a comedy by some, as a tragedy by others. And it's full of bitter social satire, prefiguring Jonathan Swift.

Timon is an extreme character, over-the-top idealism in the first couple of acts followed by the darkest misanthropy in the later acts. Alone among Shakespeare's major characters, Timon has no origin, no family, no parents, no siblings, no wife, child, mistress . . .

Timon's extremes prevent him from meaningful relationships with others. His initial belief in ideal friendship makes him aloof – he is unaware of being exploited by some guests and unresponsive to the misgivings of other guests who are genuinely concerned about him. When he realizes he has given away his vast fortune in the name of ideal friendship, he goes to his 'friends' to ask for help. The first friend refuses, offering to bribe Timon's messenger if he tells Timon he couldn't find him. The second friend hears this story, says he would have helped Timon; but when he's actually asked he says he doesn't have the money and can't help him. The third friend is insulted that the other two guys were asked first, and he refuses. Timon renounces mankind as a whole, and much of the rest of the play is given to Timon cursing everybody, like old Queen Margaret in Richard III.

The only female roles in the play are prostitutes. Timon is at first moralistically anti-sex, and then in his second phase he urges the whores to infect as much of the damned population as they can.

There are many farcical and comical elements in the play, so in the first part especially there is the sense of a tragedy being enacted inside of a comedy. (Think of Harold Bloom's characterization of "The Merchant of Venice" -- like Willie Loman wandering on to a Cole Porter musical.)

All versions of the play come from the First Folio, in which Timon was a late substitution for Troilus, which was tied up in copyright disputes. The folio version has only scene divisions, not acts. Most moden versions are divided into acts, following 18th century divisions, although the Oxford and some others keep to the original Folio divisions. Here's a key:
Act I - Scenes 1-2
Act II – Scenes 3-4
Act III – Scenes 5-11
Act IV – Scenes 12-13 + Scene 14, lines 1-536
Act V – remainder of Scene 14 + Scenes 15-17

There are three significant characters other than Timon -- The Cynic philosopher, Apemantus; the powerful army captain, Alcibiades; and Timon's loyal steward, Flavius, who eventually disproves – even to Timon – Timon's blanket condemnation of all men.


Second Lord: Thou art going to Lord Timon's feast?
Apemantus: Ay, to see meat fill knaves and wine heat fools.
I, i

Timon: . . . O you gods, think I, what need we have any
friends, if we should ne'er have need of 'em? they
were the most needless creatures living, should we
ne'er have use for 'em, and would most resemble
sweet instruments hung up in cases that keep their
sounds to themselves. Why, I have often wished
myself poorer, that I might come nearer to you. We
are born to do benefits: and what better or
properer can we can our own than the riches of our
friends? O, what a precious comfort 'tis, to have
so many, like brothers, commanding one another's
fortunes!
I, ii


Apemantus: Who lives that's not depraved or depraves?
I, ii

Flavius: [Aside] What will this come to?
He commands us to provide, and give great gifts,
And all out of an empty coffer:
Nor will he know his purse, or yield me this,
To show him what a beggar his heart is,
Being of no power to make his wishes good:
His promises fly so beyond his state
That what he speaks is all in debt; he owes
For every word: he is so kind that he now
Pays interest for 't; his land's put to their books.
I, ii

Apemantus: O, that men's ears should be
To counsel deaf, but not to flattery!
I, ii

Timon: Come, sermon me no further:
No villanous bounty yet hath pass'd my heart;
Unwisely, not ignobly, have I given.
Why dost thou weep? Canst thou the conscience lack,
To think I shall lack friends? Secure thy heart;
If I would broach the vessels of my love,
And try the argument of hearts by borrowing,
Men and men's fortunes could I frankly use
As I can bid thee speak.
Flavius: Assurance bless your thoughts!
Timon. And, in some sort, these wants of mine are crown'd,
That I account them blessings; for by these
Shall I try friends: you shall perceive how you
Mistake my fortunes; I am wealthy in my friends.
II, ii
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Re: Shakespeare

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

Joe writes:
Just to forestall confusion while everybody’s encountering this unfamiliar play, the first syllable of “Timon” sounds like “time.” So the name rhymes with “Simon” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timon_of_Athens).

There’s also a noun, “timonism,” that is a synonym for misanthropy (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/timonism).

Besides Melville, Marx and Brecht were also intrigued with the play, though probably mostly for its anti-money theme.

The 2012 National Theatre production, set in modern-day London, revealed unexpected depths and gathered heaps of praise from the critics. It was satellited to theaters all over the world, so we can hope it will eventually show up on DVD:
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/ ... of-fortune
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/thea ... eview.html
http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/j ... ew-olivier

Here’s a trailer (not too informative): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbO-irT3xXI

During the Restoration, Thomas Shadwell produced an adaptation that replaced the Cupid & Amazons masque in I.ii. with a short opera about a dispute between Cupid and Bacchus. Henry Purcell wrote a masque on the same theme for a 1694 revival of that adaptation. He also wrote an overture that may have been used for the play as a whole, and a rather agitated “curtain music” that is thought to have been played at the beginning of Act 4. There’s a nice recording by the English Concert on Youtube:

Overture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy1oOtKl6s4
1. “Hark! How the songsters of the grove”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxUi-Gt_SpQ
2. “Love in their little veins inspires”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eITjMMGALuQ
3. “But ah! how much are our delights”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_4mtr6bf7k
4 & 5. “Hence with your trifling deity”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SLMvCr2u74
6 & 7. “Come all, come all to me” – “Who can resist such mighty charms?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmg2xxGJecs
8. “Return, revolting rebels”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFvTElGLIDY
9. “The cares of lovers”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-r7J-abBbs
10. “Love quickly is pall’d”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F01Pcx4P9_w
11 & 12. “Come, let us agree”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRb3r_odwmA
Curtain Music on a Ground: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYc8ycXHo_U

****

Yesterday I sent:

TWO BRIEF TIMON VIDEOS

The first is Duke Ellington's "Timon of Athens March." The video is labeled Duke with his orchestra, but it is actually Duke with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.

The second gives us a couple of brief glimpses into the National Theater's 2012 celebrated production that Joe mentioned, as well as some insights into courtly gift-giving. Set in the British Museum, with a couple of breathtaking gifts on display!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oflPKd8usPU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8ZUvfth95Y
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
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Re: Shakespeare

Post by walto »

Thanks a lot for that stuff, SqD. Really interesting and informative to one (like me) who's never read the play.

What do people think about Shakespeare's ultimate attitude toward (the character) Timon? Is he sympathetic to his plight? mocking him? Both? How does he think we should feel about patronage of that sort? Sad? Disgusted? Grateful?
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Re: Shakespeare

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

walto wrote:Thanks a lot for that stuff, SqD. Really interesting and informative to one (like me) who's never read the play.

What do people think about Shakespeare's ultimate attitude toward (the character) Timon? Is he sympathetic to his plight? mocking him? Both? How does he think we should feel about patronage of that sort? Sad? Disgusted? Grateful?
I think Shakespeare's attitude toward any major character is always complex and multi-faceted. The obvious contrast with Timon is Lear, who also undergoes a catastrophic fall from power and wealth because he is betrayed by those he thought loved him. But Lear grows in depth and humanity as his tragedy unfolds; and even though he opens the play as a self-centered idiot, we are totally in his corner by the tragic ending. Timon, OTOH, is kind of jerk both before and after, never does completely win us over. Two qualifications for all this: the play was almost certainly unfinished; and the Roman/ Greek plays of Shakespeare, in general, have a more formal language and feel, and the characters in general are cooler, more classic and less romantic (although here and there a character breaks the mold -- Marc Antony, Cleo, Volumnia . . .)
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Re: Shakespeare

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Thanks.
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Re: Shakespeare

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Ashland announced yesterday that it is 'translating' all 39 plays into contemporary English, to be used in future performances to supplement the canon. They use a passage from Timon as an illustration: http://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon- ... ire-canon/


Here's a link to a promo for the Alabama production of Timon in modern English, spoken of favorably in the article:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgxFVwo5K2Y




The Oxford Edition claims to "be the first to locate this play firmly within a context of collaboration between Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton," and it devotes a significant section to establishing the collaboration (still not universally accepted) as a fact rather than a theory. I've mentioned before the relatively new technique of using computers to analyze the words used in plays and sonnets to determine the likely time periods in which they were written, looking for rarely used words, similar patterns of usage, etc. This technique has allowed scholars to date The Merry Wives of Windsor as having been written during the writing of HIV2, and the Dark Lady sonnets contemporaneous with his earliest plays, etc. The differences between Shakespeare and Middleton have some bright lines, and the Oxford edition unnumerates many, a few being: Shakespeare uses 'O' only, Middleton uses both 'Oh' and 'O' with a preference for 'Oh.' Shakespeare spells Apemantus correctly, Middleton always sticks an 'r' in the name. Middleton likes the modern 'has' and 'does,' Shakespeare prefers the older 'hath' and 'doth.' Their valuation of the 'talent' varies widely – Shakespeare uses the modest sums of 3 and 5 talents, Middleton goes for 50 and 1,000 talents.

In the interests of not getting overly geeky in this area I will refer those of you who want a detailed breakdown of who wrote what to page 2 of the Oxford introduction. Suffice it to say that Middleton wrote parts of I,i, all of I,ii, parts of II,ii, all of III, 1-5 and the beginning of III, 6. and parts of Act IV.

Shakespeare's return to the text after the extended Middleton section in the lengthy Act III packs a wallop – the vitality of the language leaps off the page and the reader knows we're back to Shakespeare! This comes at Timon's final banquet, to which he invites many of his so-called friends. When the covers are taken off the dishes, they are revealed to contain nothing but warm water.

Some Speak: What does his lordship mean?
Some Others: I know not.
Timon: May you a better feast never behold,
You knot of mouth-friends! Smoke and lukewarm water
Is your perfection. This is Timon's last;
Who, stuck and spangled with your flatteries,
Washes it off, and sprinkles in your faces
Your reeking villany.
[Throwing the water in their faces]
Live loathed and long,
Most smiling, smooth, detested parasites,
Courteous destroyers, affable wolves, meek bears,
You fools of fortune, trencher-friends, time's flies,
Cap and knee slaves, vapours, and minute-jacks!
Of man and beast the infinite malady
Crust you quite o'er! What, dost thou go?
Soft! take thy physic first—thou too—and thou;—
Stay, I will lend thee money, borrow none.
[Throws the dishes at them, and drives them out]
What, all in motion? Henceforth be no feast,
Whereat a villain's not a welcome guest.
Burn, house! sink, Athens! henceforth hated be
Of Timon man and all humanity!
[Exit]


Luciano Berio's "Visage," his wife, Kathy Berberian on vocals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mxGHXCMPcM

Haven't heard any objections to the December 2 date.
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Timon's money, hello from Peter, and scheduling notes

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

Related to the play's gift-giving: the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest traditionally practiced the Potlach, a competitive exchange of gifts. The first major study of that tradition was by the French ethnologist Marcel Mauss, who explored the reciprocities involved as well as what happens when a "Big Man's" extravagant gift makes him so superior to the recipient that reciprocity is impossible. We see this dynamic at work in the early scenes of Timon.

I typoed earlier that Timon was written in the mid-1590s, during the period in which Shakespeare wrote All's Well That Ends Well, King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. SHOULD be set a decade later, when the plays mentioned were also written, and that means the play was written during the reign of James. The essay in the Folger edition notes that "Between 1603 and 1625, [King James] gave the peerage alone over one million pounds in lands and rents, while keeping a far more lavish court than Elizabeth had; as a result, he went deeply into debt." One member of Parliament argued against helping out the king, urging his fellows not "to draw a silver stream out of the country into the royal cistern."


I mentioned earlier the discrepancies between the valuation of 'talents' by Shakespeare and Middleton. But both men greatly underestimated the value Attic talent, which was worth 56.9 pounds of silver. So when Timon's servant brings a box in which he hopes to carry away fifty talents, he would have to cram over a ton of silver into the box. Even the five talents the freed man offers to return to Timon in I,ii suggests that he was carrying with him almost 300 pounds of silver.


An obvious contrast with Timon is Lear, who also undergoes a catastrophic fall from power and wealth because he is betrayed by those he thought loved him. But Lear grows in depth and humanity as his tragedy unfolds; and even though he opens the play as a self-centered idiot, we are with him by the tragic ending. Timon, OTOH, never does win us over.



GROUP NOTES:
Ren has heard from formerly active member Peter, who used to attend with his 90+ year-old mother.
Nice to hear from you! Yes, I'm still implanted in Massachusetts, but the climate there is more friendly, if still just as humid.  I do plan to keep coming out in summer and winter, probably basing myself in Berkeley to help Mom.  Tom and Ellen helped us celebrate her 98th birthday in July in Muir Woods and at Muir Beach; she's doing quite well.

I started off the summer with 10 days of mind-boggling training in Bayesian hierarchical modeling in Fort Collins, then spent four weeks in Beijing to write research papers with Feihai and his students at the foresty university, and finally arrived in California at the end of June.  Two Chinese students and I put the backpack and sleeping bag you passed on to me to good use at Upper McCabe Lake in northern Yosemite, and I got in one other short and two week-long trips in the Sierra.  I fly east on Tuesday and hope to be back in mid-December for at least one month and maybe for three.

I am still enjoying reading the notes Steve sends out about the plays; please give him my best.  We saw amateur productions of Henry IV, Part 1, and King Lear in Hinckel Park in Berkeley over the summer -- lots of verve, plus a prediliction for camouflage pants and tank tops.

Peter: we want you back! Maybe for the Henrys Redux?!

So the plan was that we were going to do the collaborations, alternating them with repeats of classics we've read already, and then move on to the histories in historical sequence (and Joe will finally get me to read those damned HVI plays!). I think that our move to histories may come soon. We've already done Pericles (collaboration with Wilkens, which we didn't realize was a collaboration going into it). We need to do Two Noble Kinsmen (written with Fletcher). But the remaining two collaborations can be folded into the histories, Edward III, which would immediately precede Richard II and the three Henry plays (The Greater Tetralogy) and Henry VIII, the last of the histories.

SO, I'm thinking the upcoming plays will be Romeo and Juliet redux, Two Noble Kinsmen, either Julius Caesar redux or The Merchant of Venice redux, and then King John to kick off the histories. (I know we did John fairly recently, but The Bastard is such a great character, and new to almost of us, so I'm all for doing it again.)

We might also want to consider at some point the plays to which Shakespeare was a minor contributor, Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, and the group-written Thomas More play.

AND I still favor doing the Sonnets. I've been rebuffed by the group before in this, and have instead foisted them on my book group. But I am itching to get back to them.

Steve


Billy Joe Royal, R.I.P. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BZTASZKQv8

Happy 79th Birthday, Steve Reich! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouYiTiiY3vg


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy2kyRrXm2g
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Re: Shakespeare

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We are still set for Wednesday, December 2, 7 pm, for our reading of Timon of Athens.

Call for Readers coming next week.

"The learned pate/ ducks to the golden fool." That is, the educated man acts subservient to the fool with money. Gold will make "black, white; foul, fair; wrong, right;/ base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant . . . This yellow slave/ Will knit and break religions, bless the accurs'd,/ Make the hoar leprosy ador'd, place thieves/ And give them title, knee and approbation/ With senators on the bench." (IV, iii).

There was a production of Timon in Prague in '69, at the time the Russians were 'invited' to send in their army, which shone light on the self-sacrificial facets of Timon. After cursing the city and turning his back on it, the actor playing Timon's "hair and beard were now white, and he had a fierce, insane stare. He appeared as a saint in the desert, a mystic sufferer of all human misfortunes. Jan Preucil gave an astonishing performance twisting his body into painful contortions and straining his voice harshly in gasps, sobs, and screams." The performance evoked the self-immolations and other suicides protesting the invasion at the time. One can also see the formal dinner with warm water and stones as a kind of Last Supper. This all supports the critical viewpoint that sees Timon not as an embittered misanthrope but as an angry god, enraged at the ungenerous world into which he has poured so much of his own generosity.

We are doing this relatively obscure play at a time when it is just beginning to receive a lot of attention. Since hardly anybody is really familiar with the text, it seems to be the go-to candidate for early experiments in "plain English" reworkings of the plays, and the current interest in presenting modern language versions of the plays will probably produce a number of new Timons in the coming years.

Pity we won't be able to do justice to the Masque in I, ii at our reading since it seems like one of the grander ones in the canon, and the stage directions are unusually detailed. "Enter a masque of Ladies as Amazons, with lutes in their hands, dancing and playing" During the early part of the masque, the cynic Apemantus provides counterpoint with an anti-celebratory rant, followed by the stage direction: "The Lords rise from table, with much adoring of Timon; and to show their loves, each singles out an Amazon, and all dance, men with women, a lofty strain or two to the hautboys, and cease" This suggests a big dancing scene with many of the actors from the banquet table dancing with the Amazons, who would have been decked out in some of Inigo Jones' fanciest gowns:
Image
Image


Djivan Gasparyan, master of the duduk (Armenian apricot wood flute)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QooCm5Na4Bw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tA2YDXZRmOI

Hilary Hahn playing her teacher's violin concerto:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iS8dLbO ... 475C28E757

movements two and three follow


Call for readers next week – check your calendars!

Steve
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
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Re: Shakespeare

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

Greetings! Hope you've all had a great Thanksgiving! Our stove caught fire a couple of days ago, so we made a last minute move to our daughter and her fiance's house.

The casting grid for Timon is enclosed, but requires some additional notes.

If you haven't let me know you're coming and would like to come, don't let this deter you, we'll improvise and get you in. So far we have a robust cast of fourteen attending.

The problem with casting this play is that Timon has a larger share of his play's lines than any character in the canon except Hamlet. As with Hamlet, Iago, Prince Hal, and others, we will have to divide Timon's role in a couple of acts between two readers.

The extreme case presented by this play is IV, iii, Timon alone in the forest finds gold and is visited in turn by Alcibiades and the hookers, Apemantus, and the bandits. In that scene, Timon has 365 lines. Most of us will be reading between 190 and 220 lines. So I have cast FOUR Timons in Act IV. One will read Scene i. In Scene iii, Timon #1 will read from the opening of the scene until line 200, when Alcibiades and the two women exit. Timon #2 will read from there until line 446, the entrance of the Bandits. Timon #3 will read from there until the end of the scene.

The scene numbers under the Acts at the top of the grid correspond to the original Folio divisions, which the Oxford and some of other editions use.

Looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday!


Steve

Jussi Björling singing the Thanksgiving song, followed by some tunes in a similar spirit from Africa, Ferlin Husky, and Charles Ives:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD7VInFPKLw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToNb-02 ... 4847997A9F

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMtL_kqUxN4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPlCWI8 ... 6&index=10
www.steveminkin.com

"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
Delmore Schwartz

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