May/22/2018 18:02 Stephen Greenblatt | Shakespeare | Coriolanus | Macbeth | Henry VI | Richard III | Shakespeare's Relevance
Harvard Professor Stephen Greenblatt's new book "Tyrant", is out, and has received another smart review. While leveling a few criticisms, reviewer Charles McNulty praises the book for deftly suggesting which of Shakespeare's plays best help inform our current political climate. There are some genuinely interesting insights, and one is reminded yet again of the sheer depth of Shakespeare's insights into the human condition, in this case, around the idea of how we are ruled, and what drives our rulers. Read the article to see where McNulty thinks Greenblatt got things right, and where he thinks Greenblatt got things wrong.
The most famous — and only — more or less true to life portrait of William Shakespeare is the so-called Chandos Portrait (above.) It has immortalized the now iconic balding pate, earring, and flowing hair and beard. The portrait itself has a fascinating history, but this article talks about the future restoration of the picture, and what the art restorers dare — and do not dare — do, to bring it back to its original glory. Well worth a read!
Part of the challenge in enjoying Shakespeare, is actually getting to see a good production. Theater critics therefore act as important gatekeepers for audiences, since with their practiced eyes (and professional obligation) they can not only steer audiences to better performances, but also provide valuable historical perspective to any modern production. But of course, critics differ (everyone's a critic, right?) so in this post we provide links to two reviews — one favorable, one less so — of the RSC and Christopher Ecclestone's current production of Macbeth. Seeing two contrasting reviews helps us further understand both the play, and audiences who consume those plays. In the unfavorable camp: The Daily Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish review. The favorable camps is represented by The Guardian's Michael Billington. Here is his review.
The Royal Shakespeare Company's Macbeth came to a New York movie screen yesterday, and the effect was not quite as electric as the Julius Caesar of three weeks ago. The good news, perversely, is that the problem lies not in the medium, but the performance. Although some of the acting and staging worked well, the overall impression was somewhat heavy and lacked subtlety, particularly from the supporting cast. The reason this seems like good news to me, is that the filmed-play-in-a-cinema medium seems sufficiently good to allow viewers/watchers to make such judgements. So bravo to the whole concept of filmed plays shown in movie theaters — yet another stage on which Shakespeare's works can shine!
It's well known that in Shakespeare's era, young men played female roles (see here, here, and here). So the circle seems to be coming around on the issue of gender roles on stage with a new production by Michelle Terry (artistic director at The Globe) where gender will play no role in making casting decisions — Ms. Terry will herself play the role of Hamlet. It's an interesting discussion, made perhaps more fraught by today's our own era's uneasy discussions about gender roles and stereotyping.
May/10/2018 10:38 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Shakespeare's Relevance | Language | Textual Analysis | Stars Playing Shakespeare | In every day use
Film, TV star, singer, and entertainer Donald Glover, (stage name Childish Gambino) has put out a grim and troubling music video (This is America). What caught our attention was an article comparing the piece's multi layered messaging and overall complexity to Shakespeare, and the Bard's tendency to write on multiple levels about complex issues — graft, intolerance, cruelty amongst others. The article, from Heidi N. Moore writing for NBC news is well-written and thought provoking.
Beyond the references to Shakespeare, this video also reminds us of the different ways in which critics can make their points. Slate and The New Yorker choose writing (with embedded videos), while Art Insider chooses a deconstruction of the video with voice over and words and diagrams overlayed on the video. Both approaches work well, but Art Insider's approach seems to us slightly more effective overall. Judge for yourself!
Julius Caesar has been used as one of the Shakespeare plays through which to view Donald Trump's presidency, while others — including Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt — prefer Richard III, a starker, more aggressive take on the use of power. It begs the question: what other of Shakespeare's plays might have resonance about our current political season?
A short quiz to see how well you can intuit Shakespeare's play titles from emoji. Not sure how consistent they are in how they make these work, but we managed eleven out of twelve. Give it a shot, and test your skills!