Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

Staging Shakespeare Interview

by   |  10.21.09  |  221-Early Modern

    For the more than two centuries of our history, Shakespeare has remained the most produced playwright in American theaters. From Junior High productions of Romeo and Juliet and amateur community theater stagings of Macbeth to professional companies updating Hamlet to gangland Chicago or contemporary New York, Shakespeare has retained a unique relationship with the colonies founded during his lifetime (see the NEA’s “History of Shakespeare in America” ). Over the past few decades a growing number of American cities have organized free summer Shakespeare festivals, including metropolitan centers like Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Abilene.

    As we consider the challenges of bringing a 400 year old text to the stage, this week you will have the opportunity to hear an interview with an experienced actor and director. Eric Harrell has taught theatre arts at ACU and Regent University and is a member of Actor’s Equity and the Screen Actor’s Guild. His experience with Shakespeare includes appearing as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Orlando in As You Like It, Antipholus in The Comedy of Errors, as well as featured parts in Measure for Measure and Richard III.

    Before class, watch this short interview with Eric as he discusses how he would approach a summer production of Twelfth Night. He’ll take on questions about the play, the Bard, and bringing both successfully to the stage.

    The interview is led by Emily Hardegree and runs about 15 minutes.

    Staging Shakespeare – Video

    Staging Shakespeare-Audio

    This interview is based on a live chat with Eric in 2004 and is accompanied by slides from the Abilene Shakespeare Festival. If you have trouble with the video, you’ll find a transcript of the interview below.

    Staging Shakespeare transcript

Festive Comedy

by   |  10.13.09  |  221-Early Modern

    Most students come to college with some familiarity with the plays of William Shakespeare, but often these previous experiences were with tragedies. What many of these students find surprising then is that the immortal Bard, the Sweet Swan of Avon, could also tell a joke. As a young playwright, Will was actually quite fond of them, writing almost as many comedies as tragedies and histories combined. He enjoyed laughing at the madness of love, puncturing self-conceit, and wordplay, lots of wordplay. Shakespeare's early comedies like A Comedy of Errors and Midsummer Night's Dream are light, airy confections dependent upon puns and mistaken identity; later in his career William began to develop more complicated, layered forms of comedy that balanced festivity with solemnity, young love with menace, light with shadow, but more on that later. For now, take a few minutes to read Susan Snyder's introduction to The Genres of Shakespeare's Plays (labeled “Session 1”) and then return to this assignment to complete the exercise below.

    Shakespeare's Genres – Session 1

Genre in the Video Store Exercise

    Even if you've never used the word “genre” outside of an English class, you've no doubt had passionate debates on the subject while standing in the aisles of a video store. You can't walk into a Blockbuster without overhearing the couple next to you discussing which movie they'll rent: he wants something with a car chase and she wants something sweet but not too sad. Questions of genre are a familiar part of video-store culture, influencing every part of the ritual down to the organization of the store itself.

    Before class, list as many broad types of movie as you can, starting with the basic categories and then dividing this list into subgenres if possible. These categories are always just behind our first response to a new movie. When someone says they liked or didn't like the new Julia Roberts movie, they are silently comparing it to other films she has starred in or other favorite romantic comedies. To adapt Susan Snyder's observation,

      In recognizing such habits as [improbable plots and witty dialogue in a romantic comedy] . . . we construct a notion of a [film's] modus operandi that in turn conditions our reactions as dialogue and action unfold. A sense of the norms of genre guides us through that unfolding: prompting sympathy or detachment, highlighting the significance of what we witness, and raising expectations about what is to come. The [screenwriter/director] may also at times invoke generic codes in order to play against them, refusing to fulfill the expectations he has aroused and thus pointing us in a marked new direction. (“Session 1” )

    List 2 or 3 examples of recent films that raise expectations based on genre only to fulfill them or play against them. Then in 2-3 sentences, explain how the audience's understanding of these norms is used or manipulated. We'll return to this conversation in class.

Comic Genres Review

    The term Shakespearean Comedy is deceptively singular. No single definition or narrowly-defined genre can contain the 14 plays listed as comedies in the 1623 First Folio, including plays as diverse as Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest and Twelfth Night. Neither did Shakespeare draw on a single tradition or set of models, varying his methods as often as his material.

    Return to Susan Snyder's The Genres of Shakespeare's Plays web-seminar and read “Session 4.” Pay special attention to descriptions of the festive (or festival) roots of English Comedy. You might list festive characteristics you can reflect on as you finish reading the play.

    Shakespeare's Genres – Session 4

    Reread Feste's clowning scene with Sir Andrew and Sir Toby from Act 2, scene 3 (1096-1100). Then watch the following clip from a 1996 film adaptation. You probably noticed the similarities between Feste's lyrics and the carpe diem tradition. If the enemy of love in carpe diem poetry is time, in Twelfth Night what are the enemies of comedy or the festive spirit? If specific characters come to mind, what values or ideas do they represent?

    Present Mirth clip

Carpe Diem Readings

by   |  10.08.09  |  221-Early Modern

    If the protagonists in the carpe diem poem are always young, vital, and full of passion, their antagonist is always time. The enemy of love and lovers is the progression of time, an ever-present reality in Renaissance poetry that drives many of the poems we read this week. Consider Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” . As you follow along in your book or online, listen to the following reading and watch for the way the speaker balances desire and argument in his artful invitation to seize the moment.

    To His Coy Mistress – read by Dr. Chris Willerton, English professor and poet

    The three sections of Marvel’s poem lay out an implied argument as the speaker moves from the theoretical, if time were not a factor, to the hard reality of the carpe diem. The poem itself moves from moments of wit and playfulness to passages of somber melancholy before finally inviting the listener to choose life and pleasure.

    In this assignment, we’ve combined poems written over more than a half century by poets with radically different backgrounds and purposes. How does each of the poets approach carpe diem themes in an original way? How do they confront the movement of time or the insistent approach of death? In addition to the carpe diem, what other solutions do they offer their young audience? Is seizing the moment the only response to time, decay, and the approach of “endless night”?

Explication Exercise

    Before class, you will need to produce a short explication of an assigned poem. An explication is a close reading of the most important ideas or elements of a poem (see the Writing an Explication assignment for more information). The process of close reading asks you to focus on the parts of a poem and ask how they function in relation to the whole.

    Shakespeare’s sonnets often strike students as overly complex and difficult on first reading, but breaking them down into smaller parts can make the process of interpreting them easier. How can you break longer poems down into stanzas, verse paragraphs, or sentences? Do these sections move logically from one to the next? Does the poet use basic poetic units like the couplet, quatrain, sestet, or octave (2, 4, 6, or 8 lines) to develop a single image or cluster of related images? Listen to the following close reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 12 before moving on to complete the explication exercise below.

    Shakespeare’s Sonnets – Dr. Kyle Dickson, English professor

    Sonnet 12 – read by Dr. Dana McMichael, English professor

    Explication of Sonnet 12 – Dr. Dickson

    As you begin your own explication, the steps below should help you get started:

    Step 1. Choose one of the assigned poems and read it once or twice aloud. Since lyric poetry shares a close relationship with music, reading your poem out loud will draw your attention to rhythms and sound effects the poet may be using to develop his ideas.

    Step 2. Next paraphrase the poem (or for longer poems a short section of it) in your reading notebook by translating its meaning into contemporary speech.

    Step 3. Looking at the poem as a drama, who are the characters? (What do you know about the speaker? Who is the audience or listener?) What is the central conflict? What implied action(s) occurs before, during, or after the poem?
    *Remember that the “I” of the poem is often a dramatic persona and not necessarily the poet himself.

    Step 4. Looking at the poem as an argument or debate, what is the speaker’s rhetorical purpose or goal? What arguments does he use to persuade his audience? What strategies does he use to make these more persuasive? How is the structure of the argument reflected in the structure of the poem?

    Step 5. Now look at the structural and poetic elements of the poem. How does the poet divide the poem into logical parts? How does spacing or punctuation make these logical divisions clear? How does the poet use image patterns or conceits to develop a theme or support an argument?

    Step 6. Look up any unfamiliar words in a dictionary. How does the poet employ difficult, unusual, or related types of words to develop an image or set the mood of the poem? Do they help set a tone that is personal, playful, academic, provocative, devotional, or something else?

    Step 7. Once you have a clear idea of what the poet is trying to say, organize your thoughts into an outline for a 5-minute audio explication. This doesn’t have to be a formal essay, but you should support main points by referencing key lines or phrases (by line number) that help listeners follow along in the poem.

    *See Student Example on Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” before you begin your outline.

    “To His Coy Mistress” – Student Example