Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Shakespeare Girl

Sarcasm Girl is taking three courses--Acting Technique, Voice and Speech, and Acting Shakespeare--at A.C.T. (that's American Conservatory Theatre) this summer: three days a week, 9am to 5pm. On the basis of one day, she likes the Voice and Speech, is not certain about the Acting Technique, and really loves the Shakespeare class. The teacher apparently started things out with a lecture about Shakespeare's life and work, particularly talking about the effect of his relationships with his children on his work. And of course, the child was the most talkative kid in the class, contributing much to the discourse. I don't doubt that half the reason she liked the class was that she's doing well in it. I think this summer is going to be fun for her...

10 Comments:

Blogger C. F. Blog said...

I was afraid you weren't going to post anymore. I felt like I was 15 again in trouble for talking too much, when editors and publishers get on the blog.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Good lord, don't let editors and publishers stop you. I don't. I worked in publishing off and on for eight years, and know far too much about how sausage is made to be scared of my publisher (who is a sweetheart) or my editor (who is also a sweetheart). As for the other editors who wander through, they're just friends, don't mind 'em...

5:08 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

"The teacher apparently started things out with a lecture about Shakespeare's life and work, particularly talking about the effect of his relationships with his children on his work"?

And what such effects does the teacher adduce?

Nothing is known about Shakespeare's relationship with his children. His only son died when he was eleven, and since the boy was named Hamnet, glib biographers sometimes speculate about a connection between him and the play Shakespeare wrote a few years later. (What kind of connection?) His two daughters were young women when he wrote his last plays, and since the romances deal with elderly fathers and beloved adult daughters (and absent mothers, not that this fits Shakespeare's situation), it is sometimes speculated that Shakespeare (who lived several days' travel from his family throughout his career) was somehow engaged in emotional self-expression.

But there is no evidence for any of this, none. And if you assume them to be true, it doesn't take you anywhere. So what "effects" was the teacher talking about?

4:12 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

I think he was talking about it inferentially, and in terms of giving young actors (as opposed to students of literature) one possible way of looking at certain of the texts.

If SG wanders through here, she can elaborate on what the teacher said. I am only reporting second hand, and was more pleased with her reaction to a class that got her jazzed, than concerned by potential Shakespearean WooWoo.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Pretty damned inferentially, if you ask me.

It would be interesting to hear Number One Daughter's report. I am a bit touchy about Shakespeare Woo Woo, because there is so much of it; most people, when asked, seem to assume that the "Shakespeare authorship question" is a genuine issue.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

People who think the "Shakespeare Authorship Question" is a real issue; there's a scary thought. Don't they know Shakespeare's work was authored by another guy with the same name?

So what did you think of Will in the World? I enjoyed it--but

8:45 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

But what?

Serious Shakespeare scholars consistently report that when they identify what they do to strangers at parties, the usual response is, "So did he write the plays or not?" Too many newspapers editors have run stories on this or that slow Sunday.

Greenblatt knows his Shakespeare very well, but in Will of the World he allows himself surprising leeway in easy speculation. I prefer his immediately previous book, Hamlet in Purgatory.

5:47 AM  
Anonymous Sarcasm Girl said...

Okay, this is gonna be long. I like to rant.

Actually, the whole relationship-with-his-children thing was just one small point. And what is known is that Shakespeare wrote a lot about relationships between sons and fathers (usually chalk full of death doom and gloom) around the beginning of his career. Later on, when certain... aspects of his life in London were going all wonky and non-good, he started writing a lot about father/daughter relationships. After that, he returned to Stratford and his daughter took care of him.

Well DUH we don't know for a fact that a lot of Hamlet was from ideas that came from the death of Shakespeare's son Hamnet. DUH we don't know if it was really an apology to his daughter or something even remotely related to her. Heck, we don't even know if all those sonnets Will wrote were about actual people (you know, the Dark Lady and that guy and yadda yadda yadda... gee, aren't I just so eloquent right now?)!

You're a smart person. I already know that. Otherwise you wouldn’t have even gone into this. But remember that a lot of what we “know” about history is speculation. It's like a long game of telephone: the least we can do is start from scratch and add in what we already know.

By the way, I'm kinda grouchy. It's 8:14 AM, and my brain isn't completely functioning. Please don't come after me with an axe or a sheep or something if I'm being a total something-I'm-not-going-to-say-because-this-is-my-mom's-blog.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Well, okay.

Actually, Shakespeare didn't (so far as I ever noticed) write about father and son problems noticeably more than any other playwright. Authors of that era often wrote about kings, which meant writing about succession. When the succession wasn't a matter of usurpation (as it often was), then the king and the eldest prince would be the focus.

Shakespeare's biggest Dad-son play -- Henry IV Part 1 -- actually comes around the middle of his career, not early. I can't think of an earlier play that does anything in particular with fathers and sons.

And it's not really true that "when certain... aspects of his life in London were going all wonky and non-good, he started writing a lot about father/daughter relationships." Nobody knows a blessed thing about his personal life in London, except that the themes of the sonnets seem to suggest some kind of tempestuous love triangle. It was long thought that Shakespeare went through some emotional crisis around 1600-1603, and that this resulted in the emotional darkness and cynicism one can see Hamlet, Troilus, All's Well, and a few others. But this is an inference from the plays; if you take it as fact and then apply it to other plays, you are being circular.

Moreover, the plays in which father/daughter relationships figure (basically Lear and the four Romances) only come later.

The whole notion is a nineteenth century cliche anyway -- they thought that Shakespeare wrote only From The Heart, so that if he was writing a bitter satire, it meant that his soul was full of cynicism. We know now that Shakespeare was a commercial writer who wrote what was in fashion, and often devised roles in accordance to what the actors he had to work with could do.


We also do not know that when Shakespeare returned to Stratford, "his daughter took care of him." He had two daughters -- married one off just before his death -- and a wife. The temptation to see the unmarried one (Judith, I think) as playing Miranda/Cordelia/Marina to Shakespeare's Prospero/Lear/Pericles is sheer Victorian sentimentalism. Sarcasm Girl should reject it utterly!

(Hope you're no longer feeling grouchy.)

9:37 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Man, you get distracted and hit the "publish" button and all life goes crazy around you.

I enjoyed Will in the World, but I also thought Greenblatt made it pretty clear that it was, essentially, a thought experiment, not hard fact--or rather, that the hard facts he had to play with were about other people's lives, and that he was using them to tease out possibilities--again not facts--about Shakespeare. I haven't read the Hamlet book--which I know would be of interest to you--but will now add it to my list of books I want to get to.

12:01 PM  

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