Double Falshood : The Text, Online!

Look look look what I found!  The text of “Double Falshood; or, The Distrest Lovers”.  The Theobald play in question, which could indeed be the lost Cardenio (or at least a revised and adapted version).  Whether it is or isn’t, I certainly wasn’t going to pass up the chance to read it! I don’t know who this “jwkennedy” person is who did the transcribing work, but he’s my new BFF :).  Thanks!

Cardenio Found : More News

Over at “The Hamlet Weblog” the author “read a rumour about this over the weekend” (hmmm, I wonder where he read it?) and dug up an actual press release from the Royal Shakespeare Company.  His theory, unfortunate though it may be, is that they’re really just talking about the Theobald version which has been known about for quite some time.  This is a script from the 18th century called The Double Falsehood which was “revised and adapted” from the Shakespeare original.  A little more googling found me this link on Shakespeare Apocrypha that describes the play thusly:  “this was initially regarded quite skeptically, but is now being looked upon more favorably following recent analysis and research, beginning with Stefan Kukowski in 1991.” I also found a blog post from June 2006, stating that the RSC has listed Cardenio among the complete works to be performed back then.  So now I’m not really sure what the “new” thing is anymore.

Desdemona : Did she or didn't she?

I have this weird memory about high school Shakespeare class.  I can’t seem to find evidence for it in Google so I’m wondering if I throw it out here, if someone will perhaps know what I’m talking about. We were studying Othello.  We had our regular copy of the play, but also for some reason I recall that we had a photocopied version of some key scenes.  There is a quote from Othello about Desdemona where he says, “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them.”  Fair enough.  But here’s the thing.  I remember that in one of the two versions we had, it clearly said “that she did not pity them” (emphasis mine).  I have vivid memories of pointing this out to the teacher and trying to make the argument that this said two very different things about Desdemona’s character.  We had gotten a brief taste of the whole “what did Shakespeare really write” argument with Hamlet’s “too, too solid/sullied flesh” speech, so I remember wondering if I had stumbled into another one.  I don’t recall where the debate went, although I think that she basically blew me off. And that’s where I’m stuck.  No amount of googling will tell me if there is a recognized edition of Othello that contains the line “that she did not pity them.”  So I’m left wondering if I imagined the whole thing.   Does anybody have any clue what I’m talking about?  

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Ok, I Finally Watched Stage Beauty

Just about a year ago I mentioned Stage Beauty, and people chimed in to tell me how awesome it is.  The 2004 production stars Billy Crudup and Claire Danes in what could be called “Shakespeare In Love meets Othello.”  In the more well-known production, a woman is forbidden from playing a woman’s role, so she masquerades as a man in order to play a woman.  In Stage Beauty the king has ruled that women must play the women’s roles, which leaves Crudup, the greatest Desdemona of his time, discovering that he has played a woman for so long that he is incapable of playing a man. I am really glad I watched this, I greatly enjoyed it.  I can’t say I’m  a huge fan of Othello, but really the only Shakespeare in this play was the death scene of Desdemona, they did that over and over again.  And that’s a good scene.  The acting from both Danes and Crudup was tremendous.  The theme of gender and identity was pretty complex.  The scene where Crudup is put to the test (he claims that it is so easy to act a man’s part that there’s no challenge) is absolutely riveting.  On the other side you’ve got Danes, the first female to ever act on stage, who has no idea what it means to “act female” because the best she can do is her impression of what she has seen the men do.  The final scene had me on the edge of my seat.  Maybe that’s because the movie was that good, or maybe that’s because I’d been waiting the whole movie to see some real Shakespeare performed(*).  Who cares,  I got what I wanted.  Great movie.  Highly recommended. (*) Ok, I’m a bit of a geek.  There’s a scene halfway through the movie where Crudup begs the king to reverse his decision and let him act again.  He cannot play a man’s role because there is no artistry in it, he says.  Claire Danes suggests that he demonstrate how he can act a man’s role as a demonstration of his command of the stage, so that the king will see that a true actor can play any role and thus be convinced.  The king says, “Yes.  Perform a soliloquoy that displays all that is bold and strong and masculine in a man.  Let’s see you as Othello.”  I got goosebumps and sat up in my seat just anticipating that.  (The scene that follows, by the way, is lousy Shakespeare but beautiful acting.)  

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Will @ Warwick Podcast I don’t really track every podcast that claims to be about Shakespeare – there’s too many of them, and many are too specific to either one particular project (like Shakespeare By Another Name) or theatre (I believe there’s a Chicago production that does a podcast).  ShakespeareCast was good when I was listening to it, but in general I prefer to listen to people talk about Shakespeare, rather than listening to people perform it.  Performance I leave as a live treat. Anyway, this podcast came up and lately I’ve been in the mood to get more into the text and the academic discussion around it (probably having something to do with reading Shakespeare Wars).  I like it.  The first episode is an interview with Professor Jonathan Bate, editor of a new edition of the Complete Works.  It starts out a little painful where he says, for example, that “Fifty years ago we could expect the reader to have an understanding of the classical mythology, and these days they don’t have that.”  Ouch.  Probably true, but still, ouch. But then, and maybe this is my geek side coming out, it gets pretty neat.  Why he used First Folio almost exclusively.  Why he put in even more bawdy sex references than anybody has in the past.  He has a particular emphasis on punctuation.  An example?  Lady Macbeth’s line:  “We fail!  But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.”  He chose to edit the first punctuation mark as a question mark rather than an exclamation point:  “We fail?”  The character change is substantial.  In the first and more common interpretation, Lady MacBeth is answering her husband’s concern with a very aggressive, “What are you, nuts?  How dare you even think of failing!  Failing is not an option!” sort of a tone.  But with the question mark it’s different.  She considers it.  It’s more of a “Hmmm, well yes, there is the possibility that we might fail.  So get your courage up, and let’s not do that, k?”  That is my wildly paraphrased recollection of what he actually said.  He does point out that he doesn’t feel either is particularly the “right” way, but seemed to feel that the question mark left more room for the actor to interpret.  

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The 10 Greatest Hamlets All stage performances, no film, so don’t go wondering where Mel Gibson and Kenneth Brannagh place on the list.  They don’t.  This list is reserved for the likes of Jacobi, Barrymore, Gielgud and others.  I knew that John Wilks Booth’s brother had been performing Hamlet the night that Lincoln was shot, but I had no idea that he was “considered the greatest Hamlet of his generation.” The idea of calling a stage performance one of the greatest of a generation is an interesting idea to us now in a world of DVDs and Tivos where we can go pause, go backward, and watch over and over again.  These were real people performing live.  If you missed it, well, you missed it.  

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A New Shakespeare Play Discovered?? What’s this what’s this?  A play by Shakespeare about Don Quixote?  Lost since 1612?  Confirmed in its authenticity by Gregory Doran, Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company?  Very interesting!  Does anybody know more about what play they’re talking about?  Is there a title?  Wait….CARDENIO?  THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT CARDENIO, FOR GOD’S SAKE!  THEY FOUND CARDENIO?!?!?!
I think I need to sit down. More info, courtesy Ann in the comments. Thanks Ann!   

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Let Me See If I Can Describe It

I’m reading The Shakespeare Wars by Ron Rosenbaum right now, and having trouble blogging about it because I’m finding something worthy of comment on every single page.  I’m only on about page 20.  I knew I was going to like this :). Let me see if I can describe what the experience has been like so far.  I have this picture in my head of a girl I knew in college. I don’t know that she ever actually did what I’m about to describe, or if I’m just putting her in the situation because she seems like a natural.  Anyway, I envision this girl reading a book, and she gets to a certain point where she stops, then she beams a bright smile and hugs the book tightly to herself, shaking back and forth like a 3yr old would hug their most beloved teddy bear. Then she goes back to reading. Does that get the image across?  It’s a feeling of loving a book so much that you want to climb inside of it, to become a part of it or make it a part of you.  It’s not enough to read it and say “I really enjoyed that”, or even to read it cover to cover in one sitting.  It’s about having a far more immediate and emotional need to connect with what you just read.  There are times whenI feel that way about Shakespeare.  And then there are times when I feel that way about people who are writing about Shakespeare. To sum up the Shakespeare Wars, at least as far as I’ve read:    Shakespeare is awesome.  No, seriously.  He defies all previous descriptions of the word.  I could keep repeating myself in different ways for all eternity and still not sufficiently get my point across.  The man is infinite in his awesomeness.  Now and forever, you will be able to discover something new about his genius that will make him…well, that much more awesome.  And it’s at that point that you stop long enough to give the book a nice hug, and then read some more.  Rosenbaum does like 10 pages alone on Bottom’s awakening from his dream.  Just that speech.  Not the whole play, not even the whole scene, just that one speech.  And he still manages to come away feeling like if he kept looking, he would find more to discover.  And, at least to me, it never sounds boring.  That can certainly be a scary thing, this feeling that you will simply never know it all.  But then, I think, we can go back to the old “glass half empty” cliche.  You can revel in what you do know, and every time you gain more knowledge you can rejoice in the discovery.  Or you can constantly look at the impenetrable darkness that is the abyss of the unknown and mope, “I’ll never know if I’m right or wrong, so I’ll just assume I’m wrong….” Personally, I’ll take the former.  

The 778 Best Books of All Time As composed by, whoever they are.  Found via Mental Floss which lists several such lists.  So naturally the first thing I did was search them all for Shakespeare, who appears on only this one.  It’s so hard to measure because you have to ask what “book” means.  Is Hamlet a book?  Or only a certain version?  Are we talking about best loved, most read, most purchased? Anyway, the BluePyramid list is my new best friend because it includes Hamlet(#2), Macbeth(#42), King Lear (#49), Romeo and Juliet (#62), Henry V(#199), The Winter’s Tale (#304), The Tempest (#496), Othello (#530) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (#581). Wait….Winter’s Tale?  That’s … different. Anyway, their list is apparently dynamically compiled based on people entering their own personal top 25 and then scoring accordingly, 1 point for position 25, 25 points for position 1.  So if you want to get Shakespeare an even better showing, go add your tuppence.

The Tempest : What Was Prospero Planning?

I’ve had this question for a long time, but I’m not sure I’ve ever brought it up for discussion here on the blog.  We know the general plot of The Tempest — Prospero causes a shipwreck to strand his enemy, his brother Antonio who took Milan from him and stranded him here.  On the boat is also Ferdinand, Miranda sees him and falls in love, and everybody sails back to Milan happily ever after. My question is and always has been, what exactly was Prospero really planning?  Did the entire play go according to what he wanted?  Did he know that Ferdinand was on the boat, and was it in his plan for his daughter to fall in love with him?  Did he always plan the happy reunion we get at the end, or were his original plans for Antonio a bit…darker? I haven’t studied the text of this play as much as some others, I’ve only seen it a few times.  I can’t really put my finger on a passage that clearly says one way or the other whether things go according to plan, or if he changes plans midstream.  

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