[FoRK] Shakespeare and Lawrence

Malcolm Greenshields < greenshields at uleth.ca > on > Mon Jun 12 18:14:42 PDT 2006

If you watch a Shakespeare play or movie (Mel Gibson's hamlet is pretty 
good, or Polanski's Macbeth), and just think about what is moving the 
characters, motivation and character, that will often work. Shakespeare 
was generally pretty frank, crude and clever about human desires, lusts, 
ambitions, etc., and once you begin to see his people as those you know 
or parts of yourself, he can be funny, moving, and intriguing.

D. H. Lawrence always struck me as a bit of a fraud with his lusty 
working men and the uninhibited poetry of his characters in love. It's 
like no world that ever was, is, or should be. The inhibitions of the 
English working man described by diarists like Robert Roberts in the 
Classic Slum are nowhere to be found. Lawrence writes like neither a 
man, a woman, nor the angel they are supposed to form in the Rainbow, 
more like someone who is putting up fodder for future graduate students.

For a good time read Shakespeare, Alice Munro, Henry Miller, Cormac 
Mcarthy, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Raymond Chandler, and especially Jane Austen.

Chris Olds wrote:

> Joe Barrera wrote:
>> Hey! So you're a big Shakespeare fan.
>> How would you convince someone that
>> Shakespeare is worth another look even
>> if they currently don't think that
>> Shakespeare does it for them?
> Ideally, I'd be able to take them to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
> [1] and show off the full variety of Shakespeare, done really well.  
> If that's not possible, then I'd find good modern-language movies of 
> several plays; perhaps starting with the comedies, since they will 
> seem familiar (because, of course, TV sit-coms have reused their ideas 
> so many times).
> Taming of the Shrew [2] is a good start (the link is to the 1967 
> Burton/Taylor version).  If the person in question has seen "10 things 
> I hate about you", so much the better.   The Comedy of Errors is also 
> great fun (slapstick wasn't invented yesterday).  After that, Romeo & 
> Juliet is a good romantic action piece, Hamlet is perhaps the 
> canonical ghost story (and pulls out all the stops in many ways - 
> play-within-a-play, kidnapping, murder - what's *not* to like?!??).
> I think that Shakespeare makes more sense to people if they can relate 
> the plays to movie genres - the histories are deadly dull to read 
> (some more than others), but when they are played well, they show 
> their true colors - action/adventure at it's finest.  The comedies 
> show off themes that have been used over and over in movies and TV, 
> just as Shakespeare ripped off his predecessors (albeit so well that 
> they are now somewhat obscured).  The dramas again show the basic 
> themes we know so well, but they are still worth seeing in that form.
> Ian McKellen's 1995 Richard III [3] shows how changing the setting 
> doesn't always require changing the words (although Adam may disagree 
> with me, and I'm sure he thinks that Leonardo DiCaprio & Claire Danes' 
> Romeo & Juliet [4] was crap, even though they used the original 
> dialogue).
> I feel fortunate that I went to Ashland the summers I was 14 & 15, and 
> saw a lot of plays.  We read most of them before going, which I think 
> helped me to understand them, but isn't a requirement.  If you didn't 
> have that advantage, there are many very good productions being done 
> all the time; I don't know how available they are, but PBS has done a 
> number of great productions over the past few years; there was an 
> extreme-minimalist version of Lear that I found very moving, and an 
> Othello I found gripping too.  If you have a local Shakespeare 
> company, see what they're doing this year, pick one play, and go see 
> it (yes, I make my kids try each new food we come across too).
> Why is Shakespeare important?  Partly because I can't name an English 
> playwright between Shakespeare's time and Oscar Wilde - that's a long 
> shadow.  I don't think that there were fundamentally new ideas in 
> playwriting until after WWI, and more so after WWII (n.b., I am not a 
> scholar, so don't go berserk if I'm off-base); whether that's good or 
> bad, if you don't know something about Shakespeare, you're missing a 
> huge chunk of the cultural context of the English-speaking world (and 
> beyond, to a lesser degree - his themes translate well, as does most 
> deep commentary on the human condition).
> /cco
> [1] http://www.osfashland.org/
> [2] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061407/
> [3] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114279/
> [4] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117509/
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