Watching Shakespeare on Television
Watching Shakespeare on Television looks at Shakespeare as a cultural phenomenon and at the videocassette as "text" - that is, as an object fixed in time as well as in its assumptions about its medium. Even films made to be shown at a cinema are also designed to become cassettes for the vast "secondary" market. H. R. Coursen's study of Shakespearean films and television productions includes such classics as Olivier's Hamlet and Brook's and Welles's King Lear, as well as more recent productions such as Kevin Kline's and Mel Gibson's Hamlets, Kenneth Branagh's Henvy V, and Peter Greenaway's version of The Tempest, Prospero's Books.
Shakespeare's scripts are designed to be "open to interpretation." That openness is not the invention of disciples of Foucault or Derrida. The "meaning" of a Shakespeare script can never be fixed; rather, it is a temporal quality that shows how a script reflects, reinterprets, or reemphasizes the cultural and ideological assumptions of a particular moment in history. Shakespeare remains popular, as Branagh's Henry V, Zeffirelli's Hamlet, and a proliferation of Shakespeare's festivals prove. The energy known as Shakespeare cannot be isolated from the culture that constantly reappropriates the scripts and creates new audiences for them. Shakespeare "works" on television because television is a linguistic medium, and because we are becoming accustomed to the diminished scale of the television (and the videocassette), as opposed to the grander dimensions of cinema. Shakespeare survives domestication, but in ways that demand investigation about why and how the scripts can work on television, and about the nature of this medium when it is charged with Shakespearean energy.
Watching Shakespeare on Television looks at Gertrude, a character often clear in performance even if "unwritten" in the script, and at Hamlet's disquisition to Yorick's skull, subject to a wide range of options and interpretations. Other subjects covered are "style" in A Midsummer Night's Dream, particularly the 1982 ART production; the advantages film has over studio productions; and editing scripts for television, with a focus on the Nunn Othello and the Kline Hamlet. In the latter production, long takes contrast with the quicksilver montage technique of Zeffirelli's film version. Another chapter examines Othello as a script demanding a black actor in the lead, and it looks at the Nunn and Suzman versions as cases in point. Closure in Hamlet is analyzed as well: television, the modern medium of political closure, tends to include Fortinbras, as opposed to film which usually excludes him. Another chapter evaluates Prospero's Books, where the importation of television to film tends to erase film's field of depth and results in no improvement, regardless of the trumpeted "technological breakthrough" of high-definition television. Finally, the book peers into the future of Shakespeare's moving image, with attention paid to Peter Donaldson's Interactive Archive at M.I.T.
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Page 11 - Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts, Into a thousand parts divide one man, And make imaginary puissance. Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them Printing their proud hoofs i...
Page 119 - Horatio, what a wounded name, Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me. If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, Absent thee from felicity awhile, And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, To tell my story.
Page 131 - O now, for ever, Farewell the tranquil mind ! Farewell content ! Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars, That make ambition virtue ! O, farewell ! Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump, The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife, The royal banner ; and all quality. Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war...
Page 38 - Now the wasted brands do glow, Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud, Puts the wretch, that lies in woe, In remembrance of a shroud. Now it is the time of night, That the graves, all gaping wide, Every one lets forth his sprite, In the church-way paths to glide.
Page 74 - He is dead and gone, lady, He is dead and gone, At his head a grass-green turf, At his heels a stone.
Page 122 - And let me speak, to the yet unknowing world, How these things came about : so shall you hear Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts ; Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters; Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause ; And, in this upshot, purposes mistook Fall'n on the inventors' heads : all this can I Truly deliver.
Page 137 - For that I do suspect the lusty Moor Hath leap'd into my seat; the thought whereof Doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards...