by liberal japonicus
I got to the Bard a bit late. The high school English teachers taught Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet more out of duty than love (my senior year English teacher had a love for Victorian novels, which was good) and my university classics was the Greek and Latin kind. One of the problems was that it wasn't really possible to see the plays staged, and being able to see performances, either theatric or filmic, on screen was not in the cards.
I didn't really realize what I was missing until a summer in London at a time when student theatre tickets were incredibly cheap and I could see the plays up close. Even then, the process of reading a play never really grabbed me. Something about the layout, which made things discontinuous.
I mentioned this to a friend when I was in graduate school and she said that we should form a play reading circle, which we did. We'd go to the used bookstore, get a bunch of copies of a play, and once or twice a month, read a play in the afternoon and then make a big dinner. Fun times.
The chance of that happening now is pretty remote, what with kids and living outside the Anglosphere, though it is a lot easier now to get a version on DVD or on youtube even and follow the play. All this comes to mind after seeing this article in the Graniaud about two new stagings of Shakespeare, one of Julius Caesar as an African play and another of Richard II, which I really don't know a lot about.
Julius Caesar is directed by Gregory Doran (His partner is Anthony Sher, the author of Year of the King: An Actor's Diary and Sketchbook, which details his preparation to play Richard the III) Both Sher and Doran are from South Africa and the article relates this anecdote
It wasn't until we arrived in South Africa that I became aware of just how the country – and the continent – had taken Shakespeare to its heart. In 2001, the education department in Gauteng province banned some of Shakespeare's plays from the curriculum (Julius Caesar was deemed sexist because it "elevates men"; Hamlet was "not optimistic or uplifting"), and the response was rapid. Anthony Sampson, sometime editor of the influential Drum Magazine, wrote of the way Shakespeare had helped Nelson Mandela and other ANC activists incarcerated by the apartheid government. An Indian inmate, Sonny Venkatrathnam, had smuggled in a complete Shakespeare, disguising the cover with images torn from a Hindu calendar (the guards thought it was a prayer book). The book was circulated among his fellow prisoners, who underlined and autographed their favourite passages.
About Richard II, I am unfamiliar with the play, but the director (it is being filmed for BBC) points to the deposition scene as being one of the two best speeches in Shakespeare, and I think the speech he is referring to is this:
Ay, no; no, ay; for I must nothing be;
Therefore no no, for I resign to thee.
Now mark me, how I will undo myself;
I give this heavy weight from off my head
And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand,
The pride of kingly sway from out my heart;
With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hands I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duty's rites:
All pomp and majesty I do forswear;
My manors, rents, revenues I forego;
My acts, decrees, and statutes I deny:
God pardon all oaths that are broke to me!
God keep all vows unbroke that swear to thee!
Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved,
And thou with all pleased, that hast all achieved!
Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit,
And soon lie Richard in an earthly pit!
God save King Harry, unking'd Richard says,
And send him many years of sunshine days!
What more remains?
below the fold is a discussion of the scene. As a bonus, I have also lifted up the Count's link to Gary Oldham talking about athlete's acting, which, truth to tell, probably prompted this more than refined thoughts on one of the greatest playwrights of all time. So the thread is open for Shakespeare related musings, acting related musings or anything else that grabs you.