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The arts in 2012: the British blind spot | Culture | The Guardian

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    • A theatre director recently told me that he would not be applying for the currently vacant job of artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, because he wasn’t sure what any of the three words in the organisation’s name mean any more: monarchy, Elizabethan authorship and permanent acting troupes are all concepts currently in flux. In the same way, anyone seeking to promote “British culture” – a key marketing concept in the year of the 2012 London Olympics – faces the problem that the definition of the United Kingdom is contracting while the definition of culture is expanding.
    • Artistically, 2012 will be dominated by two veterans of our academies and libraries: William Shakespeare, chosen as the focus of the Cultural Olympiad, and Charles Dickens, whose bicentenary falls in February. These are undisputed British – or, at least, English – cultural icons of the kind you would expect to find on banknotes.
    • The worship of Shakespeare and Dickens is a heritage reflex; that the two writers will now double as symbols of Britain in an Olympic year is problematic for two reasons.
    • First, there is the problem of familiarity. For British artistic directors to announce their intention of exploring Shakespeare and Dickens is rather like the owner of a fish shop declaring that next year’s menus will focus on seafood.
    • their dominance has had the unintended but severe consequence of disenfranchising generations of non-white acting talent.
    • The World Shakespeare festival, running from April to September, will also approach the plays multiracially.
    • And it’s on this question – of which flag to put on the badge – that the sweat really starts to pour down the foreheads of the cultural commissioners. In a recent article, the outgoing head of the civil service, Gus O’Donnell, predicted that the breakup of the UK is now a real possibility – an issue largely ignored by politicians and newspapers protective of the Queen, or nervous of traditionalist voters. This potential fracturing has dramatic implications for the arts.
    • As actual or psychological independence accelerates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it may be that the concept of British culture is becoming an impossibility.
    • The economic crisis that has made Britain more politically insular and suspicious of Europe has left its culture ever more dependent on co-funding.

      It is also more divided. The idea of someone from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland all going into the same building at the same time used to be the classic structure of a joke. These days it could be culture department policy. The biggest arts festival the UK has seen in decades will struggle to disguise these divisions.

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Why PETA’s ‘William’ works | GMA News Online | The Go-To Site for Filipinos Everywhere

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    • The easy answer is that William, a production of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), works because it is able to deal with the difficulty of William Shakespeare’s plays without sacrificing its integrity in the process. But also it works because it succeeds in taking on the challenge not just of drawing a line that connects a literary text and contemporary life, but more importantly between Shakespearean drama and the lives of Pinoy high school students.
    • Because it is able to actually give us a peek at current high school life, and the concerns of our youth, vis-à-vis how literature—Shakespeare at that—can allow an amount of understanding, if not an explanation, for what we go through and how we feel. Right here is its gift to literature and to teaching: it proves to us its relevance in light of our real lives in the everyday.
    • Yes, this is stuff for soap operas, and here is where William proves an adept hand at turning the story into one that isn’t uncomfortably melodramatic
    • So that Richard faces the homosexual bullying by choosing to recite Shylock’s revenge speech from Merchant of Venice, TJ unravels as bully via the to-be-or-not-to-be speech in Hamlet, Erwin finds his voice and comes out of his shell in defense of Richard through Julius Caesar’s friends-Romans-countrymen speech. Estella forgives her mother, and herself, for the distance and anger via Portia’s speech on mercy in Merchant of Venice, and even Sophia, seemingly petty as her crisis is, ties together a newfound love in the poor boy that is Erwin through Juliet’s what’s-in-a-name speech from Romeo and Juliet.
    • And this is really the success of William. That it is able to traverse all these lines that make Shakespeare and literature difficult—to teach, to read, to learn—at the same time that it also deals with very real teenage problems of bullying and family expectations, peer pressure and difference
    • That in the end we are told there is reason to read Shakespeare toward understanding ourselves better, that it will allow us to let go of the masks we wear, that it will ultimately mean an amount of fearlessness—in relation to Shakespeare and in light of life’s struggles—is what makes William relevant and important for today’s Filipino youth and student.

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ALANS’s notes › “Something cannot be. Only it is”: Beyond the Murder of Gonzago

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    • Abstract:

       

      The new century has seen some outstanding controversial research in Shakespearean studies. These current discoveries and inferences now invite a reconsideration of both authorship and inspiration. This paper summarises the latest research (Anderson, Stritmatter, Whittemore, Beauclerk), discusses the perceptions of poets and creative writers, who do not cease to be poets when writing criticism (Blake, Keats, James Joyce, Charles Williams, Ted Hughes) and follows up two insights of Rudolf Steiner on the authorship question concerning the figure of Hamlet and the role of James I.

    • That the Shadow of Shakespeare has evolved is undeniable, passing through 18th-century pantomimes, critical revaluation – especially through S.T. Coleridge [1] –, Victorian music-hall and rebirth at the hands of literary critic A.C. Bradley in 1904. [2] Whereas the period 1904-1920 was witnessing a staggering rediscovery of the works, J. Thomas Looney [3] in 1920 initiated the research that identified “Shakespeare” as real-life Edward de Vere; James Joyce reopened the debate regarding the relationship between Hamlet and Shakespeare; Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), I submit, offered assistance regarding both the authorship question and the figure of Hamlet. [4]
    • A full-length biography of Edward de Vere by Mark Anderson (2005) [9] points out the plentiful connections to the Shakespearean canon.
    • But now, Hank Whittemore (2008), [12] incorporating the three year-parts and other temporal references and deciphering the imagery, reveals line-by-line that, running parallel to the overt literary meaning, there is a hidden personal story of national, indeed international interest. Far from indulging the “biographical fallacy” in our reading, Whittemore shows that the Sonnets were intended to transmute a tortuous life-story into a work of art.
    • Roger Stritmatter, [15] moreover, provides evidence that Edward de Vere was a hidden writer in a scrupulously researched Ph.D. thesis on the markings of the latter’s Geneva Bible (2001). Some underscored verses refer to secret authorship – the life-style of irony of God’s fools and prophets: “the prophet is a foole; the spiritual man is mad” (Hosea 9:7); Matthew, chapter 6:4 advises giving “almes… in secret, & thy Father that seeth in secret, he wil rewarde thee openly”. Recall Hamlet’s feigned “madness”, Lear’s Fool who speaks the truth, Edgar as “poor Tom” – not to mention, too, such themes as disguise, mistaken identity, twins and the sequence of bastard characters. A significant number of underscored verses in this Bible relate to the canon itself and its relationship to the inner life of Edward de Vere.
    • We encounter more controversial areas with Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom (2010). Charles Beauclerk, concentrating on the Bard’s relationship to Elizabeth, explores further both the mythology and the scandalising circumstances that led to the increasingly urgent question of the succession. It is certainly possible that Elizabeth (1533–1603) – the “Virgin Queen” of accepted myth, married to her subjects, was the mother of several children
    • If the “Shadow” of Shakespeare has emerged from a concrete historical figure whose strongest self-expression is Hamlet, then it is time to address Steiner, who takes up the theme of the search for identity at the deepest level in the introductory lecture of his course on Mark’s gospel (1912). [23] His remarks on Hamlet, seen in the light of recent research, throw a bright light on the authorship question. The lecturer sketches the East-West situation, mentioning the ancient spirituality of the East, but also five writers who profoundly influenced Western culture – David, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe. Steiner emphasises that the five mentioned writers present a truer picture of events than outer historical accounts alone can.
    • To be clear about this, contemporary research unavoidably points to the historical figure, Edward de Vere, as author, while at the same time there is what could be called a meta-historical figure lying behind and informing the Shadow Hamlet. Empedocles “stands behind” Faust. Hector and Empedocles represent “a conclusion”; in their subsequent lives “great souls appear small”. In bypassing William Shakespeare, about whose life little substantial is really known, is Steiner’s purpose necessarily concealed? In 1912 the authorship question only occupied the attention of an “eccentric fringe”. Instead, Steiner reveals “the real figure underlying Hamlet, as presented by Shakespeare, is Hector”.
    • Though he claimed the Shakespeare authorship question is not an issue, Northrop Frye – perhaps the most influential literary critic of the twentieth century – in his life’s work on the whole “order of words” (Coleridge’s phrase) has accounted for the origins of literature in myth, that is, stories about “what is”. Oxfordians claim the Bard both lived his myth and re-expressed it in the canon. He develops all four of Frye’s “modes”: comedy, romance, tragedy, and irony/satire. [39] Adonis-Oberon/Bottom-Hamlet-Troilus/Hector-Anthony and Venus-Titania-Gertrude-Cressida-Cleopatra are artistic creations based on a real-life relationship. The perspective of the poets – that the Bard’s life was “an allegory” (Keats), a unique relationship of Spectre and Shadow (Blake); that his imagination was drawn to solve the deepest tragic issues (Williams), through the interior demands incumbent on a working-out of the “mythic equation” (Hughes) – appear to me to provide clinching concepts to reconcile apparently exclusive views arising from biographical and historical knowledge.
    • The present article is one reader’s response to a unique scenario. Broadly speaking, early in life I met a rather sentimental view of a chameleon, instinctive playwright, but now I have been shown the disaffected pariah, bastard, prodigy and nameless man who suffered an acute identity crisis – all for love. It cannot be gainsaid that the search for the human being behind the literary creations comes into sharp focus when, in the case of Hamlet, creation and creator unite.
    • If the historical records of the makings of our modern world have been manipulated, history needs re-writing, its implications for our age re-assessed. But this does not reduce art to biography and history. Do we really imagine the Shakespearean authorship question is superfluous, since we “have the plays”? Yet do we have them? For one lover of the Bard at least, the work of scholars to reveal the mythical and satirical inspirations of the flesh-and-blood author opens a deeper appreciation and renewed respect for that human being whose sacrifices led to sovereign art. Sitting at his feet, I learn even more about the creative process sustained against the heaviest odds. The Bard now emerges as probably the foremost subversive, dissident author – he is our contemporary.

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Why so many Hollywood relationship movies are box-office duds – latimes.com

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    • Studios these days are notoriously averse to risk. So why would Sony make a $30-million film based on the preposterous idea that the Earl of Oxford was the secret author of Shakespeare’s most popular plays?
    • So why did everyone spend so much money on such commercially questionable subject matter? That’s where relationships come in. No one at Sony had a burning desire to make a thriller about who wrote “Romeo and Juliet.” But the director of “Anonymous,” Roland Emmerich, has filled Sony’s coffers to the brim with box-office loot from such hits as “2012,” “Godzilla” and “The Patriot.”
    • “You have to believe in your talent,” she said. “I’m certainly not going to make a film that I don’t like. But when you have a relationship, something special comes out of that trust that you’ve built up over years of working together.”Pascal hedged her bets financially with “Anonymous,” which was co-financed by Relativity Media. But she says she has no regrets. “I believed in what Roland wanted to do. He had something fresh and entertaining to say, which is all you can ask for from a filmmaker.”

      In other words, Emmerich had enough money in the Sony bank to get the benefit of the doubt.

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The Bard Arthur and the Liar Phillips

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    • Something weird happened to me this summer.  I read the Tragedy of Arthur, the fifth offering by novelist Arthur Phillips.  It’s a play; no, an introduction to a play; no, a faux memoir, except that’s not entirely accurate either.  Whatever it is, it’s hard to pin down.  Either way, the basic premise of the book is that Arthur Phillips is given a long-lost Shakespearean play by his father, Arthur Phillips Sr.  Random House is publishing it, and given his role in bringing the play to light, Arthur Jr. has been contracted to write the introduction and annotations.  So far so clear.
    • what’s weird is that as I was arguing the Shakespeare authorship question with a staunch Oxfordian, I found myself quoting from rather absurd arguments in the Tragedy of Arthur, mistaking them for the content of Shapiro’s book.
    • Reading The Tragedy of Arthur as a novel is tricky, as all of the characters are real people, allegedly.
    • Away to some important plot elements.  We are told early on that Arthur, the protagonist, had a rather irregular relationship with his father.  Arthur, his father, a talented but luckless forger, has spent much of his life in jail.
    • One play that is of particular importance is The Most Excellent and Tragical Historie of Arthur, King of Britain, a curious play that has never before been seen by anyone other than Arthur Sr. and his children
    • We’re now a few decades in.  Arthur Jr. is a successful novelist and Arthur Sr. is serving a prison term for forgery.  Knowing he’s soon to expire, Arthur Sr. decides to let his son in on an important secret: the book he long ago bequeathed to Dana is a forgery.  Senior had made it from an actual first edition quarto that he found in an estate in England.  It is Arthur Jr.’s task to use his literary connections to see the original published.
    • Arthur, knowing his father’s history, has the play subjected to a battery of authentication tests,
    • Shapiro himself makes an appearance as the unnamed but readily identifiable “Brooklyn-born Ivy league Bardman.”
    • In his own review of The Tragedy of Arthur, James Shapiro tells the story of his contact with Phillips.
    • It seems Phillips was seeking Shapiro’s help in forging a play, the very same play that is included at the end of the novel/introduction.
    • The Tragedy of Arthur accomplishes something bold and quite ingenious.  With its nebulous lines between fiction and reality, the book attempts and succeeds in showing us just how possible it is to recreate Shakespeare and rewrite history.

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Anonymity and pseudonymity have a long history

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    • You can’t keep Anonymous down. The most recent heralded appearance of this ubiquitous author was as the title of a film that’s already faded, but not without kicking up debate about the claims of a band of Shakespeare Birthers that the real author of the most famous plays in the world was Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford. Given that Shakespeare’s name appeared on numerous printed versions of his plays during his lifetime, the film should have been called “Pseudonymous.”
    • Anonymity and pseudonymity have a long history. We think of medieval authors laboring anonymously, but even the first age of literary celebrities, the 18th century, was also paradoxically an age of anonymity. Book historian James Raven estimates that “over 80% of all novels published in Britain between 1750 and 1790 were published anonymously.”
    • Satirists such as Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope published anonymously, often for legal and political reasons. Anonymity protected Swift from arrest when a reward was offered for the author of his “Drapier’s Letters,” pamphlets advising the Irish not to take copper half-pence from England.
    • Journalism too was generally anonymous. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele were “Mr. Spectator” with an initial at the end of each daily Spectator essay providing a clue to the author’s identity.
    • Samuel Johnson, the subject of the world’s most famous literary biography, is far from unknown to literary history, yet until he was nearly 40, his name only appeared on a handful of his writings.
    • Johnson once responded in his “Rambler” to a letter seeking his identity by relaying “the answer of a philosopher to a man, who, meeting him in the street, desired to see what he carried under his cloak; ‘I carry it there,’ says he, ‘that you may not see it.’
    • Some popular and highly regarded novelists today try to see if their fans’ love extends beyond their personal brands by employing pseudonyms, and some compartmentalizing professors use them for mysteries.
    • Online, “nym wars” have erupted over the right to false identities on social media sites. A Syrian lesbian blogging on the “Arab Spring” turned out to be a middle-aged white man at Edinburgh University. And a shifting international flash mob of hacktivists, who briefly unite electronically for acts of civil disobedience, employ the most famous name of all unknown writers, Anonymous.

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Time’s Person of the Year and Shakespeare’s “Many-Headed Monster” | Renaissance Matters

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    • So I really love Time Magazine’s pick for person of the year, the Protester.
    • Kurt Andersen’s piece elaborating on Time’s choice of the Protester connects the dots so cogently among the seemingly disparate global protest movements.
    • But to return to the focus of this blog, connecting our present moment to that of the Early Modern, you know who really hated and fear protests, Shakespeare. Now, as most Shakespearean scholars would agree, it is nearly impossible to make any categorical, general statements about Shakespeare’s works. One cannot really make the claim that the “Shakespeare” who comes through in the plays and poems was a misogynist, or an anti-Semite, or a racist, or a Catholic, or a Protestant.
    • In his 1912 essay for the PMLA, Frederick Tupper, Jr. asserts that readers of Shakespeare “are one in their diagnosis of Shakespeare’s mob – that it is something disorganized, dangerous, unintelligent.” It is very difficult to dispute that Shakespeare saw pure anarchy in the “mob.”
    • Here are just some examples of Shakespeare’s depiction of protests:

      Coriolanus: When one is thinking about the haves and have-nots in Shakespeare’s plays, Coriolanus stands out. Shakespeare presents a Rome very much divided along economic class lines.

    • In an episode that Shakespeare borrows from his source, Plutarch’s Lives, Menenius Agrippa, spokesperson for the senate, tells a fable in which the different organs of the body riot against the stomach for hording all of the food.
    •  In comes Coriolanus, who has this to say about the plebeians’ demands for fair corn prices: “Hang ‘em!
    • When discussing Shakespeare’s disgust with social protests, one of my favorite scenes to talk about is from Julius Caesar.
    • Shakespeare chooses to open with two patricians Marullus and Flavius, berating a crowd of plebeians for their openly rejoicing in Caesar’s victory.
    • in the following scene we see the result of unleashing the vulgus. In a very dark bit a of comedy, Cinna, a poet, encounters the crowd that Antony has just addressed. The crowd confuses this Cinna for a different Cinna, one of the conspirators.
    • While the comedy in this scene reminds me of something worthy of Monty Python, Shakespeare speaks to an unsavory facet of crowd psychology – none of us is as cruel as all of us. A Shakespearean mob becomes an expression of a collective id, a mass of violent urges blindly seeking out a target.
    • To wrap things up, in Shakespeare the protester does not find a friend. What we may see as truly the distilled essence of our politics, the grass roots protesters sacrificing their lives to enact meaningful change, Shakespeare saw as the destruction of society.

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