20 July 2008

The Shakespeare Wars and Brazil

As promised, a more detailed comment on Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars. I did really like this book - a little more elevated than the average layperson's book but not so full of Theory that's it was hard to read (and Rosenbaum doesn't seem to be a Theory fan). The arguements over what is or is not "Shakespearean" are extensive and Rosenbaum did a great job going through everything. The debate over how to print the plays was also interesting - I never realised that manuscript copies don't exist for the plays (I should have because there are no extant examples of Shakespeare's handwriting in manuscript form) and there are disagreements over whether the Folio or Quarto editions are the "best" or a conflated version of a play is necessary.

My favorite chapter is titled "The Spell of the Shakespearean in 'Original Spelling'" - a full debate over how to spell the actual words of the plays when printed. Elizabethan writers worked without a codified system of spelling or meaning and so a word could be spelled several ways. Complicating this is the idea that the plays were designed to be heard - when written down in prompt copies, it was probably not as crucial as it is today that the words be spelled correctly. Now when plays are printed, we read them with very concrete ideas about spelling and meaning. My favorite example used is from Richard II in the deposition scene; Henry Bolingbroke asks Richard if he is ready to resign the crown. In modern editions, Richard's reply is written as:

Ay, no, no ay; for I must nothing be...

However the 1608 Quarto edition reads:

I, no; no I, for I must nothing be...

There is also the idea that at least one of the "I/ay" words is meant to be "eye" - interesting no (this argument is taken from pages 254-256 in The Shakespeare Wars)?

Among other things, I also watched Brazil (I had started Secretary but about 20 minutes in I realized I was not in "that" type of mood and switched to something a little funnier). If I had not known it was a Terry Gilliam film, I would have guessed because the fantasy elements in Brazil are extremely similar to Baron Munchausen and the Monty Python movies. I thought the movie very funny but also very sad - the depiction of reliance on paperwork and computers to run the country hits very close to home today. The little touches of "our world" - Dickens's A Christmas Carol and the black-and-white movies shown on the telescreens - were also very poignant. Jonathan Pryce also gave a great performance as Sam Lowry, the poor civil servant caught between the cogs of his world.

Next week I'll be busy, busy - Conclave at IU!

Current book-in-progress: Rebecca (August BNBC) and The Green Knight (September BNBC), almost finished with Bambi vs. Godzilla and The Dead Father
Current knitted item: Tan linen evening bag
Current movie obsession: Hard Candy (so, yeah, this film is creepy - I'm about 30 minutes in and didn't expect it to take this type of turn already) then I'll go back and finish Secretary
Current iTunes loop: Filmspotting (a two episode Dark Knight review)

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