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#1
Old 06-09-2003, 12:01 PM
pFd pFd is offline
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What is the worst work of William Shakespeare?

Well, the inquisitive daughter of my girlfriend stumped me again...

I ask you, my fellow ever-so-brilliant "Teeming Millions", what would be considered the worst play/work of William Shakespeare?

She was vague on whether she wanted know by todays standards or when he was alive.

All opinions welcomed!

(Mods- This is kind of a poll so please move if you see fit. thanks.)
#2
Old 06-09-2003, 12:06 PM
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I find the two long poems "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece" interminable.

If we are restricting the discussion to plays, then Titus Andronicus, The Merry Wives of Windsor or The Two Gentlemen of Verona ( though I don't dislike the last as much as most people).
#3
Old 06-09-2003, 12:32 PM
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I'm not a big fan of Two Gents or Love's Labors Lost - although LLL is the better of the two, most of it just doesn't strike me as funny. Some of the early history stuff ain't so great, neither [I think I'm thinking of the first two Henrys]. Titus is just weird - is it a spoof? Is it bad? Nobody seems to be sure.
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#4
Old 06-09-2003, 12:33 PM
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If he actually wrote it, Edward III was pretty bad. Henry VIII also isn't his best work.
#5
Old 06-09-2003, 12:36 PM
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I saw an excellent performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona recently. Even though the ending is a bit sucky the rest of the play was still helluva well done. I guess it all depends on the actors/director etc. They can make it quite decent with a bit of ingenuity and imagination.
#6
Old 06-09-2003, 12:43 PM
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Of all of his plays I've seen I've got to go with Two Gentlemen of Verona (and in fairness I haven't seen all of the histories, nor some of those that are of more questionable origin). While a decent troop can make it watchable and it's worth seeing if you're interested in Shakespeare just to observe the evolution of his work I can't recommend it to anyone. It has the elements that will show up regularly in later works but it lacks any of the richness that makes Shakespeare worth watching.
#7
Old 06-09-2003, 12:44 PM
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My personal least favourite is The Comedy of Errors. It just feels ... formulaic, really. As if it was written to fulfil a contractual obligation.
#8
Old 06-09-2003, 12:54 PM
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I like CoE. Heh, the thing with it is that (while Shakespeare didn't invent the form either), it's been done 60,000,000,000,000 times SINCE - and without a whole lot of variation. I think that could make it seem less funny than it is.
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#9
Old 06-09-2003, 01:14 PM
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Titus Andronicus

An on-stage rape, beheadings & misc. savagry. It could be a Hollywood blockbuster.

Instead, it sucks. A summary. Linky-link
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#10
Old 06-09-2003, 02:03 PM
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Re: Titus Andronicus

Quote:
Originally posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
An on-stage rape, beheadings & misc. savagry. It could be a Hollywood blockbuster.

Instead, it sucks. A summary. Linky-link
It has been done. The daughter let me borrow her 2 disk DVD copy yesterday. I haven't watched it yet...heard it is 'hella gory...it does star Anthony Hopkins, though.

linky-poo

I agree with those who said "Comedy of Errors". That was the only one that came to mind when she asked.

Thanks for the input you guys. It has helped!
#11
Old 06-09-2003, 02:27 PM
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I'd go with "Henry VIII," which isn't very interesting, and often seems to be little more than an attempt to curry favor with Queen Elizabeth I.
#12
Old 06-09-2003, 03:00 PM
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I seem to be alone on this, but I hate Henry V. It's a little too preachy and patriotic for my taste. Kind of a Tudor version of 'Rambo'.
#13
Old 06-09-2003, 03:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by astorian
I'd go with "Henry VIII," which isn't very interesting, and often seems to be little more than an attempt to curry favor with Queen Elizabeth I.
Which must have been difficult, as it was written about ten years after she died!

Actually -- I've done a bit of reading on this recently -- although the craze for history plays seems to have passed by the time of James' accession, after Elizabeth died there was a wave of fairly nostalgic plays about the Tudors. Heywood's two-part If You Know Not Me, You Know No Body (a celebration of Queen Elizabeth) is another example.

(If you want to talk about currying favor with the Queen, Richard III is probably a better case, although there you could also say it's not wise to portray the grandfather of the reigning queen in a bad light! And there were a few other things in the history plays, occasionally and wrongly dismissed as Tudor propaganda, that definitely set off the censors...)

I have a certain fondness for poorly regarded Shakespeare plays -- I genuinely like Titus Andronicus and especially Henry VI (see the Henry VIs in performance and then try to tell me they're boring) but if we're just going to talk about personal least favorites mine is Julius Caesar. I recognize its artistic merit but...argh.

(BTW, the rape in Titus is in fact offstage. )
#14
Old 06-09-2003, 03:22 PM
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You know, I hate to say this, but the more I think about it, I think Shakespeare's worst is Hamlet VI: The Revenge.
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#15
Old 06-09-2003, 03:55 PM
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Goodness, how could anybody not like Titus Andronicus? Heck, it's worth reading for the stage directions alone ("Enter a messenger with two heads and a hand.") And having seen two excellent performances of Love's Labour's Lost and one of Merry Wives, I'd say they both play better than they read.

I thought King John was singularly forgettable, but I don't really remember enough about it to offer any further criticism.
#16
Old 06-09-2003, 04:09 PM
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In my personal opinion:

"Love's Labour's Lost" was probably very funny then, but most of Shakespeare's references are impossible for us to understand now.

"Pericles" feels as if two different people wrote it (which probably was the case).

"Two Gentlemen of Verona" has some bad continuity flaws.

While not a dislike, I detest "Romeo and Juliet", probably due to overexposure.
#17
Old 06-09-2003, 04:14 PM
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Count me in as a Titus fan. One has to remember that it was an early work written very much to cash in on the craze for bloody revenge dramas begun by Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy. Bloody it may be, but there's no denying that Titus has a certain gusto in its gore.

The plays I don't care for are A Winter's Tale and Timon of Athens. They're both poorly plotted and tedious in the extreme.
#18
Old 06-09-2003, 04:14 PM
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Troilus and Cressida.
#19
Old 06-09-2003, 04:16 PM
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I wonder about the value of a thread like this. The longer it goes on, the more we find that Shakespeare is not well liked at all
V
#20
Old 06-09-2003, 05:06 PM
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Titus Andronicus

Judging by the message board poll so far, it seems "Titus Andronicus" is starting to be Shakespeare's "Plan 9 From Outer Space".
Then again, have all of the people responding read ALL 37 of Shakespeare's plays? (I know I haven't). Here's a link that lists all 37:
http://1728.com/page10.htm
Just a list, no summaries, critiques, etc.
#21
Old 06-09-2003, 05:16 PM
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Troilus and Cressida and Titus Andronicus both read like piss-takes. T&C is totally anti-heroic and sounds like the rantings of a very bitter man. I guess it depends on your personal bitterness how you like them. I think T&C is very funny (the Iliad played for laughs), although I'm not so big on the Jacobean blood thing of Titus.

You have to give him some points for making Love's Labours Lost rhyme, but the plot is awful and the play is deeply dull. But his comedies tend to be his earliest plays, and it's perhaps not surprising that his first works lack the psychological subtlety, wordplay and strong storylines that make most of his plays so great.

Othello makes no sense on several levels, from psychologically to chronologically. Coriolanus is also for me incredibly dull, with no decent poetry or speeches.

And I don't think anyone has ever had a good word to say about King John. Although I seem to remember it's quite short.
#22
Old 06-09-2003, 05:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by refusal
although I'm not so big on the Jacobean blood thing of Titus.
Sorry to be a pedant once again, but Titus is in fact Elizabethan, not Jacobean -- it's generally considered one of his earliest plays. Where it does fit in, though, is with the popular tradition of the gory revenge play -- for instance, Kyd's Spanish Tragedy (written in the late 1580s). Shakespeare's own Hamlet, of course, takes this tradition and turns it on its head, but Titus was his first crack at the genre -- indeed, his first attempt at tragedy. It was probably written in the early 1590s.

On preview, I note that gobear has already covered this point. Ah, well. I typed that paragraph, so why waste my labor?

And I don't know, Coriolanus had some poetry that stuck with me -- particularly Aufidius' speech to Coriolanus when C comes to the Volscian camp:

Let me twine
Mine arms about that body, where against
My grained ash an hundred times hath broke
And scarr'd the moon with splinters: here I clip
The anvil of my sword, and do contest
As hotly and as nobly with thy love
As ever in ambitious strength I did
Contend against thy valour. Know thou first,
I loved the maid I married; never man
Sigh'd truer breath; but that I see thee here,
Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold. Why, thou Mars! I tell thee,
We have a power on foot; and I had purpose
Once more to hew thy target from thy brawn,
Or lose mine arm fort: thou hast beat me out
Twelve several times, and I have nightly since
Dreamt of encounters 'twixt thyself and me;
We have been down together in my sleep,
Unbuckling helms, fisting each other's throat,
And waked half dead with nothing.


I mean, that's good stuff. (I should note, too, that my only experience with the play was through the RSC's recent production, which was exceedingly well-done.)

BTW, one of my sisters claims that King John is her favorite Shakespeare play. John is one of the ten or twelve I haven't read, but I told her she's about the only person in the whole world who'd say that. (It's amusing, too, that she thinks I'm weird because my favorite play is Richard II...)

The thing about threads like this is that I always feel compelled to come in and play Counsel for the Defense. Haven't even started on Dumbguy's assessment of Henry V...
#23
Old 06-09-2003, 05:34 PM
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I saw Troilus and Cressida, didn't like it.

As for Titus Andronicus, I had a TA in a theater class who said he thought that Shakespeare was just 500 years ahead of his time and what was needed was the invention of cinema to do it justice. Having said that, I must admit I never saw the movie Titus all the way through so I don't know whether I agree with him.
#24
Old 06-09-2003, 05:46 PM
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Re: What is the worst work of William Shakespeare?

Quote:
Originally posted by pFd
Well, the inquisitive daughter of my girlfriend stumped me again...

I ask you, my fellow ever-so-brilliant "Teeming Millions", what would be considered the worst play/work of William Shakespeare?

She was vague on whether she wanted know by todays standards or when he was alive.

All opinions welcomed!

(Mods- This is kind of a poll so please move if you see fit. thanks.)
i would have to say... "sleeping booty"
#25
Old 06-09-2003, 07:31 PM
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While I agree that King John is no masterpiece, I do find it readable for the character of Falconbridge.

And I see that Othello has been nominated. Now, that just ain't right.
#26
Old 06-09-2003, 07:50 PM
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Othello happens to be my favorite play by Shakespeare.

I find his comedies in general a bit boring and dull, especially Love's Labours Lost.

Count me as another one who strongly dislikes Romeo and Juliet, probably because of overexposure. It's certainly not his worst, but it's definitely not his best. We see it all over the place though.
#27
Old 06-09-2003, 07:54 PM
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What about Queen Alexandra and Murray?

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#28
Old 06-09-2003, 08:18 PM
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Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter
#29
Old 06-10-2003, 01:26 AM
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I have read all the plays (it was one of my life's goals) and my vote is for Henry VI Part 1. My first attempt at reading all of them in order was chronologically, and I never got through this one. Finally I read them in the order of a different complete works, and this went after Henry V (which I loved,) so I made it through. Joan of Arc considered as an evil, promiscuous witch is a bit off-putting. The rest aren't so bad. Henry VIII is second, for being boring. King John was funny in parts.

I recommend reading them all together. I was dreaming in blank verse by the time I was through.
#30
Old 06-10-2003, 04:20 AM
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West Side Story.

What ruined it for me: When Shakespeare had the hero running through the streets of east New York yelling "Maria! Maria!" ...and only one woman opened her window.
#31
Old 06-10-2003, 10:39 AM
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Without a doubt King John is the worst of the Histories. I would say Henry VIII if not for the heartbreakingly good final scene for the play's villian and only plot forwarding character Cardinal Wolsey.

I love Titus Andronicus may I say, though I'm also a huge fan of The Spanish Tragedy (The 1603 version with additions by Ben Johnson in particular.) But Timon Of Athens I have not time for whatsoever.

Personally, though I know it's one of his most popular and enduring plays, Midsummer Night's Dream gives me the irrits in a major way.
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#32
Old 06-10-2003, 10:53 AM
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Definatly Romeo and Juliet . The whole "two young people fall in love despite coming from groups that hate each other" is such a tired cliche, I can't believe the Bard used it.
#33
Old 06-10-2003, 11:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Leechboy
Personally, though I know it's one of his most popular and enduring plays, Midsummer Night's Dream gives me the irrits in a major way.
I'm not a big fan of Midsummer Night's Dream, but what redeems it is the peformance scene. The intentional awfulness just cracks me up, along with the MSTing by Theseus, Demetrius and Hippolyta

Quote:
This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.
#34
Old 06-10-2003, 11:06 AM
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Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet both work best as black comedies. (Comedies in the modern sense.) Especially at the end, when people are dying left and right.

Is it possible to spoil a Willie Shakes play in this day and age? Anyway, as a courtesy to you uncultured slobs, a spoiler box for my Titus commentary:
SPOILER:
The part at the end of TA when the queen is eating her ground-up sons in meat pies still makes me chuckle, not to mention the scene from the movie which shows the pies cooling on the windowsill like two of Mom's Best.
Of course, I also think TA would work if it were played as a spoof of the interminable Rambo flicks.

Tagline:"They killed his sons... Raped his daughter... Corrupted the Empire... It's payback time!"
Titus, played by a Rambo-esque Stallone look-alike: "Get me my meat grinder!"

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#35
Old 06-10-2003, 11:44 AM
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I've heard Timon of Athens cited as worst by folks who've read far more Shakespeare than me, but I can't vouch for that. Of the ones I've seen, Two Gentlemen of Verona stands out as the least impressive.

Personally, though, I liked Titus Andronicus, although I think the folks at Wendy's Japan were sleeping through lit class when it was taught. How else can you explain a hamburger restaurant agreeing to put up ads all over their shops for a movie like that?
#36
Old 06-10-2003, 11:50 AM
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Quote:
Definatly Romeo and Juliet . The whole "two young people fall in love despite coming from groups that hate each other" is such a tired cliche, I can't believe the Bard used it.
Yeah, I can't believe nobody sued him for ripping of West Side Story like that.

I have to second the earlier question- What the hell is Othello doing on this list?
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#37
Old 06-10-2003, 02:58 PM
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Is TITUS ANDRONICUS ever performed? I've never seen it.
Another point: there still seems to be arguement about the extent of Wm Skakespeare's playwriting..was he more of an editor than an author? People tell me that many of his plays bear close resemblances to other Elizabethan works ..Marlowes' JEW OF MALTA is supposedly very close in plot to THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. So, did Will Shakespeare plagiarize a lot?
#38
Old 06-10-2003, 03:06 PM
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Pericles, for whichever part of it is his fault.
#39
Old 06-10-2003, 03:09 PM
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A better question than what Othello is doing on this thread is what Julius Caesar is doing NOT on this thread?
#40
Old 06-10-2003, 03:27 PM
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Somebody already mentioned it.

Quote:
Another point: there still seems to be arguement about the extent of Wm Skakespeare's playwriting..was he more of an editor than an author? People tell me that many of his plays bear close resemblances to other Elizabethan works ..Marlowes' JEW OF MALTA is supposedly very close in plot to THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. So, did Will Shakespeare plagiarize a lot?
The fact that the plots are vaguely similar, which I'm told they are, does not make him an editor. Almost all of his plays were adapted from some source or other (The Tempest is almost totally original). Generally it was classical stuff (Comedy of Errors owes a lot to the Roman author Plautus; Romeo and Juliet comes from a poem called Romeus and Juliet, etc.)
Is that the same as plagiarism? No. The authors of West Side Story didn't plagiarize Shakespeare, they adapted his work. What Shakespeare did - especially when it came to re-telling classics, which is what you were *supposed* to do to prove you could write - was standard practice.

Another reason he's not an editor or a plagiarist is that the stuff he wrote is better and more interesting than the originals.

Here's some info from CampusNut.com comparing The Jew of Malta with Merchant:
Quote:
The primary dramatic influence on Shakespeare's play is undoubtedly a play, likely of 1589, by the other major playwright in Renaissance England, Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe's The Jew of Malta features Barabas, the "Jew" of the title, who is portrayed, like Shylock, as a scheming and sinister profiteer who ends up losing his daughter and paying for his crimes. Marlowe's play makes little of justice or of Barabas' humanity, representing his actions as a spectacle of rather extreme villainy (most infamously, Barabas poisons all of the nuns in a convent). Many readers have argued that Shakespeare's play is a deliberate reworking of Marlowe's, one that takes his rival playwright to task for his pandering anti-Semitism, and instead portrays Shylock as a human being, not, like Barabas, a caricatured Jew.
I don't think you can overstate how important this difference is. There are also several other plots in Merchant, and I'm not sure how many (if any) appear in Marlowe's play. Barabas is gleefully evil, Shylock is a grievously wronged man who goes too far in revenge.
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#41
Old 06-10-2003, 03:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dr. Rieux
Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter
Especially that bit with the dog...

I'd have to say "Timon of Athens". It's a snore-fest.

I used to dislike "Errors" but then I saw a wonderful production of it in LA. It changed my perspective on it.
#42
Old 06-10-2003, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Leechboy
Personally, though I know it's one of his most popular and enduring plays, Midsummer Night's Dream gives me the irrits in a major way.
Samuel Pepys was of your opinion. He claimed that it was "the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life".
#43
Old 06-10-2003, 03:59 PM
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I recently watched King John. What I said at the end was, "What sort of hack introduces character 45 seconds before the play ends?'. Add to the fact that to me at least, there was no clear cut villian in the play. King John is a great big jerk, (IMHO) but he is the ENGLISH king and wants to kick the FRENCH king ass. So I know Will's audience must have been pulling for John.

I also have problems with Macbeth. There is a string of characters introduced and then killed about 12 lines later. It's like he was writing cameos for the girlfriends of his investors. "Sure I'll write a part for her, no problem! I'll even give her a dramatic death scene." Although I do give it points for killing children on stage as I hate child actors.
#44
Old 06-10-2003, 04:09 PM
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Quote:
I also have problems with Macbeth. There is a string of characters introduced and then killed about 12 lines later. It's like he was writing cameos for the girlfriends of his investors. "Sure I'll write a part for her, no problem! I'll even give her a dramatic death scene." Although I do give it points for killing children on stage as I hate child actors.
This calls the character of Siward's son to mind, but that part is easily cut. The MacDuffs are introduced to be killed, but there wouldn't have been any other way to fit them in. That choice works for me.
To be fair, some of this may have to do with other people editing the play after Shakespeare's time - it's rather short for him, so it's suspected that that happened. [One or two insipid scenes in which the Three Sisters communicate with Hecate were also added, but few people perform these today.] On the upside, it's the shortest (I think)and most tightly constructed - and therefore most intense - of his tragedies.
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#45
Old 06-10-2003, 04:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Marley23
[One or two insipid scenes in which the Three Sisters communicate with Hecate were also added, but few people perform these today.]
The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival is staging Macbeth this year (I'm actually one of their guest lecturers -- go me!) and they left the Hecate scenes in. Kind of interesting -- I figure it's rather neat to see them performed, since it so rarely happens...

Zebra, you'll be interested to know that there are other plays about King John from the same period in which he was presented in a fairly heroic light -- he's depicted, sometimes, as sort of a proto-Protestant, for defying the Pope.

The Man With the Golden Gun -- I mentioned Caesar in my first post! More so for my personal distaste for it than for its lack of quality, though.
#46
Old 06-10-2003, 05:15 PM
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D'oh! I must have missed it, or read "Julius Caesar" as "not Julius Caesar" or something. Sorry bout that.
#47
Old 06-10-2003, 06:02 PM
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From an old Harvard Lampoon article, "Your Guide to Faking it at College" (no cite, it's from around about 1980): "Be aware that there are three Shakespeare plays that no one has ever read: King John, Titus Andronicus, and The Winter's Tale. Feel free to attribute random quotations to these."

As for that passage from Coriolanus that Katisha liked so much --

Let me twine
Mine arms about that body, where against
My grained ash an hundred times hath broke
And scarr'd the moon with splinters: here I clip
The anvil of my sword, and do contest
As hotly and as nobly with thy love
As ever in ambitious strength I did
Contend against thy valour. Know thou first,
I loved the maid I married; never man
Sigh'd truer breath; but that I see thee here,
Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold. Why, thou Mars! I tell thee,
We have a power on foot; and I had purpose
Once more to hew thy target from thy brawn,
Or lose mine arm fort: thou hast beat me out
Twelve several times, and I have nightly since
Dreamt of encounters 'twixt thyself and me;
We have been down together in my sleep,
Unbuckling helms, fisting each other's throat,
And waked half dead with nothing.


Ahem. Is it just me, or does this have homoerotic overtones? I mean, is this Will Shakespeare or Kit Marlowe? (I admit the use of the word "fisting" has connotations today that likely were absent in Shakespeare's time, but still!)
#48
Old 06-10-2003, 06:07 PM
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Oh, and I enjoyed The Tempest when I saw it performed, but afterwards it occurred to me to ask: Where's the conflict? Where's the suspense? Prospero just pulls everybody's strings with the greatest of ease until the play ends and he gets everything he wants.
#49
Old 06-10-2003, 06:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by BrainGlutton
Ahem. Is it just me, or does this have homoerotic overtones? I mean, is this Will Shakespeare or Kit Marlowe? (I admit the use of the word "fisting" has connotations today that likely were absent in Shakespeare's time, but still!)
Oh, it totally does. Marlowe didn't have a monopoly on homoeroticism, you know (although his Edward II is more overt than anything in Shakespeare)! Of course, love and war are the kind of things you see equated in poetry all the time -- sometimes, love is poetically described as war (there's an Ovid poem on this subject, translated by Marlowe and adapted by Donne), and sometimes, as here, it works the other way round...
#50
Old 06-10-2003, 08:22 PM
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Location: Behind the Zion Curtain
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I personally vote for Twelth Night. I think the version I saw back in the 80s had Helen Mirren in it.. but even so I still fell asleep...

TWICE!

Maybe it was just because it was on the TV.. I have to admit Shakespeare is a WHOLE lot more enjoyable in real life.
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