Monday was positively jam-packed. At 9:00 David Schalkwyk (who I have since seen lurking around the library), editor of The Shakespeare Quarterly and author of Speech and Performance in Shakespeare's Sonnets, began with a personal anecdote, about being asked to read a sonnet on the occasion of his son's wedding. This was not an easy selection because when the sonnets are read they come out in the voice of the reader. There is a distinction between what is spoken in a play and in a sonnet. I, personally, am grateful to Mr. Schalkwyk for clarifying the distinction in formallity between the usage of "thee" and "you", much as French has an informal "tu" and a formal "vous". So "thee would be used when speaking to one of lower status, such as a servant, or one you are quite familiar with, such as a lover. "You" would be used if speaking to someone on equal or higher social footing. Schalkwyk traced the pattern of this usage throughout the series of sonnets which are directed to a young man, as a way of drawing conclusions about the evolution of the relationship.
I believe we then had a tour of the research rooms and systems in the library, and then spent the remainder of our time in both lecture / demonstration, and working collaboratively to try out the methodologies of Mary Ellen Dakin, English teacher at Revere HS and author of Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults and Reading Shakespeare Film First. Ms. Dakin said her essential question is "How should we read Shakespeare in the 21st century with all our students? Her answer, in a nutshell, was to suggest we use a triangle:
You might imagine that there are arrows showing the regular movement in both directions from point to point on this triangle. There are many ways teachers can embrace this; Dakin said you might start with still images, but she had brought 5 flip cameras with her so that we could try a full on film-making project. We were given about one hour before lunch and another hour after lunch to make a film about the making of a film, in a sense. So the film showed our groups working and discussing the scene we were assigned, and also interviewing experts and amateurs, rehearsing, and finally shooting our final project. We edited all of this together after lunch and then showed the results. I have to say, I loved working with my group, Robert, Kim, and Charlene, on our scene from The Taming of the Shrew. I wish I could link to the film so you all could see it! The most exciting thing we discovered in this process was that the rehearsal and production process entails many close readings, and students will be sure to reach deep understandings of complex literature in this way. Next thing we knew, like Hermes, Dakin was off like a flash to her next location
I, and several other of us campus dwellers, elected to not board the bus but eat dinner not far from the Folger, so as to stay for an evening lecture by Ralph Allen Cohen (who I introduced to you in my previous blog, as the driving force behind Blackfriar's Theatre in Staunton, VA) on the Blackfriars area of London during Shakespeare's time. This coincided with the current show in the exhibition hall at The Folger on The City. This part of the city, springing from the loins of the original Dominican monastery, was free from the laws of the Privy Council, thus offered freedom for theatre and other nefarious pleasures, such as painting studios, glass blowers, apothecaries, feather makers, and
On Tuesday Jay Halio, who wrote, among other things, Understanding Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, which I consulted yesterday in my research, presented the morning lecture on Staging The Merchant of Venice. The big question is, do you stage it as a tragedy or a comedy? For the first performances, did Will Kempt, who played the clown roles play Shylock or Lancelot Gobo? Was Shylock presented as a comic villain, as some think? Or as a tragic hero as is more often the case? Shakespeare, himself, who often took an older role, may have played Antonio.
An interesting comparison was made to Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, which was notably anti-semetic and was revived around 1592 or 93, at the same time that Queen Elizabeth's personal physician, Roberto Lopez, a converso, or Jew converted to Catholicism, was hanged, drawn, and quartered, for supposedly attempting to poison her majesty, though she never believed it. In Elizabethan England Jews were aliens, and had to wear yellow armbands to distinguish them.
There were many other interesting point to Jay's lecture, and it was a pleasure to discuss them in our new seminar groups with Margaret Mauer. We decided our main points would be
* Sympathies toward characters?
* Parallel Marital Situations of Portia and Jessica
* Love and Finance Language
* Portia as a character.
Margaret led off by saying: "Theories of comedy are no laughing matter."
Several of us were quite happy to forgo sandwiches and lunchtime colloquium for our "Free Lunch Tuesday," and met up a Sweet Salads. After lunch we divided into Montagues and Capulets. I, with the Capulets, joined Caleen Jennings in the Theatre. I am sworn to secrecy regarding what we did there, but suffice it to say, I came out a much freer actor than I was before.