Looking for any1 who knows auther Orlando

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It is with real trepidation that I begin this chapter, for several reasons. One reason is that Shakespeare is among the greatest poets in history and it is always daunting and humbling to approach the works of such a poet—but of course the other chapters in this book also deal with great writers. Another, more important reason for my trepidation is that Shakespeare has become such an icon, both in the academic and non-academic worlds.

At my own college, Shakespeare is the only author who has two separate courses all to himself, and to many people, the name Shakespeare is synonymous with literature. This phenomenon has its positive side because Shakespeare was, after all, so great. It also has a negative side, however, because in deifying Shakespeare, we distort literary history. Yes, Shakespeare was a great poet, but so, in his time, were Sidney and Spenser; and so, in other times, were other writers.

For all his greatness, Shakespeare was as much a part of his time as any other great writer. He was a man of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries whose writings reflect sixteenth- and seventeenth-century modes of thought and, like the works of all great writers, say something to us as well.

Whether Shakespeare says these things better than anyone else, whether he says the same things to all people, and whether what he says is universally true are other questions that are worth considering, but the first task is to read the plays. One question that we might consider, however, is why Shakespeare is always taught in English literature classes. Should not Shakespeare, therefore, be studied as drama?

Should Shakespeare courses be taught in Theatre Arts departments rather than English departments? Such questions point to an unfortunate aspect of educational institutions, the division of knowledge into seemingly independent fields. The answer to the questions—or rather, my answer—is that the more ways we study Shakespeare, the better.

Shakespeare was a dramatist who wrote dramatic poems. If we treat them only as drama or only as poems, we distort Looking for any1 who knows auther Orlando. We must see them as both. This approach to Shakespeare, or to any drama, has many implications. I want to imagine Pip and Estella and London and the whole action of the novel as Dickens presents them to me, not as a director and a screenwriter reinterpret them for me, with all the cuts and adaptations that the move from novel to film requires.

Drama, on the other hand, was intended for performance and it is therefore vital to see the plays performed as well as to read them. We must remember, of course, that every production of a play is an interpretation of the play, and we may disagree with some of those interpretations.

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Seeing an interpretation with which we disagree still reinforces our sense of the drama in Shakespeare and helps us, when we read the plays, to read them dramatically. And certainly it is vital when we see a film version of a play to keep in mind the differences between film and stage. One helpful way to read these plays, or any play, is to pretend that you are a director trying to envision how the play should be performed. How should the lines be delivered? Where should the characters stand? What should they wear?

What should the settings look like? These are questions that must be considered in staging any play, but they are especially challenging in Shakespeare. None of these directions are in Shakespeare. Otherwise Shakespeare gives us nothing like modern stage directions, which means that as readers or directors we have many decisions to make, and some of these decisions are fairly difficult.

Let us consider just the matter of costumes. We know that the play is set in Rome and Egypt at the time of Augustus, so ancient Roman garb might seem appropriate. Each of these approaches to costuming has a clear rationale, and an inventive director might well have a rationale for yet another approach.

Similar questions can be raised about every other aspect of a production, which means that the attentive reader must constantly be making decisions about the text. Furthermore, that attentive reader should practice reading aloud. All poetry, as I said earlier, should be read aloud, but poetry that was intended for performance must be read aloud. More important than the pronunciation, then, are the rhythm of the language and the way the words work together. The reader should just be sure not to pause at the end of every line unless there is punctuation there that requires a pause.

Let me add a word about that word play. It used to be commonplace that Shakespeare included in his plays a kind of low humor, like puns or sexual innuendoes, to satisfy the lower classes, who could not be expected to understand the more profound implications of the plays. That view is simply incorrect.

But the humor, the sexual references, and the puns always have a meaning. A good example of the humor can be found in Macbethwhich so many people have read in high school. Just as Mr. Macbeth are killing the king, there is a knock at the gate and the drunken porter comes onstage to admit Macduff and Lennox to the castle.

In fact, whenever we come across a scene like this, a scene that seems so incongruous, we should concentrate on it, because such scenes frequently give us deeper insight into the plays. The plays teem with double-entendres and sexual references. But Romeo and Juliet is about, among other things, sex and brutality and the relationship between them, and this opening passage helps to prepare the way for what follows.

If we cut out or ignored every such passage, Romeo and Juliet would be a very short play indeed and Romeo and Juliet themselves might just as well be pen pals. But they are not. They are real people who feel real passions, as do the other characters in the play. If we read other dramatists from his era, even the best, like Marlowe and Webster, their characters seem more two-dimensional. Is Hamlet indecisive? Perhaps at times he is, but if he took clearer action, we would probably think him hetrong.

As it is, everyone in the play is fine as long as Hamlet dithers. It is only when he starts to act that the bodies begin to fall. Hamlet is not Superman. He is a real person trying to cope with an impossible situation. If he makes mistakes—and he does make mistakes—he does so because he is a human being, not because he is a towering figure who has a single overwhelming flaw.

Macbeth offers an even clearer case: rather than being a good man with a tragic flaw, Macbeth is a weak, ambitious man who has a few redeeming qualities. We can hardly say that ambition is his tragic flaw because ambition very nearly defines him, nor does anyone weep at his death. So was Shakespeare breaking the rules? The answer, of course, is certainly not. Shakespeare did not write to a formula, nor did he construct his lays by following rules.

Like all great writers, he knew the Looking for any1 who knows auther Orlando and used them to make his own rules. This is an old notion that may once have seemed helpful to readers but that, like the idea of a tragic flaw, has little to do with the reality of the plays.

We can make the plays fit the diagram, but only by distorting them. They were added later, when the plays were printed. Before we actually get to the plays, however, there are still several issues left to Looking for any1 who knows auther Orlando. I carefully turned the conversation in yet another direction, but if my questioner re this book, he will find an answer.

Almost without exception, Shakespeare took his stories from other sources. The history plays, of course, are based on various chronicles of English history, and the Roman plays are based on the work of historians like Plutarch, though Shakespeare made changes even in those sources, but the rest of the plays also have clear sources.

Some derive from earlier sources and some come from contemporary works. It is true that Shakespeare often combined stories from different sources in his plays, which is a kind of invention, but even so, he did not create the stories.

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In twenty-first-century terms, then, Shakespeare was a plagiarist and a thief. But Shakespeare did not write in the twenty-first century. It is only relatively recently in history that people have been so concerned about the originality of intellectual material. Furthermore, originality lay not so much in what story one was Looking for any1 who knows auther Orlando but in how one told the story.

If we think back to Greek drama, we can see that the playwrights all relied on mythological stories for their plots. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides each have a play based on the story of Electra, but those plays differ tremendously, sometimes commenting on each other. So it is with Shakespeare. It makes no difference that the stories were used elsewhere. What is important is the way that Shakespeare tells them, the poetry he uses, the twists he makes in the plots, his insights into the characters and their actions.

This is a difficult question to answer, since no one interviewed those audiences as they left the theatre and there was no London Times to review the plays. Clearly Shakespeare was considered an important dramatist, though drama was not considered in his time to have the high status of other forms of literature. We must remember that Shakespeare lived in a time before videotape, before instant replays.

He would have expected his audience to see his plays once, not to read them, not to buy the DVD, not to wait for the movie. In those circumstances, could anyone, even in a more oral culture than our own, have grasped the full subtleties of the plays? Of course not. Even today, with printed editions and recorded performances, we cannot grasp them fully. Nonetheless, the plays were obviously considered good entertainment.

Apparently Shakespeare made a living from them. Or did he? Did a country actor named William Shakespeare really write these plays? This is actually a non-question. The answer makes no difference at all, and the question only concerns people who prefer not dealing with the plays. If the plays are so brilliant that we cannot believe they were written by a country actor, they are so brilliant that we cannot really imagine the mind that did create them. If that good-looking bald actor did not create them, then someone else did. What matters is the plays. It is Early Modern English, and, aside from notoriously obscure passages, it is not all that difficult.

Furthermore, modern editions of Shakespeare modernize his spelling. If reading a modernized Shakespeare seems difficult, get a facsimile of the First Folio and read that. The modernized version will very quickly begin to seem easier. Another, more important, problem has to do with determining what Shakespeare wrote.

The quick response is that we often do not know, which is a big problem when we come to do close readings of the texts. Many of the plays were not printed until long after Shakespeare had died, but even for those that were printed earlier, we do not know how involved Shakespeare was in preparing the texts for publication. In those plays for which we have more than one early edition, the texts are often quite different.

The painting itself is relatively easy once the preliminary work has been done. I have spent a long time on preliminaries here so that the reading itself might be easier and more enjoyable. Now it is time to turn to the plays. I have chosen two to discuss in the hope that if readers enjoy these plays, they will read others. I chose the former because the comedies are important and not taught as often as they should be, and this is just a wonderful play.

I chose the latter because it is a great tragedy, but it is not as well-known as HamletMacbeth, King Learor Othello. His earliest comedy was The Comedy of Errorsbased largely on work by the Roman playwright Plautus. Although numerous comedies were written in fifth-century BCE Greece, very few have survived, and they are all by Aristophanes.

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