Shakespeare_After_All.pdf - ACCLAIM FOR MARJORIE GARBER'S Shakespeare After All \u201cA return to the times when the critic's primary function was as an

Shakespeare_After_All.pdf - ACCLAIM FOR MARJORIE GARBER'S...

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Unformatted text preview: ACCLAIM FOR MARJORIE GARBER'S Shakespeare After All “A return to the times when the critic's primary function was as an enthusiast, to open up the glories of the written word for the reader.” —The New York Times “A lifetime of learning has gone into the production of this massive volume.… Garber is sensitive to significant details in the language … and she gives cogent accounts of historical contexts.” —The Boston Globe “She lights up the plays with insights you'll kick yourself for not having had first.” —Newsweek “A delight…. Polished, thoughtful, eminently useful…. Not only a wonderful guide to the plays, but just as importantly, it's a guide to the reading of the plays…. Garber writes elegantly and insightfully…. The reader seeking an informed guide to each play simply can not do better.” —The Providence Journal “Impossibly full … engagingly written…. It fills you with gratitude on virtually every page. Here, in a book, is a Shakespearean course for our time.” —The Buffalo News “An absolute joy…. Extremely lively and witty…. Remarkable…. Authoritative.” —Tucson Citizen “Stimulating and informative.” —The Charlotte Observer “Garber keeps her eye on the goal, to illuminate the experience of reading and seeing the plays, and achieves it with quiet efficiency.” —San Jose Mercury News “A commanding performance, not to be missed…. Garber brings the Bard into our hearts…. Fascinating.” —Republican-American (Waterbury, CT) “Shakespeare After All is worth the cost for the introduction alone.” —South Florida Sun-Sentinel “Every page has something that will make you rethink what you've seen or read, or make you want to read a work for the first time.” —The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) “Her chapters on individual plays have the rhythm of the classroom and the voice of the master teacher who still marvels at her subject.” —The Bloomsbury Review Shakespeare After All Marjorie Garber is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and American Literature and Language and chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. She lives in Cambridge and Nantucket, Massachusetts. ALSO BY MARJORIE GARBER A Manifesto for Literary Studies Quotation Marks Academic Instincts Sex and Real Estate Symptoms of Culture Dog Love Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety Shakespeare's Ghost Writers: Literature as Uncanny Causality Coming of Age in Shakespeare Dream in Shakespeare For B. J., the onlie begetter Indeed all the great Masters have understood that there cannot be great art without the little limited life of the fable, which is always the better the simpler it is, and the rich, far-wandering, many-imaged life of the self-seen world beyond it. William Butler Yeats, “Emotion of Multitude” CONTENTS A Note on the Text Introduction The Two Gentlemen of Verona The Taming of the Shrew Titus Andronicus Henry VI Part 1 Henry VI Part 2 Henry VI Part 3 Richard III The Comedy of Errors Love's Labour's Lost Romeo and Juliet A Midsummer Night's Dream Richard II King John The Merchant of Venice Henry IV Part 1 Henry IV Part 2 The Merry Wives of Windsor Much Ado About Nothing Henry V Julius Caesar As You Like It Hamlet Twelfth Night Troilus and Cressida Measure for Measure Othello All's Well That Ends Well Timon of Athens King Lear Macbeth Antony and Cleopatra Pericles Coriolanus Cymbeline The Winter's Tale The Tempest Henry VIII (All Is True) The Two Noble Kinsmen Notes Suggestions for Further Reading Acknowledgments A NOTE ON THE TEXT THERE ARE MANY excellent modern editions of Shakespeare's plays. In the Suggestions for Further Reading at the end of this book I list several of the best-known, most reliable, and most available recent editions, with the expectation that a reader of this book may already own a copy of the collected works of Shakespeare or individual editions of the plays. The act, scene, and line numbers cited in the chapters that follow refer to The Norton Shakespeare (1997), itself based on the text of The Oxford Shakespeare (1986), but readers who own or have access to other editions will be able to find the quoted passages without difficulty. Line numbers may vary slightly, since lines of prose will be of differing lengths depending upon the width of the printed page or column. For textual variants and alternative readings from Quarto or Folio texts, readers should consult the textual notes in any good modern edition. When citing the names of characters in the plays, I have occasionally departed from the choices made by the Norton editors, preferring, for example, the more familiar “Brabantio” to “Brabanzio” in Othello, “Gratiano” to “Graziano” in The Merchant of Venice , “Ancient” Pistol to “Ensign” Pistol in Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V, and “Imogen” to “Innogen” in Cymbeline. I have also chosen to quote from the 1623 Folio edition of King Lear instead of the Norton Shakespeare's conflated version. All biblical citations, unless noted otherwise, are from the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible. Although it is not possible to know with certainty the chronology of composition of the plays— or even, sometimes, of their performance—the sequence given here follows the order suggested by The Norton Shakespeare with the exception of a few minor changes. For the convenience of the general reader Henry VI Part 1 is discussed before Part 2 and Part 3, even though it was written after them. The Norton editors place The Merry Wives of Windsor between Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2, but I have elected, again for reasons of readerly convenience, to discuss the two history plays in adjacent chapters. In this case the plays in question—Merry Wives and 2 Henry IV-—are dated in the same years, so there is no significant disruption of chronology. With Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, two plays thought to have been written in the same time period, I have reversed the Norton's order, choosing to discuss Shakespeare's love tragedy before moving on to his great comic send-up of “tragical” love. Likewise, I discuss Cymbeline before The Winter's Tale. Modern scholars differ about which of these two plays was written first; each was performed in 1611. But such changes are a matter of editorial discretion and do not affect the argument for a generally historical sequence. Readers should bear in mind that the dating of the plays is in many cases still highly speculative and controversial, and that it is therefore difficult to draw firm conclusions about Shakespeare's development as a playwright from this, or any, order of the plays. The presentation of plays in this volume follows the practice of the Norton, Oxford, and other recent editions in grouping the plays by approximate chronology rather than according to genres like comedy, history, tragedy, and romance, with the intent of allowing the reader to observe the use of images, staging, and language across genres in the course of Shakespeare's theatrical career. Introduction EVERY AGE creates its own Shakespeare. What is often described as the timelessness of Shakespeare, the transcendent qualities for which his plays have been praised around the world and across the centuries, is perhaps better understood as an uncanny timeliness, a capacity to speak directly to circumstances the playwright could not have anticipated or foreseen. Like a portrait whose eyes seem to follow you around the room, engaging your glance from every angle, the plays and their characters seem always to be “modern,” always to be “us.” “He was not of an age, but for all time.” This was the verdict of Shakespeare's great rival and admirer, the poet and playwright Ben Jonson, in a memorial poem affixed to the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays. “Thou art a monument without a tomb,” wrote Jonson, And art alive still, while thy book doth live, And we have wits to read, and praise to give. We might compare this passage to Shakespeare's own famous lines in Sonnet 18, the sonnet that begins “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” and ends: So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. The sonnets have indeed endured, and given life to the beloved addressee, but it is the sonnet that praises him, not the unnamed “fair youth” to whom the sonnet is written, that lives on in our eyes, ears, and memory. Both “of an age” and “for all time,” Shakespeare is the defining figure of the English Renaissance, and the most cited and quoted author of every era since. But if we create our own Shakespeare, it is at least as true that the Shakespeare we create is a Shakespeare that has, to a certain extent, created us. The world in which we live and think and philosophize is, to use Ralph Waldo Emerson's word, “Shakspearized.” “I have a smack of Hamlet myself, if I do say so,” wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Goethe thought so, too, and so did Sigmund Freud. So, indeed, did the actress Sarah Bernhardt, who, having played the role in a celebrated production in France in 1899, and again in London in 1901, declared that she could not imagine Hamlet as a man. But perhaps Hamlet, a play that from the Romantic era on has been established as the premier Western performance of consciousness, is too obvious a case to make the point. The Macbeths have become emblems of ambition, Othello a figure for jealous love, Lear a paradigm of neglected old age and its unexpected nobilities, Cleopatra a pattern of erotic and powerful womanhood, Prospero in The Tempesta model of the artist as philosopher and ruler. Romeo and Juliet are ubiquitous examples of young love, its idealism and excess. But if Shakespeare seems to us in a surprising way so “modern,” it's because in a sense his language and his characters have created a lexicon of modernity. This is a book devoted in part to exploring the remarkable omnipresence of Shakespeare in our lives. King Lear as written and performed in its original historical context was concerned with pressing questions for the seventeenth century, like absolute monarchy, and royal succession and the obligations of vassals. For most citizens of the twenty-first century, “king” is an archaic title, as it emphatically was not for the subjects of James I, under whose patronage Shakespeare's company, the King's Men, performed and prospered. Mid-twentieth-century readers often translated “king” into “father,” seeing the drama as one centered on the family rather than the realm. Lear's railing against the heavens has often been understood as existential. At various moments Lear became a sign of male power, of the pathos of aging, even of the end of an actor's career. “King Lear” is a cultural icon, cited by philosophers, legislators, and politicians, as well as literary scholars—and gerontologists and therapists. The character has a cultural life derived from, but also distinct from, the play. The Merchant of Venice is another powerful example of the translatability of these plays. The first Shylock was a comic butt, who may have appeared in a red fright wig and a false nose, the standard signs of Jewishness on the Elizabethan stage. Shylock was played as a comic figure until the mid-eighteenth century, when the actor Charles Macklin transformed him into a villain. Only in the nineteenth century did Shylock become a sympathetic or a tragic figure, masterfully portrayed by Edmund Kean in a performance that impressed Romantic authors like Coleridge and William Hazlitt. (It was Coleridge who said that Kean had the gift of revealing Shakespeare by flashes of lightning.) The early twentieth century saw empathetic productions of the play in the Yiddish theater, as well as a monstrous Shylock performed in Weimar under the aegis of Nazi Germany. After the Holocaust an anti-Jewish portrayal of this figure seems almost unimaginable —which is not to say that it will not be attempted. The point is that the play has changed, along with the times. The Merchant of Venice itself has a history, a kind of cultural biography that has transformed it from its moment of origination. Although we can revisit and understand the context of production and of belief, from the sixteenth century and indeed from the sources that preceded Shakespeare, this play, like all the others, is a living, growing, changing work of art. The role it plays for contemporary readers, audiences, and cultural observers is to a certain extent a reflection of its own history. The same is true with Othello. The question of Othello's particularity as a black man and a Moor has been balanced against a certain desire to see him as a figure of universal humanity. This tendency toward generalization was in part an homage to Shakespeare, seen as a portrayer of universal types, and also a liberal shift away from racial stigmatizing, an attempt to dissociate the play from any tinct of bias. Earlier eras saw all too vividly the hero's color, especially in places, like the United States, where race and inequality had for a long time been issues of national concern. In the later twentieth century, critics have emphasized the context of cultural oppression in the play, while others have wrestled with Othello's tendency to acquiesce with assumptions of his inferiority. Black actors like James Earl Jones and Laurence Fishburne have displaced the blackface portrayals of the past. Productions still sometimes depict the character as consumed with self-doubt, but the heroic Othello has returned to the stage and screen—an Othello often portrayed as culturally identified with blackness and with his titular role as “the Moor of Venice.” One more familiar example, that of The Tempest , may serve to reinforce this general observation about the changing and growing nature of the plays, and their place as cultural “shifters,” expanding their meanings as they intersect with new audiences and new circumstances in the world. After years as the premier art fable of Shakespearean drama, The Tempest, the story of an artist/creator often movingly described as “Shakespeare's farewell to the stage” (although at least one more play would be written and staged by his company before what scholars think may have been his retirement to Stratford), The Tempest was reconsidered, in the later twentieth century, as a reflection upon English colonial explorations and “first encounter” narratives of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. This reconsideration was framed in part by responses to colonial and postcolonial issues in the twentieth century, the century in which, and from which, critics and performers now regarded the play. Caliban's otherness was now celebrated as difference rather than as cultural immaturity. Pros-pero's famous concession, “This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine,” is addressed apparently to Caliban, but—as we will see—the “thing of darkness” is also something Prospero encounters in his own mind and soul. It is important to underscore the fact that postcolonial readings did not render the earlier understandings and resonances of The Tempest obsolete. Rather, they augmented, added nuance, questioned verities, such as Prospero's wisdom and ideal mastery, and even toyed with the idea of reversals of power, giving Caliban and his co-conspirators an alternative voice in the play. Aimé Césaire's Une Tempête and Roberto Fernández Retamar's Calibán both give Shakespeare's Tempest full-fledged postcolonial rewritings. The hallmark of a complex work of art is that it can not only endure but also benefit from any number of such strong rereadings. This, indeed, is one appropriate instrumental test of what we have come to call “greatness” in art and literature. But where did “Shakespeare” stand on these questions? As I will suggest throughout the chapters that follow, the brilliant formal capacities of drama are such that the playwright's voice is many voices. Shakespeare is Prospero, Caliban, Ariel, and the wondering Miranda. He is Othello, Desdemona and Iago, Shylock, Portia and Antonio. One of the tremendous achievements of these remarkable plays is the way one view will always answer another. Desdemona and Emilia debate women's virtue from the “ideal” and “realist” viewpoints. Neither is definitively right. Both are “Shakespeare.” No sooner does Ulysses laud the universal value of “degree” and hierarchy than, in the next moment, he argues that the inferior Ajax be substituted for the incomparable Achilles. What is Shakespeare's own view of such political questions? The answer —which is not an answer—lies in his plays. Yet so powerful has been the cultural effect of these plays that readers, critics, actors, and audiences often seek to align their meanings with Shakespeare's biography. In some eras, including our own, there has been a tendency, indeed a desire, to read the plays as indicators of Shakespeare's mood, life crises, and frame of mind. Thus Thomas Carlyle asked rhetorically, “[H]ow could a man delineate a Hamlet, a Coriolanus, a Macbeth … if his own heroic heart had never suffered?”1 Certain passages in Hamlet, King Lear, and Troilus and Cressida were once taken as evidence of a certain “sex horror” on the part of the author, and were traced to his ambivalent relationship to his wife. The “last plays,” including the sublimely beautiful Winter's Tale and The Tempest —not to mention Pericles, the most popular of Shakespeare's plays in his lifetime—were dismissed out of hand by certain early-twentiethcentury commentators like Lytton Strachey as infallible indications of the sad decline of a oncegreat writer who turned to the genre of romance out of boredom. The political, cultural, and social views of our own era are likewise grafted onto our Shakespeare, who has been, or has become, a keen analyst of power and gender. In essence, and in effect, we cannot resist creating our own Shakespeare. Again, I want to insist that this is a sign of strength in both playwright and critic, not a condition to be deplored or seen through. The conditions of the stage in Shakespeare's lifetime unquestionably shaped the kinds of plays and characters he produced. No women were permitted to perform on the English public stage. All the female roles in his plays were written for and performed by boy players, skilled adolescent apprentices with high voices that had not yet “cracked,” or changed. And yet Shakespeare created classic female characters who have become models of speech and conduct across the centuries, from the “shrew” Katherine to the loving daughters Cordelia and Miranda to Juliet, the modern paradigm of romantic love and longing. The many cross-dressed roles in the plays took advantage of this material and historical fact, allowing both maleness and femaleness to be bodied forth in performance, and leading, in subsequent centuries, to a particular admiration for the liveliness and initiative of these Shakespearean women. Rosalind, played by a boy actor, cross-dresses as the boy “Ganymede” to enter the Forest of Arden; Portia, played by a boy actor, cross-dresses as the young doctor of laws to enter the courtroom in Venice; Viola, played by a boy actor, cross-dresses as the young man “Cesario” in Illyria; Imogen, played by a boy actor, cross-dresses as the boy “Fidele” in the Welsh hills. The theaters were closed after 1642 during the Puritan Revolution, and when they reopened, after the restoration of the monarchy with the accession of Charles II in 1660, actresses did appear in female roles. Thomas Coryate, an English traveler in Venice, reported in 1608 that he “saw women acte, a thing that I never saw before—though I have heard that it hath been sometimes used in London—, and they performed it with as good a grace, action, gesture, and whatsoever convenient for a Player, as ever I saw any masculine Actor.” 2 Some traditionalists of the time decried the change, claiming that the boys had done a better job of playing women. Female identity on the stage had become...
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