Shakespeare as a Social Thinker

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Shakespeare as a Social Thinker

Post by e_dog » June 21st, 2005, 11:55 pm

Shakespeare was of course a great poet and dramatist, but his drama was not mere entertainment or moralizing. He was perhaps one of the greatest social observers of all time; his lines and plots and characters embody some of the most insightful representations of the human nature, conditions and institutions. The Bard was a political scientist and practicioner of gender studies at a time when these disciplines did not quite exist.
I don't think 'Therefore, I am.' Therefore, I am.

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Post by e_dog » July 8th, 2005, 1:51 pm

having re-thought things, the above statement needs some qualifications. some of his plays are deeply flawed by bias and bigotry in some instances. the key is that these works are texts that can be used by current readers, producers, audience, to observe their own world and -- even if contrary to the author's intent, which is at any rate, often too conceled by irony and subtlety to be discerned with certainty -- learn therefrom.

for example, the Taming of the Shrew is probably a misogynist play. But it can be adapted as a parody or satire of patriarchy and thus transformed into a feminist statement.

another example, even more controversial. The Merchant of Venice is typically read as an anti-semitic play. (Strangely enough, Harold Bloom accepts this interpretation, and yet still compares Shakespeare to a veritable artist-God; see the Preface to the second edition of Bloom's Anxiety of Influence.) or, the play can be adapted in such a way as to be a statement of humanism, and thus constituting a critque of anti-semitism, by portraying Shylock as a sympathetic figure rather than a villain, and at any rate highlighting the villany of Christian anti-semitism. this is what the recent film version of the Merchant of Venice tried to do (starring Al Pacino as Shylock and Jeremy Irons as the merchant). (whether it was successful at this attempt, i am not sure.)

the history of cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare is an interesting one. although i am sure some thespians would regard it as a crude misuse of the drama of the theatre, there is little reason to suspect that Shakespeare wouldn't have been a filmmaker if such a medium existed in his day. the aesthetic value of these adaptation ranges from the beautiful (Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet) to the disastrous (the Romeo and Juliet of Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes); with casting decisions, and acting performances, that range from the ridiculous (Mel Gibson as Hamlet) to the surprisingly sublime (Marlon Brando as Antony in the version of Julius Caesar by director Joseph Mankiewicz).
I don't think 'Therefore, I am.' Therefore, I am.

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Post by e_dog » June 4th, 2006, 4:43 pm


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Post by Artguy » June 13th, 2006, 8:35 pm

Rather enjoyed the ultra modernist tilt of the Leo and Clare version ...the sexiest guns i have ever seen....and Romeo as trailer trash??? It does'nt get any campier....

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