Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Volume 26, Issue 1, 2014
Volumes & issues
Volume 26, Issue 1, 2014
Author Chris ThurmanSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp III –IV (2014)More Less
Readers may be surprised to find in this volume an article by Guy Butler, who died in 2001 and whose work on Shakespeare was last published in 1994. Here I claim a certain editorial licence. I discovered Butler's "Macbeth: 'The great doom's image'" and other previously unpublished pieces a few years ago while researching material for South African Essays on 'Universal' Shakespeare. For various reasons it could not be included in that book, but a reviewer's comment on the manuscript (notes for a lecture first delivered in 1976) encouraged me to consider it for this journal. One of the aims of South African Essays on 'Universal' Shakespeare is to reflect the changing nature of Shakespeare studies across various 'generation gaps'. The book presents Butler as a representative of earlier generations of South African Shakespeare teachers, theatre-makers and scholars, placing his work in dialogue with that of current Shakespeareans and attempting to discern marks of continuity as well as of disruption.
Author Todd A. BorlikSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 1 –12 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.1More Less
As astounding as it may sound, the classic 1956 sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, which teleports The Tempest to outer space, did not mark the first time Shakespeare left Earth's orbit. In 1852, four years after the publication of The Apotheosis of Shakespeare - a high-water mark of Victorian Bardolatry - Frank Feather Dally's grandiose vision of Shakespeare's ascension to the heavens would come true. As if cued by Dally's poem, John Herschel - the son of William Herschel, the famed discoverer of Uranus - proposed naming the four Uranian satellites then known after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope: Titania, Oberon, Ariel and Umbriel. Since Pope, however, lifted the name Ariel from the ethereal fairy-servant in Shakespeare's Tempest, arguably three of the four are Shakespearean. The tradition would be formally ratified by the International Astronomical Union in 1948, when the Dutch astronomer Gerard Kuiper discovered a fifth moon and elected to name it Miranda after the heroine of The Tempest. Over the past few decades, thanks to the 1986 Voyager 2 mission and the celestial vistas unveiled by the Hubble Telescope, Shakespeare's Uranian progeny have continued to grow. To date, 22 additional Uranian satellites have been discovered; of these, only one (Belinda) has been dubbed after a character in Pope's Rape of the Lock, while the remaining 21 have been christened after the dramatis personae of Shakespeare. And thereby hangs a tale.
Author Sandra YoungSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 13 –26 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.2More Less
The idea of my writing about Hamlet failed to impress at least one potential reader: a novelist friend of mine dismissed with a cynical quip any expertise I might have hoped to imply in telling her the subject of my research: "Everyone is an expert on Hamlet - anyone who has had a minor Oedipal temper tantrum." Though scholars would not necessarily be so quick to dismiss Hamlet's turmoil, there is indeed something about the play that is deeply familiar. Commenting on the language and preoccupations of the play, Marjorie Garber writes that "the experience of Hamlet is almost always that of recognition ... It could be said that in the context of modern culture - global culture as well as Anglophone culture - one never does encounter Hamlet 'for the first time'."
Author Sarah RobertsSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 27 –57 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.3More Less
The Julius Caesar Project was a fourth year student production at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2013. It sought to harness the delivery of thoroughly assimilated dialogue with improvised staging, adopting Brook's proposition of a play as a "knot of energy". The production functioned as a crucible through which the medium of theatre could be tested and the relationship between performer and audience was among the key phenomena being probed. We wished to challenge assumptions regarding conventions of passive spectatorship and meaning-making on the part of the audience. We were committed to proving the accessibility of the play in contemporary terms. Our goal was to interpret a Renaissance view of Imperialism through the prism of our own experiences of post-colonial South Africa and Johannesburg in particular. More ambitiously, the production set out to contest the notion of fixity by resolving that all individual character roles should be spontaneously (and variously) taken on in each of the ten performances. Any single electronic recording of a performance would, accordingly, seem to be an inappropriate (and even misleading) record of the experiment, since each night prompted radical reformulations in staging. This article attempts an overview of the reference points, methodology and outcomes of the work.
Author Derrick HigginbothamSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 59 –73 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.4More Less
Performance politics has been a part of the historical reception of Shakespeare's Richard II since its probable composition in 1595. Notably, critics commonly connect this play to a request made in February 1601 by a group of the Earl of Essex's supporters, asking the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Shakespeare's acting troupe, to present a drama at the Globe theatre about the deposing and killing of Richard II. This drama might have been Shakespeare's history play. Essex's supporters apparently thought that staging such a play would generate favour for their aim to have Elizabeth I replace key members of her royal government, given that it imagines a successful change in state authority. This request engages with an analogy between the historical depiction of Richard II's reign and Elizabeth's rule that regularly circulated at the very end of the sixteenth century and early seventeenth century, especially as the problem of Elizabeth's succession loomed large. Later in 1601, for instance, while Elizabeth reviewed historical documents about the reign of Richard II, she supposedly voiced the observation "I am Richard II. Know ye not that?" to her archivist William Lambarde, a well-known quotation that points to the ubiquity of the association between the medieval king and early modern queen. Such an association, at the very least, indicates the evocative cultural environment in which some of the first performances of the play would have occurred, although this type of political interpretation is, of course, not the only viable one.
Author Guy ButlerSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 75 –107 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.5More Less
This lecture employs the old-fashioned technique of studying a group or cluster of images in order to arrive at a better understanding of the work. Macbeth has proved a particularly happy hunting ground for image chasers; this exercise differs from most others in attempting to show how a number of images, mainly in the first two acts and particularly in Act 1 Scene 7 and Act 2 scenes 1-6, recreate and then draw force from a sequence of quite specific events in the Christian 'myth' - rather in the manner that Joyce's Ulysses exploits the Odyssey. Previous critics have detected in certain scenes references to particular incidents in that myth (such as the Porter's parody of the Harrowing of Hell) and allusions to the general resurrection, as well as to the day of Judgement.
Author Tony VossSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 109 –116 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.6More Less
Heiner Müller observed that in Hamlet "The break-in of time into the play constitutes mythos" - by which I understand him to have meant that "myth" was one possible response to the social, political and psychological demands of Shakespeare's context. In 1600 the times would press on the text and performance of the play at many points: politically, the succession crisis which faces Denmark haunted Elizabeth's reign for decades; personally, the death of the playwright's son Hamnet (aged only 11) in 1596 may have felt like a prefiguration of the end of the Danish Prince. Hamlet's transformation of both social history and individual experience into myth is of its nature tragic: James I and VI (the philosopher king?) and Fortinbras (the soldier) succeed, but Hamnet, like Hamlet, dies, although he, too, "was likely, had he been put on,/ To have proved most royal". (5.2.404-405) This is a reminder that "the category of myth [even in the perhaps special sense suggested here] reflects the interests of those who employ it." Myths are imagined rather than revealed. In the light of these and further observations, this paper sets out to examine whether or not the image and action of the crowd in a sequence of Shakespeare's works can be said to achieve anything like the dimensions of myth. This project has been inspired and given traction by Peter Titlestad's "Hamlet the Populist Politician" and Kai Wiegandt's Crowd and Rumour in Shakespeare.
Author Brett E. MurphySource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 117 –122 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.7More Less
Shakespeare scholars have analysed and debated the character of the Ghost in Hamlet endlessly. The tendency is to classify the Ghost in a single religious context - that is, to posit "The Ghost is Catholic" or, less often, "The Ghost is Protestant." However, exploring the actual lines of Hamlet presents religious ambiguity surrounding the Ghost, which we must take care to note. Instead of staunchly attempting to make the lines fit one religious denomination, a better way to understand the Ghost is through the lens of Lewes Lavater's Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking By Night (1572): a generally accepted source text for Hamlet. By accepting Lavater's text as an antecedent to Shakespeare's Hamlet, we can understand the character more as a strong derivation from source material, and less as specifically exemplifying one denomination or the other. The purpose of this essay is to argue the importance of Lavater's text to our understanding of the Ghost (most facets of the character - appearance, actions, lines - can be attributed to Lavater's text in one way or another) and to demonstrate, through Lavater, that the true religious status of the Ghost cannot be determined. I will expand on and, to some extent, challenge the argument originally put forward by Stephen Greenblatt in Hamlet in Purgatory. Understanding the Ghost through the lens of Lavater's text allows a complete and more satisfying understanding of Hamlet.
Author Laurence WrightSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 123 –129 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.8More Less
Othello : directed by Nicholas Hytner. National Theatre, London. September 2013.
Macbeth : directed by Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford. Manchester International Festival.July 2013.
Richard II : directed by Gregory Doran. Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford. November 2013.
Author Colette GordonSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 131 –137 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.9More Less
In search of perfect freedom
The Quality of Mercy: Reflections on Shakespeare, Peter Brook : book reviewAuthor Victor HoulistonSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 139 –140 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.10More Less
There is one picture, of an hour glass, on the dust jacket. Stage time, for Peter Brook, intensifies the value of every moment as each grain of sand filters through, just as an hour glass did for the medieval monk. So, is there any hint of Christian hope at the end of King Lear? Yes, in Edgar's acknowledgment that those left behind, "we that are young ... shall never live so long" (5.3.344-45). Lear in those final moments, indeed throughout the play, has experienced life in its concentrated form. He has broken through almost to another dimension, to a life beyond life, beyond the "wheel of fire" (4.7.45) and "the rack of this tough world" (5.3.332).
Author Josiah NyandaSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 26, pp 141 –143 (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/sisa.v26i1.11More Less
A recent visit to the Market Theatre in Johannesburg to watch one of South Africa's illustrious sons of the performing arts, Mbongeni Ngema, in The Zulu reminded me of the technology that has invaded theatre - from the online sale of tickets, to digital stage lighting and sound systems, to the post-performance sale of DVDs. The world of theatre has indeed been swallowed by technology. This was not the case for Shakespeare. As Nick de Somogyi reminds us in Shakespeare on Theatre, throughout his career Shakespeare had to grapple with, and depend for "scenery, atmosphere and lighting" solely on, "the power of the spoken word" (p.1).