Monday, March 29, 2010

Did Shakespeare read Cervantes?

I attended a lecture titled "Cervantes and Shakespeare: Metatextualities in Don Quixote and the Late Plays" by Professor Valerie Wayne from the University of Hawaii sponsored by the Early Modern Colloquium at the University of Michigan on March 26 at 4:30 p.m., in a third-floor conference/classroom in Angell Hall on the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The 80-seat conference room is luxurious with tasteful cool-green and black printed wall-to-wall carpeting, expensive Steelcase chairs upholstered in a green-leaf print and black woven seatbacks. Golden oak paneling accents walls painted in a restful pale green. The paneling is accented with painted floral tiles in shades of earthy greens, golds and warm black. Upholstered benches are placed at intervals along the walls for overflow seating. It's hard to describe the opulence of university spaces. This room is clearly a renovation and thus lacks the majestic proportions of many older spaces, but the feel of no expense spared in the quest for a beautiful space is evident.

The university is generous in welcoming the community, and most academic programs and events are open to the public -- to which the public generally responds with apathy. I would suppose that the kabuki-like posturing at these conferences and colloquiums frightens away the ignorati.

The presenter at this event is a lovely, assured lady -- a university professor, who according to her online bio is currently working on an edition of Cymbeline for the Arden Shakespeare. Her collection of essays co-edited with Mary Ellen Lamb, Staging Early Modern Romance: Prose Fiction, Dramatic Romance, and Shakespeare, has just appeared from Routledge, and she is also an associate general editor of The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton that was published in 2007 by Oxford University Press. She is also a trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America, serves on the editorial board of Shakespeare Quarterly, and is a member of the MLA’s committee on the New Variorum Shakespeare. And that's just the top of her resume.

Wayne's topic at the colloquium on Friday is how the "metatextualities" in Don Quixote -- published in Spanish in 1605 and in English in 1612 -- showed up in Shakespeare's "late" plays by which she meant Cymbeline, Winter's Tale, and The Tempest -- all of which she dates to the period of 1610-11. By "metatextualities" I understood her to mean self-referential aspects of the plays such as the play-within-a-play. She didn't address the source of meta-textual, plays-within-a-play in earlier works such as Hamlet and Midsummer Night's Dream.

Waynes thesis is that Shakespeare and his playwriting cohorts of the Jacobean period used the red-hot, new theatrical techniques that Cervantes introduced with Don Quixote. Her paper was received with applause and erudite interrogation that seemed to baffle the presenter as much as it confounded attendees, although Wayne rallied with equally inscrutable volleys.

No one asked the foundation question that I wanted to know the answer to, so before they could all brush off their hands and move on to the reception, I asked:

"Do you think that Shakespeare had access to an English translation of Don Quixote before it was published in 1612?"

She said:

"I think it's possible that people besides Shelton prepared translations leaving open the possibility there was a recounting of the events in Don Quixote that Shakespeare might have heard. I'm holding out for the possibility of oral translation or early access to Thomas Sheldon's translation. I don't think we'll ever really know."

The program ended with her reply. I didn't get the sense that anyone in the room found the question particularly relevant, or the answer in any way lacking.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Royal Shakespeare Co.'s Cardenio in Ann Arbor

The Royal Shakespeare Company, the University of Michigan, and the University Musical Society are collaborating  on a 10-day residency in Ann Arbor, MI this week. A schedule of public events from the University Musical Society -- including a script reading of Greg Doran's version of the lost Shakespeare play, Cardenio -- follows.

The University of Michigan has also announced the following lecture: Friday, March 26, 4:30 p.m., "Cervantes and Shakespeare: Metatextualities in Don Quixote and the Late Plays," a lecture by Valerie Wayne, 3222 Angell Hall, UofM, Ann Arbor

RSC Creative Project: Insight for the Sor Juana play (written by Helen Edmundson)
Wed, Mar 24, 6-8 pm
Blau Auditorium, Ross School of Business, 701 Tappan St.

A play by Helen Edmundson based on the story of Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, a celebrated 17th-century, South American nun, emerging as a key figure in the history of literature in the Western hemisphere. Sor Juana wrote plays, essays, and poetry, and was highly controversial for her life and literary works. "Insight" refers to a partial reading of a script (in development) and discussion of the play with the writer, director and actors. Audience participation will be encouraged.
A collaboration with the RSC, U-M and UMS.

RSC Creative Project: Insight for the Cardenio play
Fri, Mar 26, 2-4 pm
Keene Theatre, East Quad, 701 East University Avenue

“Cardenio,” a play by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, which is known to have been performed, but of which there is no existing text. The story involves a character of the same name from Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” published and translated into English from the original Spanish in 1605. Greg Doran and a Spanish playwright are developing a script that aims to restore the play. "Insight" refers to a partial reading of a script (in development) and discussion of the play with the writer, director and actors. Audience participation will be encouraged.
A collaboration with the RSC, U-M and UMS.

RSC Creative Project: Discussion on the Bible as Literature with RSC director Greg Doran, playwright David Edgar, and Ralph Williams
Sat, Mar 27, 4-6 pm

The Library Gallery, 100 Hatcher Graduate Library (just off the Diag)

Note: Bible-related materials ranging from a second-century C.E. papyrus fragment of a letter of St. Paul to an original copy of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible will be on display in the University Library's Audubon Room adjoining the gallery. These materials are from the University of Michigan Library's Special Collections.
A collaboration with the RSC, U-M and UMS.

RSC Creative Project: Shakespeare: from Stage to Film - A Lecture by RSC Director Greg Doran and actor Sir Antony Sher
Mon, Mar 29, 7:30 pm
Blau Auditorium, Ross School of Business, 701 Tappan St.
A collaboration with the RSC, U-M and UMS.

RSC Creative Project: Insight for Written on the Heart (King James Bible play, by David Edgar)
Tue, Mar 30, 6:30-8:30 pm
Blau Auditorium, Ross School of Business, 701 Tappan St.
A play by David Edgar on the role of Lancelot Andrewes in the formation and publication of the King James Bible. Andrewes played a central and controversial role in the religious life of the times.
A collaboration with the RSC, U-M and UMS.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tom Hunter reviews Contested Will

Dear Oberon,
For those of you who might be interested, a dissident's view (by yours truly,) of James Shapiro's new book about authorship, Contested Will, has been posted on the SOS blog.  I would like to hear your thoughts.

Tom Hunter

Monday, March 15, 2010

O'Beron meets March 17

Dear Oberon,

Be with us at our Oberon meeting this Wednesday evening at the Farmington Library to welcome in a very green Michigan springtime on St. Patty’s Day.

As the leprechauns sitting beneath the shamrocks say, those Shakespeare folk are not called O’Beron for nothing.

We will take up exactly where we left off in discovering what there is about Shakespeare’s writing that makes it Shakespeare.

We will also be making plans for our Unbirthday Party next month which we are hoping will include a visit by Ann Arbor’s Rude Mechanicals. 

Plus there is the James Shapiro treatise on authorship, called Contested Will, coming out on April 1 (that’s no joke) and a report by yours truly.

Finally we need to be planning our Michigan Shakespeare Festival outing for this year and the two presentations which we will be making there to the assembled multitude.

It will be the usual rollicking good time.  See you Wednesday.

Yours in grateful service,
Tom Hunter, Chair

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wainwright on "Sonnet 10"

Rufus Wainwright talks about his response to Shakespeare in this brilliant interview by Tim Adams, "I was looking right into her face when my mother died" published February 21, 2010 in The Guardian:
When Wainwright was working with Shakespeare's sonnets, he says – he was asked to help create a theatrical cycle of them for the Berliner Ensemble – he found all sorts of echoes of these kinds of experiences in them. One of the sonnets he includes on his album is Sonnet 10, "For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any", and he didn't need to research the scholarly opinion on the "poet", the "dark lady" and the "beautiful boy" to understand that this was the first great coming-out poem in the English language. "I knew immediately, instinctively, that this was the point where the poet first admits his love for the boy. And it is sort of the beginning of the avalanche. I remembered that moment very well…"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Operatic version of Hamlet in HD simulcast Saturday March 27

See Ambroise Thomas operatic version of Hamlet broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera at local theaters worldwide. The Showcase and Quality 16 in Ann Arbor and many other Michigan theaters will feature the show. To find your local venue, check here:

Ticket prices vary but generally run around $18-20, and may be ordered online from individual theaters. Many sites sell out before the date of the event, so order early.

Hamlet – Ambroise Thomas

March 27, 2010 at 1:00 pm ET
US Encore: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 (6:30 PM local time)
Canada Encore: April 24, 2010, 1 pm
Expected Running time: 3 hours, 43 minutes, 2 intermissions
The works of Shakespeare have inspired more operatic adaptations
than any other writer’s. Simon Keenlyside and Natalie Dessay bring
their extraordinary acting and singing skills to two of the Bard’s most
unforgettable characters in this new production of Ambroise Thomas’s
Hamlet. For the role of Ophelia, the French composer created an
extended mad scene that is among the greatest in opera.
Conductor: Louis Langrée; Production: Patrice Caurier/Moshe Leiser;
Natalie Dessay, Jennifer Larmore, Toby Spence, Simon Keenlyside,
James Morris