Description : It is almost as if Shakespeare had deliberately adapted this brutal murder tale to dare himself to find sympathy in the farthest extreme of human error. The three chief characters do grave - the gravest - wrong; and yet, plunged as they are into an atmosphere of sensuality, betrayal, and terror, to murder, lie, and scheme, they have yet persistently commanded the involvement and pity of their audiences. Herein would lie a crucial question for critics and actors seeking the true images of these characters: how can - and for the critics, why should - three such wrongdoers as Othello, Desdemona, and Iago win, so surely, so much care and compassion? Beginning here, the author sets out to discover how the complex, troubled characters of the play were interpreted by actors and critics from Shakespeare's time to the present. Starting with Burbage, Shakespeare's own "grieved Moor," Rosenberg re-creates the historic stage interpretations of Othello - by Betterton in the Restoration, by Booth, Quin, Garrick, Barry, and Kemble in the eighteenth century, by Kean, Macready, Irving, Booth, Forrest, and Salvini in the nineteenth, and by prominent actors of our own time. The great Iago characterizations are also here, and the Desdemonas in a line that includes Mrs. Siddons, Ellen Terry, and Sarah Bernhardt. The theater record is supplemented with comments on the characters provided by distinguished modern actors of the play. Then the author compares the acting interpretations with those of the critics, from old Rymer - who called Othello a "bloody farce" - to the most significant modern commentators. In some of the wittiest parts of the book, Rosenberg defends in turn Iago, Othello, Desdemona, and the play (and even Thomas Bowdler) from the attacks of their severest critics; but he finds it possible to reconcile the best critical characterizations with the best acting conceptions, and to propose a synthesis based on his own study and experience of the play. The author's study of the successive stage editings of the play - some of them to reduce playing time, others demanded by the taste and moral sense of each new age - provides a running commentary of social and cultural history, and shows how these cuttings affected, as well as revealed, the actors' concepts of the characters. Othello is the most erotic, the most sensual in language and imagery of the great tragedies, and its heavily sexual atmosphere, so suitable to the seventeenth century, offended later cultures: the eighteenth century tried to "refine" it, and the nineteenth - particularly the age of Victoria - to "refine refinement" - but the essential form of the play survived.
Description : "LEAR: Does Lear walk thus? Speak thus? / Who is it that can tell me who I am?" "Centuries of critics and actors have tried to tell, but Lear's identity, and the meaning of his action in the play, are still touched with enigma." "This book seeks Shakespeare's intentions in King Lear in new ways. It explores major interpretations of distinguished actors and directors as well as of critics from England, the United States, France, Belgium, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Poland. Is the play unsuited for the stage, as Charles Lamb - and others - have declared? How, in fact, has it been staged, and how visualized by critics? Is Lear designed to be a frail and aging old man? A powerful image of authority? Mad, or senile, to begin with? A kindly old father? Everyman? All of these? None? Does the play end with redemption? Unmitigated despair? Is it Christian? Pagan? Mr. Rosenberg confronts these and other questions from the base of his study and personal experience of the play." "To deepen the theatrical side of that experience, he began, as he did in his The Masks of Othello, with an involvement in the staged play: he directed and acted in Othello, and he followed a production of King Lear through two months of rehearsal and performance. One by-product of this intense participation was a discovery of some special qualities in the language of the play." "To achieve a better understanding of these qualities, Mr. Rosenberg put Lear's vocabulary through a computer, and established a concordance of every word both for the play as a whole and for each character. Interesting structural elements in Shakespeare's language become apparent." "Recognizing the difficulty, for a critic, of responding afresh to Shakespeare's craftsmanship in characterization and in arousing expectation, Mr. Rosenberg also arranged to expose the play to spectators who had never seen or read it. The response of this naive audience, after attending performances, was curious and illuminating. The author believes that any critical approach must be used that will increase our understanding of Shakespeare's work."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Description : Hamlet's challenge: "You would pluck out the heart of my mystery - " Yes, we would. If we could. We can but try; and the best way to begin, this book suggests, is to share what distinguished actors, scholars, and critics have gleaned; and thus enriched by their experience forage in the text and come to know the play personally, intimately. Again and again Mr. Rosenberg will insist that only the individual reader or actor can determine Shakespeare's design of Hamlet's character - and of the play. More, the reader, to interpret Hamlet's words and actions at the many crises, needs to double in the role of actor, imagining the character from the inside as well as observing it from the outside. So every reader is deputed by the author to be an actor-reader, invited to participate within Hamlet's mystery. The critical moments are examined, the options and ambiguities discussed, and the decisions left to individual judgment and intuition. The mysteries of other major characters are similarly approached. What terrible sin haunts Gertrude, that she never confesses? What agonies hide behind Claudius' smile? Does Ophelia truly love Hamlet? Does she choose madness? What are Polonius' masked motives, as in using his daughter for bait for Hamlet? With how much effort must Laertes repress the conscience that finally torments him? Only the actor-reader can know. And the mystery of the play itself: by what magic did Shakespeare interweave poetic language, character, and stage action to create a drama that for centuries has absorbed the attention and admiration of readers and theatre audiences on every continent in the world? The reader-actor will find out. To prepare the actor-reader for insights, Mr. Rosenberg draws on major interpretations of the play worldwide, in theatre and in criticism, wherever possible from the first known performances to the present day. He discusses evidences of Hamlet's experience in Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, South America, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Yugoslavia. Theatres from a number of these countries provided the author with videotapes of their Hamlet performances; his study of these, and of films and recordings, and of a number of modern stagings in America and abroad, deepened his sense of the play, as did interviews with actors and directors, and insights sent to him by colleagues and friends from throughout the world. Mr. Rosenberg followed one Hamlet production through rehearsals to performance, for personal experience of the staging of the play he discusses, as he did in his earlier books, The Masks of Othello, The Masks of King Lear, and The Masks of Macbeth . And as with the latter two studies, he came upon further illuminations of Shakespeare's art by exposing Hamlet to "naive" spectators who had never read or seen the play.
Description : Originally published in 1988. Selections here are organised chronologically looking at both theatrical commentary and literary criticism. The organisation brings out the shifts in emphasis as each generation reinvents Shakespeare, and Othello, by the questions asked, those not asked, and the answers given. Chapters cover the theme of heroic action, Iago’s motivation, guilt and jealousy, and obsession. Some entries from the world of theatre delve into the portrayal of the Moor, Desdemona and Iago from the 1940s on. Authors include A. C. Bradley, William Hazlitt, Ellen Terry, Konstantin Stanislavsky, Helen Gardner and Edward A. Snow.
Description : Shakespeare's Othello has exercised a powerful fascination over audiences with its portrayal of destructive jealousy. This study is a major exercise in the historicization of Othello in which the author examines contemporary writings and demonstrates how they were embedded in the text. Subsequent chapters analyze representations and interpretations from the Restoration to the present, using illustrations of performances and performers. Othello is revealed as a significant shaper of cultural meaning.
Description : The mysteries of Macbeth have long fascinated actors, critics, spectators, and readers. By what art did Shakespeare design two terrible murderers (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) who would earn the compassion of almost four centuries of audiences of many cultures? Does the very magnitude of the criminals and their crimes stir deep layers in us of recognition and empathy? Do they kill, as well as suffer, for us? Are we mistaken in sympathizing? Are we rocked between sympathy and revulsion, as we see-saw among so many opposites that tense the play? To explore the multiplying mysteries of the play, this book examines major interpretations of distinguished actors, directors, scholars, and critics from England, the United States, France, Belgium, Holland, Japan, India, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Turkey, and South America. In the differences, as well as the striking similarities, of these worldwide interpretations, Mr. Rosenberg finds many illuminations of Macbeth's beckoning complexities. He joins these to his own study and experience of the play, enriched by his opportunity to observe rehearsals and performances of the production at Stratford-upon-Avon, when Peter Hall directed Paul Scofield and Vivien Merchant in the leading roles. This method follows Mr. Rosenberg's practice of integrating critical and theatrical interpretation: for his The Masks of Othello he acted in and directed the play; and he observed a production of Lear through rehearsal and performance for The Masks of King Lear. As with the latter study, Rosenberg designed an experiment in audience response to discover afresh the effect of Shakespeare's art in arousing expectation about his characters and their action. He arranged three dramatizations of Macbeth for audiences that had never read or seen the play. The often surprisresponses of these "naive" audiences gland) were particularly enlightening for Macbeth, the only major tragedy in which Shakespeare keeps secrets from his audience almost to the last.