Sunday, June 25, 2006

less without and more within

I’m in the camp that thinks Shakespeare was probably the best storyteller who ever put words to paper. But I’m not in the camp that thinks it’s important to know what he looks like. (We’ll leave discussions about whether or not he may have been Marlowe and a spy for the Queen out of it for the time-being.)

Regarding his appearance: It seems I may be on my own.
Since Shakespeare’s time (1564-1616) eight portraits have seemed to be genuine likenesses, but today only three of them stand up, and even those are not indisputable. They are the focus of a fascinating show, “Searching for Shakespeare,” that opens today at the Yale Center for British Art, its only appearance in the United States.

From «How Shall We Know Thee? By Severe, Bohemian or Courtly Mien» in Friday’s New York Times.

So how will things change for me if I know whether he was “grave, austere and puritanical” or a “plumpish, unassuming man with brown eyes, sensuous lips, near shoulder-length hair and a forehead heightened by a receding hairline”?

If I know whether or not “he wears his collar rakishly untied” will there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy cause me to wonder a little bit less?

I saw a clumsy open-air regional production of The Tempest Friday night, which broke several important rules of doing Shakespeare right – chief among them being: Ingenues must be hot (’cause I’ve gotta want to see you guys work this thing out).

In the final act, as the temperature dropped and the players, earnest though they were, showed little evidence of being able to overcome a bad mike job (its chief virtue being a keen demonstration of the Doppler effect), I gave up on trying to extract anything meaningful from the staging and laid down, the grass at my back, stars tracing the perimeter of the tree’s canopy overhead, and the language was all I needed to see Miranda and Ferdinand married and dispatched – to do whatever it was that needed to be done on their wedding night.

And, lying on my back, without visuals to interfere and just that beautiful, beautiful language in my ears, they were hotties indeed.

The stuff that dreams are made of.
To shame the guise o’the world, I will begin
The fashion: less without and more within

Cymbeline, v.i l.32-2

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