From The Guardian:
One of the most obliging things about the glorious dead is that you can always rely on their support. Emma Rice, the new artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London, offered a nice example of the principle when she was interviewed on Tuesday on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about her inaugural season.
“Shakespeare would be cheering me if he heard me speak,” she assured a doubtful John Humphrys, after he had asked a question about the propriety of rewording “the difficult bits” of the original Shakespeare texts so that modern audiences aren’t inconvenienced by incomprehension. “I think that’s pretty general practice these days,” Rice explained, before hauling Shakespeare himself in as backup. Presumably he’d take a break from writing HBO mini-series to put in a word for her – since others as confident about his postmortem attitudes as Rice often seem to suggest that’s what he would be doing now.
Let’s be fair here. The only fair test of Rice’s tenure in the job will be the productions she puts on, not an early- morning phoner with Humphrys. She had, in any case, been awkwardly skewered between a question that proposed Shakespeare’s language as an insurmountable hurdle to audience pleasure and then (as soon as she’d politely acknowledged that premise) another that implied only a vandal would touch it. No wonder she ended up sounding a little spatchcocked.
. . . .
If Shakespeare was just “the most epic, extraordinary storyteller” – the quality Rice kept emphasising in her interview – the smoothing out of linguistic difficulty would matter less. But that characterisation of him points in the wrong direction. He borrowed virtually all of the stories he tells. And then reframed them in language that defied obsolescence.
The plays will survive cutting, gender-blind casting and the wildest directorial conceit – even flourish sometimes. But they won’t survive rewriting into a pasteurised modernity. If Rice doesn’t recognise that, she’ll find herself hoist with her own petard.
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Bridget for the tip.
As it happens, Mrs. PG and PG recently discussed our respective first exposures to Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice in both cases. Each of us experienced the language coming wondrously to life when we first saw the play performed. As Mrs. PG described it, “After ten minutes, I could understand everything.”
PG is reminded that Shakespeare wrote about the dangers of pride on several occasions.
He that is proud eats up himself: pride is
his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle.
Troilus and Cressida