What happens when a character’s language cannot be spoken
but can be communicated visually?
Henry Seago as Poins in 1 Henry IV (OSF, 2010).
This is one of the first questions Michael W. Shurgot asks in his analysis of the translation of a particularly “tricky” language to use in a Shakespearean play: American Sign Language (ASL). Whereas American-English speaking actors can “translate” Shakespearean language through enunciation and the use of American accents, it becomes extremely difficult when there is no Shakespearean era equivalent to the language a character is trying to use. This was the predicament actor Howie Seago found himself in when he was cast as Poins in the production of 1 Henry IV at the 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). Continue reading →
When I had first watched the film My Own Private Idaho (1991), I was unaware of the specific references to Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V. Categorized and hyped as a queer-road-western film by the press, the Shakespearean element was largely overlooked in favor of the then-shocking reality that beloved teen heartthrob and James-Dean-lookalike River Phoenix was portraying a gay street hustler type.
Achieving cult status after the untimely and premature death of River Phoenix in October 1993, the film has been ranked and met with critical acclaim by many critics as one of the best films of the 1990s and the best performances actors Keanu Reeves and Phoenix will find in years. The Shakespearean element, rather than taking away from the realistic portrayal of the independent film, actually adds to the picture in how it helps to justify the eccentric art cinema effects and underline the central themes of the film.
Who is King Henry IV of England? As a lover of European history, I assumed I would know something about him. But I didn’t. I knew absolutely nothing. In fact, I only am familiar with his name because of his presence as the stabilizing protagonist and namesake of two of Shakespeare’s plays, Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2.
In his play Henry IV Part I, Shakespeare juxtaposes a sample of Henry IV’s time as king against the economic and social tensions during his reign. These tensions, for Henry, run particularly high given his questionable rise to power. Because Henry claimed the throne by waging war against Richard III, his rule could in many ways be viewed as illegitimate. As such, he finds himself racing against time to unite the people whom he divided when stealing the country from Richard. Henry plans to achieve this end by shifting attention away from his questionable ascent and onto a Crusade. It seems as though his expectation is that waging a Holy War will redeem himself to his people and so secure his rule. His idea introduces redemption as having religious roots. However, when tracking the word redeem, this sacred concept is revealed to have a far more secular meaning than initially implied. Continue reading →
… when you play the Game of Thrones. The similarities between Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I (1H4) and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (GoT) are uncanny, and have not gone unnoticed. With the BBC’s Hollow Crown mini series, which featured 1H4 in the second episode, there was a surge in comparisons between the play and Martin’s books and the resulting HBO series; dozens of news articles and reviews reference the two works of literature in connection with each other. But are these comparisons founded in real similarities in the texts? Beyond turbulent monarchies, and violent battles what do GoT and 1H4 actually have in common?
Owain who? Don’t you mean Owen Glendower? Well, not quite. Ask any Welshperson about Owen Glendower and they’ll probably look at you blankly. You see, Owain Glyndŵr is a large part of our history and, well, we’re not too big on the Anglicisation of our country’s greatest heroes. Continue reading →