The characters from Shakespeare’s 1Henry IV are engaged in constant forgetting as it appears that forgetting is a tool, used by characters throughout the play to achieve their through actions. Literary critic Greenblatt discusses the play in terms of producing and containing subversion and disorder, and forgetting is to some scholars what drives the chaos. According to Jonni Koonce Dunn (Ph.D), forgetting is not just the absence of memory but also a coordinated erasure “conducive to re-imagination and re-inscription” (4). 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.
Dressed in his plumed hat and fine clothes while he brandishes a shield on his left arm and a sword in his right hand, Falstaff is worthy of his title as Sir John Falstaff in the 18th century English painter Robert Smirke’s “Falstaff and the Dead Body of Hotspur”. Beneath his left foot lies the body of Hotspur while the Battle of Shrewsbury rages on in the background. Situated in the middle of the painting while his bright suite of clothes and flushed cheeks stand in contrast to both the dark background and Hotspur’s muted red and black clothes, there is no doubt that Falstaff is the hero of this painting. The glaring discrepancy between this image and the actual unheroic scene between Falstaff and Hotspur’s dead body in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth, Part I is no accident – it serves as a critique of Falstaff’s self-serving nature and indicates the tension between Falstaff and Hotspur’s attitudes on honor. Continue reading
Have you ever watched a war movie when, in the midst of a huge battle with thousands of soldiers engaged in hand to hand combat, two important and opposing characters, protagonist and antagonist, make dramatic eye contact? And instantaneously, a imaginary, absurd bubble with a radius of about 10 yards seems to shield them from the throng of other warriors, flying projectiles, and general danger so that they can safely duke it out, one-on-one, sans interruption? I’ll call this the ‘safety-zone’ convention.
Ever wonder what would happen if someone were to use characters from Shakespeare and make a musical inspired by them? What if a single person performed all of the roles?
Emerging playwright Matt Sax pushes the boundary of acceptable story content in his one man musical, “Clay,” using an combination of hip-hop, rap, and comedy to tell the coming of age story of Clifford, a traumatized teenager fleeing from a fractured family at home. While many renditions of “King Henry IV” have been acted over the centuries, this modern take on the play loosely fleshes out Prince Hal and Flagstaff’s mentor-student relationship, weaving contemporary struggles of an adolescent musician with a dark childhood.
Shakespeare developed his plays not only from other literature and his surrounding society, but also from living theater. Particularly, he borrowed ideas from the Venetian commedia dell’arte, or “comedy of professional artists.” Continue reading