Category: On Shakespeare

  • Shakespeare Uncut

    Among the hundreds of amateur and professional Shakespearean productions every year few, if any, honor the exact text, or even ninety percent of the text.  When was the last time we saw Hamlet (other than Branagh’s film version) performed without cutting—make that hacking—it? With the exception of a few theatre groups committed to “complete text” […]

  • The Winter’s Tale (Program Notes for Michael Kahn’s Production)

      The description of Shakespeare’s last plays as romances suggests that they contain certain features from a romantic tradition which began with the Roman playwright, Plautus (who in turn borrowed from the Greeks), and flourished throughout the Middle Ages in such tales as Beowulf, The Song of Roland, and the Arthurian legends.   In an age […]

  • Pericles–A Most Theatrical Event (Program Notes for Mary Zimmerman’s Production)

    Whenever a discussion turns to Pericles, critics are always at pains to delineate the various problems associated with the play—that Shakespeare had no part in the writing the first two acts, that the piece is devoid of fully-fleshed characters, that the title character is more sinned against than sinning, thus depriving him of any tragic […]

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    Few Shakespearean productions have run the gamut of critical deconstruction as has A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Over the years it has been interpreted as a light-hearted, fluffy frolic, a somber meditation on sexual politics, and an examination of latent violence, even bestiality.  At its heart, however, it is a mature, complex play about the nature […]

  • Henry IV, Part One

    The label history play is almost a misnomer when used to describe Shakespeare’s plays about the English kings, not only because he played fast and loose with the facts but also because the term conjures up in the popular mind the image of a historical documentary.  In fact, these plays run the gamut of the […]

  • Henry IV, Part Two

    “Then you perceive the body of our kingdom How foul it is, what rank diseases grow, And with what danger, near the heart of it.” These lines, spoken by King Henry IV, symptomize the uneasiness that pervades this play.  In fact, the play opens with the entrance of Rumor (a role expanded in this production) […]