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: Favorite Shakespeare Play(s)?  ( 6279 )
Groggy
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« : January 24, 2007, 05:31:52 PM »

Since I'm taking Shakespeare class this semester at school I thought I'd inquire what works, if any, by the Bard are among your favorites?

For me, it's definitely "Othello".  I think it's a great storyline, and Iago is one of the nastiest characters ever written anywhere.  I also like the lack of supernatural overtones, though that's just me.  I like the ghost in "Hamlet", but the witches in "Macbeth" are a bit much for me.

I'm not big on the comedies though I do like "Much Ado About Nothing" and, to a much lesser extent, "Twelfth Night". 

Anyone else care to weigh in?



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« #1 : January 24, 2007, 05:37:41 PM »

Hamlet--probably had more to do with the English teacher who taught it was one of the best I've had than anything else

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« #2 : January 24, 2007, 06:56:35 PM »

Still not read or seen the complete works performed, I'm afraid to say. It is the sort of languge which really makes you appreciate a good actor's craft in the way is can be vividly brought to life in an unexpected way. Where previously it has lay there on a page fossil like, dead and remote but curious at the same time, well performed the words, emotions and ideas of a man who has been dead for nearly 400 years spring astoundingly to life. He truly does seem to have been the first "modern" man in the written word. Even his near contemporary Christopher Marlowe seems formal and remote in comparison.

I've seen a lot of his work performed over the years, in various venues and styles. The most spectacular was easily the Royal Shakespeare Company's HENRY V, starring a very young and still unknown Kenneth Branagh back in 1984. However, the most boring was also by the RSC, a production of MEASURE FOR MEASURE I saw around ten years later. I've seen many MACBETH productions, but for sheer horror and an inescapable feeling of pure evil, Roman Polanski's film version has yet to be bettered.

My very fave venue for Shakespeare is The Globe Theatre here in London. It's just a few footsteps away from where the origional Globe once stood, where William acted, wrote and worked on his plays every day, and is mentioned in so many of his plays directly ("the great globe itself", "this wooden O"). To stand in the groundling pit (and it only costs 5 quid!) you are plunged so directly in to the Elizabethan world and to the actors that it's like boarding a time machine.



As such my favorite play on the page is also HAMLET (and I saw Roger Reese play the part unforgettably many years ago), however, the best I saw on stage ever was THE TEMPEST just a couple of years ago at the Globe. It was Mark Rylance's last year as artistic director of the theatre, and they did the entier play with just three (male) actors and 3 female (voiceless) female acrobats. Rylance brilliantly performed the entire vast opening storm and shipwreck scene alone as Prospero, with a chess board and chess men as the rest of the cast while making silly "whooshe!"  noises for the storm. Hilarious stuff. The rest was intense theatre, with many in the audience shamelessly in tears at many points, myself included (the Globe is open air, and the plays performed mostly in natural light, nowhere to hide...).

These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

« : January 24, 2007, 07:02:30 PM Juan Miranda »

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« #3 : January 24, 2007, 11:12:48 PM »

"Hamlet" by a long shot. The only play of his I find readable.
"Macbeth" had potential but it's too slow.




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« #4 : January 24, 2007, 11:59:29 PM »

macbeth... i'm not a big fan of the witches either, but everything else is so amazing... I just love the macbeth character and the monster he slowly turns into.


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« #5 : January 25, 2007, 01:31:09 AM »

I go for "Macbeth" too. The paradox and the fate of a man driven by a strong-witted woman in this play are intriguing.

« : January 25, 2007, 12:54:11 PM Sanjuro »

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« #6 : January 25, 2007, 12:02:25 PM »

Hamlet and Macbeth probably due to the variuous forms I've seen these two plays in.


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« #7 : January 25, 2007, 05:16:52 PM »

My fave Shakespeare is King Lear (hey, Groggy, the Peter Brook film starring Paul Scofield comes out on DVD next week). After that I like the so-called "Henriad" (Richard II, Henry IV, I and II, Henry V), and the history plays generally. Among the comedies I enjoy As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, and Much Ado About Nothing. Don't care much for the so-called Romances of S's late career.

If the subject were fave film versions of Shakespeare, I would nominate Olivier's Henry V. To my mind, this is the only feature film that remains true to both Shakespeare and cinema. To see this, all you have to do is consider Olivier's other Shakespeare films. His i]Hamlet[/i] is good cinema but bad Shakespeare, his Richard III is good Shakespeare but bad cinema. Henry V, however, is the perfect blend of the theatrical and the cinematic.



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« #8 : January 25, 2007, 06:15:56 PM »

Best Shakespeare film for me was Welles' CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. OK so it runs riot all over the texts of various plays (including the three kings and THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR) but it is outstandingly performed and beautifuly filmed, more so that Olivier's HENRY V (which is my third fave after Polanski's MACBETHl). We see a rare glimpse of what an incredible actor John Gielgud really was (he was often wooden and uncomfortable on camera) and Welles speaks his text rather than just saying it (as he does in his awful movie of MACBETH). Having said that, Orson's film of OTHELLO could have been one of the best screen Shakespeares ever, if it hadn't been such a fragmented, beggered and compromised production.

Kurasawa's THRONE OF BLOOD and RAN deserve a mention too, but they are really adaptaions of stories used by Will in his plays (there is none of the language, naturaly).

One of the worst films I have ever seen was Peter Greenaway's adaptaion of THE TEMPEST, starring the sole voice of a near death Sir John Gielgud speaking every role. An awful, tedious, stupid, wanky, pointless waste of anybody's time, PROSPERO'S BOOKS, despite all this was a big art house hit, Greenaway's last, before he vanished forever up his own arse. Just pipping this as "Wost Episode Ever" was "Baz" Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. A film seemingly made by a hyperactive 4 year old child, with a cast who didn't even understand the dialogue they are emoting.


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« #9 : January 25, 2007, 06:51:30 PM »

We see a rare glimpse of what an incredible actor John Gielgud really was (he was often wooden and uncomfortable on camera)

He's very good in the MGM Julius Ceasar (1953).

My feeling on Welles's films is that they are great cinema but don't serve Shakespeare very well. There's a great bit on the tapes Welles did with Bogdanovich where he explains his idea for doing Merchant of Venice. His conceit was to have Bassonio woo Portia three times, the first two in disquise (as clownish foreigners) and then, having guessed wrong twice, appearing as himself and guessing correctly (and getting the right casket by a process of elimination). This would have been great theatre, hilarious to behold, but would have been literally a burlesque of Shakespeare's scene. I have no doubt that Welles revered the Bard, but his natural propensity for one-upmanship was a recipe for constant infidelity.



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« #10 : April 27, 2007, 02:20:23 PM »

Here's some welcome news: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6563869.stm



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« #11 : April 27, 2007, 03:18:04 PM »

I've recently bought this:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064400/

still have to watch it, though.

I always thought Olivier was a very overrated actor. In Italy he had the fortune to be dubbed in his 3 movies by Gino Cervi, who surely made them better movies than they were originally. If I watch them again it will be for Cervi's voice, not for Olivier's screen presence. (but the Globe theatre initial sequence in Henry V is marvellous, I'll admit that)

Campanadas de medianoche is great, maybe even more than that (I saw it dubbed, though) but the turkish bath sequence in Othello is what I wouldn't trade for anything: it may not be Shakespearean, but it is what cinema is about.

Never dared to watch Zeffirelli's Shakespeare movies. Actually I never dared to watch a single Zeffirelli movie. 





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« #12 : April 27, 2007, 03:26:50 PM »

I liked Zefferelli's "Romeo and Juliet" and "Hamlet", for what that's worth. Hard to dislike a film that has Ian Holm, Alan Bates, and Paul Scofield in it, and I even liked Gibson as Hamlet. I like some of Kenneth Branaugh's stuff too, even though he is a bit eclectic in his casting (I still can't get over Keanu Reeves in "Much Ado About Nothing" - probably the worst casting choice ever).

I've also missed out on Baz Luhrman's R&J, and have little intention of seeing it. I wouldn't mind seeing "O" though, and I did like "Ten Things I Hate About You" (even though that's a very, very loose Shakespeare adaptation). I tried reading "Taming of the Shrew" but I couldn't get through it.

I also got to see Ian Holm's version of "King Lear" recently, and I wasn't impressed by it - it was too stagey to be an entertaining film, I think. Can't say I'm crazy about the play either, though I can understand why it's so highly regarded. Obviously I've not seen the version with Scofield, whom IIRC was voted the Best Lear of the 20th Century, though I'd like to. Our Shakespeare teacher also had the Olivier version (with Leo McKern, John Hurt and Diana Rigg also among the cast) but we only saw the very beginning of it.

As an actor ;D, though, I can't say I'm crazy about Shakespeare. But that perhaps is why being a professional actor's not my ambition.

« : April 27, 2007, 03:29:14 PM Groggy »


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« #13 : April 27, 2007, 03:41:01 PM »

Enzo Castellari's sw version of Hamlet. O0

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« #14 : April 27, 2007, 03:41:21 PM »


Never dared to watch Zeffirelli's Shakespeare movies. Actually I never dared to watch a single Zeffirelli movie. 
I think his The Taming of the Shrew is pretty good, although you do have to like Dick and Liz to enjoy it. Admittedly, it's not as good as the production with John Cleese done for the BBC series.

I think Olivier can be good, but isn't always (Khartoum, anyone?). Overrated? Doubtless. Gielgud always shows him up when they act together, which is why Olivier didn't often cast him in his own films. Olivier let him into Richard III as Clarence only because (I imagine) he gets killed off pretty early.

Still, I'm glad we have Olivier in Rebecca and things of that ilk. And he was good in Marathon Man.



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