The conference began with an interesting collaboratory on teaching Shakespeare. I opted to stick around for Eileen A Joy‘s talk, which I will probably devote an entire post later on to.
We were then treated to vignettes from several productions of early modern drama on the New Fortune stage.
Professor Jane Davidson introducing the performers, with Prof Steve Chinna in the background.
We started off with excerpts from Middleton’s The Changeling, which was directed by Steve and performed in the Dolphin Theatre last year.
She that in life and love refuses me,
In death and shame my partner she shall be.
I was reminded of Jackson Hart’s performance as Deflores. He would make a great Iago!
We then got a glimpse of bits from Shakespeare WA’s performance of the Tempest. Didn’t get to catch it earlier in the year but it was an interesting take on the postcolonial aspect of the text. For this particular performance, two Aboriginal performers were cast as Caliban and Ariel respectively, and bits of the play involved traditional Aboriginal music. And Stephano, the drunk, was cast as a woman instead of a man.
But it was Trevor Ryan’s recitation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 44 in Noongar that really captivated me:
If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time’s leisure with my moan,
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.
Trevor Ryan initially delivered this reading in the UK, and he talked about how the sonnet’s reference to earth and land has special significance to him as a person with an Aboriginal background. Brilliant stuff.
Later in the evening, I was having dinner with a friend whilst discussing academic matters and Shakespeare, when a thought struck me. For all intents and purposes, one could describe Shakespeare as an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY OFFENDER. Shakespeare takes the piss out of monarchs and fools, men and women, princes and paupers alike. Oh and let’s not forget that he’s not above bringing himself into the picture, the little bastard:
Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus; (Sonnet 135:1-2)
So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will. (Sonnet 135:11-14)
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will, will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one. (Sonnet 136:2-6)
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me for my name is ‘Will.’ (Sonnet 136:13-14)
He refers to himself as “Will”. And this has caused a point of contention between me and my supervisor. She insists on calling him Will. I prefer Bill. Yes, it is probably coming across as a very Americanized shortening of a first name, but I think with Bill, or Billy, it sounds more…..masculine?
But back to the point about postcolonialism and The Tempest. Yes, Prospero might be an analogue for colonial power, but who really owns the island? Prospero? Caliban? Sycorax? If we are to go that far back, then Sycorax, too can be considered to be an outsider – she was not from the island! Could it be Ariel? Food for thought…