Courtly Shakespeare, IV

By the 18th century, acting styles also invested Shakespeare with “courtly” virtues of control, dignity, stateliness. Dobson writes, “Shakespearian acting . . . in the decades following Betterton’s death in 1710, seems to have settled into a grandiloquent vein of static . . . . Continue Reading »

Courtly Shakespeare, III

Dobson again: “after Charles II’s death in 1685 England would never again have another monarch with such an informed interest in the drama (or, mercifully, such a lascivious one), and deprived of royal patronage and protection the playhouses came under renewed attack from the moralists . . . . Continue Reading »

Courtly Shakespeare, II

To one of his servant, Shakespeare’s Macbeth says, “The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!” Davenant’s says, “Now, Friend, what means thy change of Countenance?” And for the wonderful surging lines in Macbeth 2.2.58-61 (including “the . . . . Continue Reading »

Courtly Shakespeare

Michael Dobson notes ( Shakespeare: An Illustrated Stage History ) that the restoration of drama in 1660 was not really a restoration but a re-creation, involving “a transformation of the London theatre, carried out by royal warrant” tht “forever altered the relationship between . . . . Continue Reading »

Elegant dress

In his Theory of the Leisure Class , Thorstein Veblen notes that it is good if it shows that “the wearer can afford to consumer freely and uneconomically,” but beyond that should “make plain to all observers that the wearer is not engaged in any kind of productive labor.” . . . . Continue Reading »

Bowdlerized Shakespeare

In the Edinburgh Review notice regarding the publication of Bowdler’s Family Shakespeare (1821-22), Francis Jeffrey, Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, praised the edition for meeting the needs of decent people everywhere: “Now it is quite undeniable, that there have been many . . . . Continue Reading »

The Good Old Days…

when the theater was taken seriously. Douglas Lanier writes, “On may 7 [1849] Edwin Forrest and William Macready, long-time Shakespearian rivals, mounted competing productions of Macbeth in New York City, Forrest at the Broadway Theater, Macready at the Astor Place Opera House. Forrest, an . . . . Continue Reading »

Table Manners and Individualism

Elias notes that table manners reflect social relations more generally: “People who ate together in the way customary in the Middle Ages, taking meat with their fingers from the same dish, wine from the same goblet, soup from the same pot or the same plate . . . - such people stood in a . . . . Continue Reading »

The Blasphemous Fork

Elias again: “In the eleventh century a Venetian doge married a Greek princess. In her Byzantine circle the fork was clearly in use. At any rate, we hear that she lifted food to her mouth ‘by means of little gold forks with two prongs.’ “This gave rise in Venice to a . . . . Continue Reading »

Middle Class Counter-Enlightenment

Elias suggests that the blossoming of German literature in the late 18th century was largely led by middle-class writers and thinkers whose tastes and styles ran directly counter to the Francophile culture of Frederick’s court: “This German literary movement, whose exponents included . . . . Continue Reading »