domingo, agosto 30, 2015

The Collector's Eye (Joe Berardo): Chagall's Large Backdrop for the Magic Flute


I'd been itching to go and see this exhibition. 

Who would have said Berardo would be such a connoisseur? The hillbilly from South Africa, who barely speaks Portuguese, has a good "clinical eye" for shit like this...

What did I want to see the most? Easy. Chagall's large canvas and Stella's Sevarambia.

The very large backdrop (13 x 23,5 m) painted by Marc Chagall for Mozart’s Magic Flute (in this particular instance with the Magic Flute playing in the background...) is figuratively and literally huge.

Many of the works may be less well known, but still they stroke a particular emotional chord with me (to be followed by a few more posts with some of the most interesting pieces).


(13 x 23,5 m)


I only knew this canvas from art catalogs. I knew I'd be flabbergasted...

Chagall's use of colours defies description. We can see that the action is played on a central disk. The tree on which Papageno attempts to hang himself is clearly discernible for those of us familiar with Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. And what he did with colour is nothing short of masterful. I felt smothered. The colour derivation from a countless succession of backdrops which, along with side drops, indicates the change of scene, made me breathless. It's all about colour and his symbolic, dazzling colourful signature style. For me to be able to watch this curtain live in all its splendour was an absolute tour de force of sorts. Oh, to be able to have seen it in 1967...It's clearly a case wherein music and painting were made for each other.  

Thanks for this Berardo. I owe you one...

NB: It took me 3 hours to watch the whole exhibition, but I remained with this art piece at least half-an-hour...I couldn't get enough of it...The finesse, the wit, the delicacy. Uau!

Artists represented in the whole exhibition include: Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jason Brooks, Nelson Cardoso, Rui Chafes, Marc Chagall, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, John De Andrea, Eric Fischl, Fernanda Fragateiro, Gilvert & George, Walter Goldfarb, Antony Gormley, Marcus Harvey, Nicky Hoberman, Jörg Immendorf, Peter Klasen, Pierre Klossowski, Roy Liechtenstein, Michael Craig Martin, Jacques Monory, Sarah Morris, Mimmo Paladino, A. R. Penck, Marc Quinn, Pedro Cabrita Reis, James Rielly, David Salle, Rui Sanches, Julian Schnabel, George Segal, Frank Stella.


sábado, agosto 15, 2015

The Englishness of English Literature: “English Literature” by Jonathan Bate


Published 2010.


“Once upon a time, a very long, long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.”

What you get contents-wise:

Once Upon a Time;
What it is;
When it Began;
The Study of English;
Periods and Movements;
Among the English Poets;
Shakespeare and Dramatic Literature;
Aspects of the English Novel;
The Englishness of English Literature?

Last year I read a book entitled: “Why Read?”. There are points of connection between the two books. Bate’s book is more specific, whereas Edmondson’s is more generic. Both give us a fine view of what it means to be a (compulsive/immersive) reader.

Does reading make me “smarter”? I’m not sure I can devise a method to measure my ability to understand the world as it-is or as it-should-be due to my deep immersion in Literature. I’m pretty certain because I started reading in English at a tender age, my ability to understand and be able to talk about English Literature is greater than my aptitude to discuss Portuguese Literature. I usually say I’m not really an example to anyone in this regard, because I neglected reading my own literature in my own mother-tongue at a very early age. I only read what I was compelled to read. When I got older, in college, that’s when I started reading (and discovering) Portuguese Literature. But English literature (or Literature in English if one feels so inclined because it has a wider scope) will always be my first love reading-wise. My English synapses were formed when I was very young, so there’s nothing to be done about it. I am who I am, accept me, reject me, but I'm still me. Later on I discovered German Literature. And nothing was ever the same…

Once I became more experienced in the ways of English, German and Portuguese literature, I knew it fell upon me to begin to light the way for future explorers. That’s why I got into GR, BL, LM, etc.   I’ve written some “literary” works of my own, using words to illuminate my views on the truth about humanity, science, geekery, etc.  Others may decide instead to act as teachers, helping prospective explorers learn to traverse the dense and sometimes bewildering forest of literature they will encounter along their journey.  As the great authors of the past have marked out paths in the wilderness for we who have followed them, so we must serve as guides for those who will come after us. Great books (aka literature) provides us with a window into various aspects of the human condition and a guide to the way we relate to one another and to our cognitive approach to the world.  Books give us a mirror in which to examine our collective reflection as people.  It does not distort the errors of humanity, but exposes them quite openly.  Only the truth is relevant.  The world of books is the reflecting pool into which I can look and see both my own face and the faces of all my fellow humans.  It enables me to not only find the humanity within my own heart, but also to connect me to the generations of other people who came before me. I like to read because I believe there is power in literature. The world of books is both intensely personal as well as a communal experience. Hence BL, LM, whatever. I love examining how words, sentences, characters, plot-lines and tropes reveal who we are as humans (close-reading). The human condition as Harold Bloom uses to say is a complicated thing, and requires an infinite amount of words, concepts, and imagery to describe and analyse. That's the joy of reading books, there is always a new reality to discover. Once I realized that I really loved to look at rhetorical devices, and the use of language, I started to see that, although it still was not science, it was art, and art is the greatest expression of that which makes us human. As I was writing this, I got to thinking about the importance of reading and writing and their differences, not only in terms of mechanical devices, but in terms of what it means to write, and I mean personally. The written word embodies an entire culture. Why? Because it “documents” the collective thoughts of everyone who cared to share them with the world.  Hence, I believe that for me to truly be a part of human society, it’s critical that I take part in the “history” that is literature, even if only in the reading aspect (I’m not taking into consideration my own dabbling attempts at writing…).  Writing carries a grave importance for those who are blessed with the ability to write, as literature simply would not exist in a form accessible to all, and for that reason I believe all who can write should.  I take advantage of the great opportunity to be part of and contribute to the world and society in which I live through writing (at BL, LM, etc.).  I see literature in the sense of an existing conjoint struggle to understand and make the best of the lives that we have all been given.  Literature serves as a way to enrich my soul, and gives me a way to improve the world not only through the beauty of its existence but through the ideas and tangible possibilities it possesses.

After this bland speech, what remains to be said about Bate’s book? Read it. The guy has been writing extensively about Shakespeare, and he knows what he’s talking about. Bate’s focus is wide, shifting from the birth of the English novel and the brilliance of English comedy to the deep Englishness of landscape poetry and the cultural diversity of Britain’s Nobel literature laureates. And then it continues on a more in-depth analysis, with close readings from Shakespeare to Burnette’s “The Secret Garden”, and a series of wonderful instances of how literary texts change as they are transmitted from writer to reader.

“We would not want to read yesterday’s newspaper again and again. Nor the thriller or romance or comic caper that web picked up at the last minute on the airport bookstall. The books that are rad again and again become literature. Sometimes one of them will be a thriller or romance or comic caper. Or a children’s story. A book may be described as a ‘classic’ thriller or ‘classic romance´ when it becomes definitive of its genre. It may be described as a ‘classic‘ pure and simple when it transcends  the limits if its genre – Charlotte Bröntë’s Jane Eyre is more than just a romance – and when it continues to be re-read in generations after its own. Samuel Johnson, in his preface to Shakespeare, said that the only test of literary greatness is “length of duration and continuance of esteem.” Why do we keep on reading the so-called classics (Shakespeare comes to mind)? Shakespeare's perennial appeal is his polysemy and adaptability. Shakespeare never constrains his plays and his characters to one motif - there are always multiple reasons, multiple ways of interpreting and analysing his works, and as a result they are capable of meaning different things, often diametrically-opposed, to different people at the same time. I can read myself in Shakespeare over and over again, as long as I’m able to read, and as a result Shakespeare has continued to have reverberation even four hundred years after the texts were written.

"What do they know of England who only England knowI’m not sure I agree with Bate on the interpretation of this Kipling’s quote. I’ve always read this as we will know ourselves better if we can view ourselves through the eyes of others. Those who know other languages have, in general, a better understanding of English than those who do not. Of course, the word "English" may be replaced by any other, namely, Portuguese, German, etc. I’d be interested in knowing your take on this.

Classics are non-verifiable and non-replicable, meaning no one knows how to produce classics. That’s the beauty of art, and literature in particular.

NB:

GR = Goodreads
BL = Booklikes
LF = Leafmarks

segunda-feira, agosto 10, 2015

Ode to Lisbon - The City of my Heart



I am glad that I live in Lisbon. I was also born here.

I need the air, after a day spent in an office chair, rolling from desk to desk in an open-plan office lit only by a narrow well of light. This city picks and scratches at itself like an animal kept in too small a cage, pining for its lost reflection. It obsesses over its own archaeology. In the shade of parking garages and electricity substations, stubs of classical brickwork, lacquered with a weatherproof resin, poke up through gravel beds and well-tended lawns. New buildings clad apologetically in glass contort themselves around the city’s ancient leavings. They hollow themselves out where they can; they arc above, they grope beneath. At its centre the city has begun to resemble the root system of a neglected houseplant. Lisbon has packed itself around itself to the point where its surface has eroded away entirely. Inside its tangle of windowless malls and pedestrian bridges, its banks of stairs and escalators, its short-haul lifts and cantilevered walkaways, no one thinks about “ground level”, or even expects the numbers on the lifts to match up. There is something exhilarating about this, some atavistic hint of forest canopy. Lisbon.

domingo, agosto 09, 2015

How to Live Another Sol: “The Martian” by Andy Weir



Published 2014.

“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”

“’Watney is our botanist and engineer. And don’t talk about him in the past tense.’
‘Engineer? Like Scotty?’
‘Kind of,’ Beck said. ‘He fixes stuff.’
‘I bet that’s coming in handy now.’
‘Yeah, no shit.’”


This book could have had another title: “How to Grow Potatoes on Mars”…

SF boasts a range of recurring images that are symbolical of the major concerns and underlying its angst. Are the most familiar and iconic of these images the alien, the futuristic world, the spaceship, the IA machine? I think not. The image that I most associate with SF is “being stranded on an alien planet”. That’s for me quintessential SF. Does “The Martian” belong to this category? Yes. Is it good SF? No. Why? Read on.

Top-notch SF gains power from their characteristic of both revealing knowledge and withholding it at the same time, i.e., they’re familiar, while at the same time they remain estranged (see links below) from us in some other important aspect. Take the “Being stranded on an alien planet” image. The “artifacts” of this image in terms of putting it on the page are numerous. It’s supposed to operate by understandable mechanical and electronic principles, as well as Biology, Physics, etc. This image derives from both mythological and technological themes, i.e., there’s room in the spaceship image for Icarus… As a long time SF devotee, I’ve come to regard SF as having odd-ball bifurcated ramifications, drawing at the same time on myth and modern technology.

Why did they make a movie out of it? Was it because of the above-average character development (The Mark Watney that emerged at the end of the story was not that much different than the character at the outset. No depression? No lethargy? He’s a 24/7 human dynamo!)? Was it because of the atrocious writing (at times I thought I was reading SF from the 30s…)? Was it the purely engineering aspects? Was the story improved by all the back-of-the-envelope calculations, the physics, orbital mechanics, or somesuch? I’m not sure. The whole shebang felt gimmicky to me. Incidentally. What’s with the “pirate-ninja” as a unit of measurement? As an engineer myself, I believe this is utter nonsense. Credibility-wise is plain stupid. The rate of energy used over time is power, and we already have units for that: watts. Duh!

If I were to be candid, I’d say this a pleasant and inoffensive entertainment, and in the traditional words, it kept me turning pages. Weir must improve on his ability at handling characters. There are moments of utter glibness. This an inferior coffee-table production, not that illuminating, but fun nonetheless. Buy it as a present, not as textbook on Physics and Chemistry.

Warning. Rant follows.

If I were to be mean, which I won’t, I’d say this book is probably one of the lamest, most mediocre SF books ever written. Competing with it is another famous example of bad SF: “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie. If I were some sort of soap-opera brain damaged victim who microwaved plastic and drank diet soda, maybe this book would be for me. Someone should tell Weir that foisting such a horrible and puerile abortion on the public and call it SF is a disservice to that same SF.

NB: The movie HAS to be better than this (or maybe not). There’s still hope. Ridley Scott is directing it… I'm curious to know how he’ll will make the transition of what is mostly Watney's thoughts into some kind of narration.


Rating this novel was a pain in the neck. Let me see:

5 stars for everything that was behind the book’s conception: space travel, orbital dynamics, relativistic physics, astronomy, and software engineering (”they want me to launch ‘hexedit’ on the rover’s computer, then open the file /usr/lib/habcomm.so, scroll until the index reading on the left of the screen is 2AAE5, then replace the bytes there with a 141-byte sequence NASA will send in the next message. Fair enough.”) Working out all the math and physics for Mark’s problems and solutions must have been fun.

0 stars for execution (not to put too fine a point on it, terrible).

Average = 2.5 stars. And that’s that, folks.  


SF = Speculative Fiction.

sábado, agosto 08, 2015

Stories Without People: "Histórias Falsas" by Gonçalo M. Tavares



Published 2010.


"Histórias Falsas" = "False Stories"

Gonçalo M. Tavares tells us a bunch of semi-false stories based on “real” stories, i.e., stories belonging to a kind pf parallel universe of Stories, wherein everything looks slightly askew:

The story of Juliet, the saint from Bavaria
The story of Lianor de Mileto
The story of Listo Mercatore
The story of Metão, the little one
The tyrants’ story
The story of Aurius Anaxos
The story of Elia de Mirceia
The story of Faustina, the fearful
The story of Arquitas

I cannot resist translating into English two very small excerpts from the same story (“The story of Listo Mercatore”):

1.

“Mercatore was climbing down small stairs when he run across the philosopher, shabbily dressed, sitting on the floor, against the wall, eating lentils.
Haughty, more than usual, with a full stomach, and full of cheekiness due to the wealth that he sported, said to Diogenes:
‘If you had learned to kiss ass to the king, you wouldn’t need to eat lentils.’
And then he laughed, mocking Diogenes poverty.
And yet, the philosopher, looked at him with even greater haughtiness and pride. He had had standing in front of him, Alexander the Great; who was this now? Just a simple rich man?
Diogenes answered to the letter: ‘and you,’ said the philosopher, ‘If you had learned to eat lentils, you wouldn’t need to kiss ass to the king.’”

While reading the story I was thinking on a different take to the excerpt:

” Hey man, I’m eating lentils because I like it. There is no accounting for taste, which is one of the conclusions in Aesthetics-Philosophy, because even yesterday I was stuffing my face at José Avillez’s Belcanto (*), but today I feel like eating lentils, you know? Therefore go kiss the King’s ass, I don’t really need this shit. For me, the power of my brain is enough to do well in life; go ass-kissing instead, scat!”

2.

“’You have before you, Alexander the Great; what do you have to tell him?’
Diogenes, the philosopher, looked at Alexander, the great, and said, ’you are blocking the sun. Would you mind stepping aside?’
Diogenes reply became famous.”


“Histórias Falsas” follow in the footsteps of Jorge Luis Borges (“A Universal History of Infamy“ comes to mind) which also tells false stories of known characters, near and parallel to the familiar characters.  Like Borges before him, Tavares also aims at writing stuff without people. His writing delves into the research of ideas, objects and concepts. What we call “people” in some of Tavares’ novels (“Jerusalem”, “Learning to Pray in the Age of Technique”, and "A Man: Klaus Klump" also come to mind), are really archetypes of people.
Unfortunately the usual juxtaposing of logical thoughts and sensory experience is absent here. On top of that, the writing here is so sparse and pithy that some paragraphs only had one word…Not my cup of tea. I’m not sure what kind of effect Tavares was looking for here, but it didn’t work.

(*) Awarded 2 Michelin stars - one of the most famous and expensive restaurants in Lisbon.

sexta-feira, agosto 07, 2015

"Shakespeare Expressed: Page, Stage, and Classroom in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries" by Kathryn M. Moncrief (Editor), Kathryn R. McPherson (Editor), Sarah Enloe (Editor)



Warning: Post longer than my arm...

Published 2013.

Contents:

Introduction: “Players and Playhouses – embodied, Expressed, Enacted” By Kathryn M. Moncrief, Kathryn R. McPherson

“The study of Shakespeare may on its surface seem esoteric, but the skills gained in the study and practice of the arts and humanities are primary. The ability to read carefully and critically, to understand and interpret complex texts, to listen and view productions attentively, to think deeply and purposefully, to write clearly, to speak articulately, and to perform publicly are important skills not just in an academic setting, but in the world at large as students prepare to pursue meaningful employment in an increasingly competitive environment.”

Chapter 2: “Speaking in the Silence” by Deaf Performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival” by Lezlie C. Cross

“Theatre as a ‘concrete physical place’, which is inhabited by performance. […] there is a poetry of the senses as there is a poetry of language and that this concrete physical language to which I refer is truly theatrical only to the degree that the thoughts it expresses are beyond the reach of the spoken language.” (Artaud)

Chapter 3: “’I have given suck’ – The Maternal Body in Sarah Siddon’s Lady Macbeth” by Chelsea Phillips

“A pregnant Lady Macbeth reframes much of the play, even beyond her appearances on stage, and becomes a visible signifier of the dynastic implications of Macbeth’s actions. The potentiality encoded in her pregnant body creates a new level of tension in the play not present if the couple is perceived as barren.”

Chapter 4: “Competing Heights in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’” by Jemma Alix Levy

Chapter 5: “The Mirror and the Monarchs – Suggestive Presences and Shakespeare’s Cast Size” by Brett Gamboa

“Every play of Shakespeare’s is playable by twelve speakers. [..] as some have observed, however, there are a handful of scenes that seem to require more: R&J (13), Julius Cesar (13).”

Chapter 6: “Embodying Shakespeare – In the Classroom” by Miriam Gilbert

“[…] basic assignment, ‘the staging paper,’ asks students to think of themselves as actors/directors/designers, challenging them to work in specific detail with the text.”
“’coverage’ is only an illusion, and that immersion in the text creates deeper involvement. Getting students to create a staging and thus eventually to possess a small piece of text seems to me what we can reasonably – and proudly- accomplish in our classrooms.”

Chapter 7: “Remember the Porter – Knock-knock Jokes, Tragedy, and Other Unfunny Things” By Chris Barrett

Chapter 8: “Ghost in the Machine – Shakespeare, Stanislavski, and Original Practices” by Peter Kanelos

“[..] What is the subtext beneath the claim that there is no subtext in Shakespeare?”
“[..] As avidly as original practitioners attempt to reject twentieth-century modes of acting, it is striking that the Stanislavskian method and the Elizabethan staging were born out of the same historical moment and in response to the same stimuli.”
“Undergirding this critique is the belief that authenticity  in the theatre is an inner phenomenon and that the actor’s work should be to probe past what a character says or does into that space within which passeth show.”

Chapter 9: “Speake[ing] the speech[es] – Reassessing the Playability of the Earliest Printings of Hamlet” By Matthew Vadnais

“Real-time difficulty in determining when to speak had everything to do with what, in textual terms, players were given to study when they learned their parts. For economic reasons related to the lack of collective rehearsals, players were not provided the entirety of a playtext. Players’ parts were limited to a character’s speeches, entrances, exits,  and relevant stage directions, tethered to the play as a whole by the tenuous thread of cues, the last one to three words of the utterance  that were intended to spur the appropriate player to enact the appropriate portion of his privately prepared performance.”

“The two-player scene is the most obvious structural form by which Shakespeare and his company offered textual assistance regarding when players were to deliver their speeches.”

Chapter 10: “A ‘Ha’ in Shakespeare – The Soliloquy as Excuse and Challenge to the Audience“by Bill Gelber

“Of the 47,902 speeches in the corpus, 16,095 (34%) are exchanged while only two speaking players are onstage”.
“There are very few absolutes in Shakespeare, but I personally believe that it’s right ninety-nine times out of a hundred to share a soliloquy with the audience. I’m convinced it’s a grave distortion of Shakespeare’s intention to do it to oneself.”

Chapter 11: “A Knave to Know a Knock – Exploring Character Function in Scenic Structure” by Symmonie Preston

“Shakespeare’s use of character type and function to create a dramatic structure makes his plays unique, exciting, and challenging for players and audiences alike.”

Chapter 12: “Behind Closed Doors – Perspective and Painterly Technique on the Early Modern English Stage” by Jennifer A. Low

“To provide the complex experience of discovery to spectators, players of the early modern public theatre frequently had recourse to the feature of stage design now commonly called the ‘discovery space,’ a term drawn from the stage direction specifying that a character ‘discovers’ a previously concealed person or tableau.”

Chapter 13: “Shticky Shakespeare – Exploring Action as Eloquence” by Sid Ray

“A play is said to be well or ill acted in proportion to the scenically illusion produced…The nearest approach to it, we are told, is, when the actor appears wholly unconscious of the presence of spectators.”
“Stage business becomes shtick when it is gimmicky rather than exegetic.”

Chapter 14: “Seeing Ghosts – Hamlet and Modern Original Practices” by Fiona Harris-Ramsby and Kathryn R. McPherson

“Student: Something’s been troubling me about Hamlet. Why can Horatio and the guards see the ghost but Gertrude cannot?
Patrick: “Well, it seems to me that the ghost first appearance is in order to get Hamlet’s attention and to make a public proclamation and his later appearance is to impart a private message to Hamlet only.
Student: Okay, but the first message is meant for Hamlet, too, so why doesn’t the ghost just approach Hamlet directly in the first place?
All actors: This sounds like an excellent topic for a term paper. This is something you should definitely look into further. What does the text say and what could different staging options indicate? You are definitely onto something.”
(The conversation occurred between a high school student and Patrick Midgely , the actor who played Horatio)

Chapter 15: “Remembrances of Yours – Properties, Performance, and Memory in Shakespeare’s Hamlet 3.1” by Kathryn M. Moncrief

Chapter16: “The Mirror of All Christian Kings – Choral Medievalism in Henry V, Text and Production” by Christina Gutierrrez

“For twenty-first-century audiences, Shakespeare’s medievalism in Henry V is most readily apparent in a comparison of Lawrence Olivier’s film adaption in 1941 and Kenneth Branagh’s in 1989. Olivier’s Henry is pious, noble, and patriotic. [ … ] Branagh, on the other hand, was concerned with presenting a critique of twenty-first-century warfare. […] French bodies piled six feet high, with most of them dying to suffocation in the crush.”
“To stage Henry V is thus to stage the changing ways in which we understand the middle ages themselves.”

Chapter 17: “Playing with Character-Audience Members in Early Modern Playhouses” By Sarah Enloe

Classroom activities:

“Discuss the differences between the spaces and actor-audience relationships in the following modern spaces: lighting, house dimensions, etc”
“How do the character-audience members shift from space to space?
“How does the audience affect the impact of themes or the story?”

Chapter 18: “Blackfriars Stage Sitters and the Staging of The Tempest, The Maid’s Tragedy, and The Two Noble Kinsmen” by Leslie Thomson

“The fashionable gentlemen’s chief reason for sitting on the stage was to display his finery to public view.” (Nothing changed in terms of modern theatre-goers…)

Chapter 19: “The Concourse of the People on the Stage – An alternative Proposal for Onstage Seating at the Second Blackfriars” by Nova Myhill

Chapter 20: “The Two Bkackfriars Theatres – Discontinuity of Contiguity?” by Jeanne McCarthy

Chapter 21: “Here Sit We Down – The Positioning of Andrea and Revenge” by Annalisa Castaldo

Chapter 22: “Thomas Middleton’s Use of the Gallery Space” by Christine Parker

Chapter 23: “Performing Space – Playing the Architecture” by Doreen Bechtol

Chapter 24: “Heat and Light in the Playhouses” by Ann Jennalie Cook

Chapter 25: “Lighting Effects in the Early Modern Private Playhouses” by Lauren Shell

Chapter 26: “Sound Trumpets” by Alisha Huber

Chapter 27: “Play It Again, Hal – The 1605 Revival of Henry V” by Melissa D. Aaron

Chapter 28: “Playing with Early Modern Special Effects” by Cass Morris

Classroom activities:

“Begin by experimenting with short sound and visual cues. Brainstorm what an early modern theatre company could have used to signal the following: An approaching army, the entrance of a fairy or magician, the entrance of a ghost or other malevolent spirit, the entrance of a god or goddess, a magic sell.

This book draws on essays presented on the Blackfriars stage at the American Shakespeare Center in 2011. What do we get? Essays by scholars, teachers and theatrical practitioners (actors, directors, dramaturgs and designers) promoting ideas that can be translated into classroom experiences. Shakespeare is all about staging choices, challenging modern actors as they embody Shakespeare’s characters, the way the physical and technical aspects of theatre in the Shakespeare’s day affected performances, and the way the playtexts can keep on being enlightening on the stage and in the classrooms today.

As I’ve written elsewhere, Shakespeare can be daunting, complex, and intimidating to the young student and teacher alike, yet he is also interesting, funny, exciting, and brilliant. With so many classroom tips on how to stage and perform Shakespeare’s plays in chapters 17 and 28, I got thinking that I also wanted to put forth my own Lesson Plan proposal for getting in touch with Shakespeare. My overall goal was not about helping students learning much more than a few easily memorized facts that they later could regurgitate and then forget, for it does not teach students skills or knowledge that will stay with them.

Here it is (read at your own peril):

Lesson Plan “Shakespearian lesson (60min) 
Lesson background.
The structural idea of the lesson is: Shakespeare (a student) greets the audience and welcomes his characters (also students): Timon of Athens, King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Viola and Orsino, Falstaff. The characters (students) present themselves in English. The author is presented by one and the same student. After each character the teacher  asks the students: a) give proverbs, predominantly English, to share human traits of Shakespearian characters, coincidence and opposition are both possible; b) find parallel characters in  literature of other countries c) make a self-analysis searching to find Shakespearean traits in yourself (here etiquette must be observed because not all the students may be open-hearted). This is meant to develop critical thinking but the time space of the lesson may abridge the work that is why the teacher should be wise enough to pass over the students’ thinking beyond the lesson and then probably give marks for this prolonged optional work.  The teacher speaks on Shakespeare’s immortality at the end; in her short report she inserts questions to set the students to philosophical thinking about contradictory human nature.
Learning objectives
Pay tribute to the genius of Shakespeare, get in touch with theatrical art, emotional development, and get to know the philosophical wisdom of life and immortal merits and values.
Expected results
Acting and playing is a very effective way to learning not only English but also developing etiquette and increasing cultural mentality. The target to give the students some life experience through Shakespeare also belongs here. The material of the lesson should take a philosophical spectra to build interdisciplinary ties with the course of philosophy and business relations (especially useful for future managers).
Materials and resources:
The large classroom is decorated with portraits of Shakespeare and citations from his works-they illustrate wisdom (they are also to dispose the students to critical thinking). The authentic materials for the lesson are crowned by costumes from the local theatre for students to better act Shakespeare’s characters. Some things to act: a treasure box for Timon, jewelry and an envelope of Orsino, a travelling stick of King Lear. This version of the lesson presupposes exposition of pictures and photos of theatre and film actors who played Shakespearian characters (foreign-British and American at least 12-14) included into the lesson or may be given as an optional assignment after the lesson. The students are given independent work to find Shakespeare’s plays in the internet, at least in fragments, and compare the style of acting; of course they will tell each other about it beyond the lesson. Two short video fragments are shown: about Shakespeare’s places in Britain and theatrical life in modern Britain. A table of all Shakespeare’s plays (when each was written) is exhibited on the wall.
 During the teacher’s final report a list of questions for critical thinking is exhibited on the wall of the classroom.
Note: The sentences for the author and characters’ presentations are very short but rich in meaning and transferring the essence of Shakespeare’s ideas.
 The Text  of the Shakespearian lesson
  Teacher says
Today we are having a conference lesson with dramatization devoted to Shakespeare.
Student says (acts Shakespeare)
My hearty greetings to you, my friends! I have come to you with my characters
Timon of Athens
King Lear
Macbeth
Hamlet
Romeo and Juliet
Viola and Orsino
Falstaff
They will give you pieces of wisdom to be happy in your life. Please, welcome to our party.
 Student says (acts the author)
“Timon of Athens’ is one of the last tragedies Shakespeare ever wrote. The story of Timon is taken from ancient authors. The scene of the play is laid in ancient Athens. We see the society of Shakespeare’s time. Timon is a rich and noble Athenian, generous to his friends. But when he meets financial difficulties they refuse to help him, and he is completely ruined. He becomes a misanthrope (a hater of mankind). The speeches of Timon in which he curses humanity are among the most powerful lines written by Shakespeare. While living in the cave Timon finds a treasure, much gold and speaks of it:
 Student says (acts Timon)
Thus much of this will make black, white; foul, fair;
Wrong, right; base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant.
……………………………………………………………….
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions; bless the accurs’d
Make the hoar leprosy ador’d; place thieves,
And give them title, knee, and approbation,
With senators on the bench.
 Student says (acts the author)
In “King Lear” Shakespeare shows how richness may spoil people. Lear is an old king, he is convinced in his personal greatness. The conflict between Lear and his daughters is brought to a crisis. Having got their parts of the kingdom the daughters quarreled with each other and Lear became poor. Lear attains true dignity only when he loses his crown and becomes truly wise only when he goes mad.
 Student says (acts King Lear)
(a little simplified in the language)
Poor naked wretches,
That endure the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
 You are full of holes…
What will defend you from seasons such as these?
Oh, I have taken too little care of this!
 Student says (acts the author)
Macbeth wanted to become a king; he became a king and became a monster. Lear was a king and a monster; when he ceases being a king he became human ”Macbeth” is like the tragedy “King Lear” but reversed, as in a mirror.
 Student says (acts Macbeth)
Beautiful is vicious and the evil is beautiful.
 Student says (acts the author)
“Hamlet’ is one of Shakespeare’s greatest creations, it is also considered the hardest of his works to understand. Even a special term “hamletism” was invented; it means a tendency to treat everything as futile, to doubt everything, to let thought prevail over action.
 Student says (acts Hamlet)
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
……………………………………..
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
 Student says (acts the author)
The two chief families in Verona (Italy) were the Capulets and the Montagues, both very rich families. The quarrel between the two families lead to a love tragedy of Romeo and Juliet who belonged to different families. Shakespeare created a great love which transforms into an ideal form through victimness.
 Students say (act Romeo and Juliet)
Romeo: I swear by the blessed moon
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops…
Juliet: O! swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that you love prove likewise variable.
Romeo: What shall I swear by?
Juliet: Do not swear at all. Or if you will, swear by your gracious self, which is the god of my idolatry, and I’ll believe you.
Romeo: If my heart’s dear love…
Juliet: Well, do not swear. Although I joy in you,
I have no joy of this meeting tonight:
It is too rash, too unadvised,too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which does cease to be
……Sweet, good-night1
This bud of love, by summers’ ripening breath,
May prove a beautiful flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night…
Romeo: O! Will you leave me so unsatisfied?
Juliet: What satisfaction can you have tonight?
Romeo: The exchange of your love’s faithful vow for mine.
Juliet: I gave you mine before you did request it. And yet I would it were to give again.
Romeo: Would you withdraw it? For what purpose, love?
Juliet: But to be frank and give it you again.
 My love is boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to you…
                 (The nurse calls, knocking is heard).
I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu!
… Sweet Montague, be true…
Romeo:O blessed, blessed night!
 Student says (acts the author)
“Twelfth night” is a comedy built around the typical Shakespearian conflict between true and false emotions. Viola is one of the famous Shakespearian comedy heroines, a true woman of the Renaissance: she is brave, adventurous, clever, witty and capable of deep feeling. Viola is Shakespeare’s favorite character.
Viola loses her heart to the Duke-Orsino. In the long run he falls in love with Viola. The gay comedy ends happily.
 Students say (act Viola and Orsino)
(a little simplified in the language)
Orsino: That Nature makes her bright and attracts my soul.
Viola: But if she cannot love you sir?
Orsino: I cannot be unanswered.(He holds the letter which has not been answered by his beloved.)
Viola: You tell her so. Must she not then also be answered?
Orsino: There is no woman’s sides
That can give so strong a passion
As love does give my heart; no woman’s heart
So big to hold so much;
… love may be called appetite,-
………..
We suffer and revolt;
But mine is all as hungry as the sea,
………
And that I owe Olivia.
Viola: Ah, I know.
Orsino: What do you know?
Viola: Too well what love women to men owe.
Orsino: And what’s her history?
Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm.
… with green and yellow melancholy..
She sat with patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief.
Orison: But did your sister die of love?
Viola: I am all the daughters of my father’s house,
And all the brothers too;- and yet I know not.-Shall I go to  this lady?
Orsino: To her in haste; give her this jewel; say
My love can give no place…
 Student says (acts the author)
Falstaff is a through character in Shakespeare’s plays, particularly in “Henry 1V” and “Henry V”. Sir John Falstaff is one of Shakespeare’s greatest creations. He is a knight, utterly devoid of feudal prejudices and cynical to the last degree. But Falstaff possesses a marvelous sense of humor and doesn’t hesitate to aim irony at himself. His good-naturedness wins him a peculiar charm. Prince Harry is his friend, captured by Falstaff’s mischief. But despite this friendship prince Harry is sincere; through Falstaff he gets to know the life of common people. 
 Students say (act Falstaff and Prince Harry)
Falstaff( a little simplified in the language)”Can honor set to a leg? or an arm? Or take away the grief of a wound? No, Honor has no skill in surgery. What is honor? A word. What is in that word, honour?.Honour is a mere label”.
Prince Harry: no words, only friendly gestures.

 The teacher‘s summative short report disposing the students to critical creative thinking beyond the lesson
                                            He was not of an age, but for all time!
                                                                Ben Jonson
The English Renaissance gave birth to an amazing galaxy of great writers, but William Shakespeare outshines them all. He had a greater influence on the development of the whole of world literature. Characters created by him remain perfect depictions of the principal human passions and psychological traits. But Shakespeare was not just a painter of abstract passions independent of space and time. His unsurpassed portrayals of human nature come as a result of his profound insight into the most important social and philosophical problems of the period.
Shakespeare was a marvelous poet, a great dramatist, a learned man.
It is utterly impossible to characterize every aspect of his genius in a brief report. Many periods in Shakespeare’s life remain obscure.
Shakespeare’s great tragedies still produce a terrific impression on our emotions and our intellect (what impresses you most?).The writer treats important ethical themes: state and society; the nature of power; the historical essence of monarchy; the power of money; the multi-problem dialogue of the evil and the good in general and countless variations. But still the writer focused all human feelings and relations on love; love discloses human character very deep.
Shakespeare’s humor serves to get rid of the bad sides of our life in a good-natured manner without tragedy.
In many of his views Shakespeare was far ahead of his time. He was wise enough to reject feudalism that slowed the pace of history and was shrewd enough to see the evils and vices of coming capitalism. He could not give concrete answers to the problems he put forth, but he was a truly great inquirer.
His works are really immortal, and will keep their immortality as long as the human race exists (what is especially immortal for you in Shakespeare’s ideas?).
It is only natural that the greatest minds of the world admired Shakespeare: Goethe, Pushkin, Victor Hugo and many others.
Every generation finds new and important aspects of his ideas, bedded into his works. His popularity all over the world grows from year to year. Performances of his well-known parts serve a serious test for actors to get the right to be called great.

Questions on the wall for critical and creative thinking
1.    Are there any points you disagree with Shakespearian interpretation?
2.    Do Shakespeare’s pieces of advice remain contemporary?
3.    Compare the idea “Man is always a mystery” by Shakespeare and Dostoyevski.
4.    Compare the analysis of a man in Chekhov’s and Shakespeare’s plays. Why were both examples for Bernard Shaw.
5.    Do you feel something national, typically British in Shakespeare’s mentality?
6.   Name as many writers and poets from any national literature which share views with Shakespeare.
7.    Are there any Christian turns of thinking in Shakespeare’s philosophy?( for example about love, etc.)
8.    Can we study British history by Shakespeare?
9.    What human evils disclosed by Shakespeare are especially important nowadays?
10.  What is your favorite character by Shakespeare?
11. What types of modernization of Shakespearian plots and characters do you know?
12. What plays by Shakespeare were put to music (Russian composer Prokofjev “Romeo and Juliet”. Etc.)
13.  How is Shakespeareana realized in painting?
14.  Do you know Shakespeare’s images in brief marks?
15.  What websites with Shakespeare do you know?

(The students can write their answers to the questions after the lesson in the form of short or long essays in English. The target of the lesson is” to plant” an interest in the students’ souls and intellect.)
 Extended Reflection
The teacher stimulates the students to analyze the citations by Shakespeare on the wall every time when they will come to the classroom in after lessons, because they will not be removed and stay for a while.  The lesson creates somewhat Shakespearian atmosphere in the classroom for some time. The students are as if routed across Shakespearian creations mentioned on the table of Shakespeare’s chronical work. At the end of the lesson the students are asked to draw Shakespeare’s characters.

NB: Congratulations! You’ve made it this far…