It wasn’t what I expected, which was lectures by some British Shakespeare enthusiasts, scholarly analysis of Shakespeare’s most difficult play The Taming of the Shrew, and heated discussions of how to interpret Katherine’s last monologue.
Sadly, there were no British participants at all but the gentleman running the course, the chairperson of the Swedish Shakespeare Society, the very likeable RH, did a very good job of arranging a more homespun introduction course on Shakespeare, most satisfying for those participants who aren’t so advanced in their Shakespearean studies. For those of us who have come further in our appreciation and interpretation it was still a pleasant experience in good company in the venerable George Inn, where – we are happy to believe – Shakespeare spent much, or at least some, of his time.
RH and his affable fellow Swedish Shakespeare Society board member DM presented in a mixture of English and Swedish a background of what little we know about Shakespeare, the reasons for the wide and continuing appeal of the plays, various themes in the plays, a history of bardolatry and the different ways in which Shakespeare has been interpreted and exploited throughout the centuries. Generally basic stuff, including a presentation of our contemporary Bardolator Number One Professor Harold Bloom, but one of the bits of information new to me is William Epsom who in the 30’s began looking at Shakespeare through quantum’s altered notion of reality. Sounds fascinating! I’ll have to look into that.
Various film interpretations were presented, many of which I have seen but several not: the very funny Rat Export Hamlet by Ilona Huss Walin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAv_MNOspOg , She’s the Man (Twelfth Night), Get Over It (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and The Banquet apparently also called Empress, a Chinese version of Hamlet.
Some Shakespearean nuggets were gleaned from the walking tour led by the amiable Kim, for example that the Southwark Cathedral, a two-minute walk from our hotel, was the parish church when Shakespeare lived in the neighborhood. He would have attended regularly no matter what his personal beliefs or non-beliefs since it was illegal not to go to church on Sundays. A second gem is that when Juliet sighed, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” the audience would have caught the reference to the very stinky Rose Theater and fallen about laughing at the joke.
We had a short discussion of The Taming of the Shrew controversy before seeing the play and the following morning in the café of the National Gallery. We got going on quite a lively debate about our reactions, which were somewhat mixed. We seemed to agree, however, that Katherine does not fall in love with Petruccio in this version, which is more tragedy than comedy.
And so the course ended. Four agreeable days in the company of nineteen English teachers and one artist, all of whom are more or less into Shakespeare. Next time I’d like to attend a course into which I can more deeply sink my scholarly teeth but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.