May 8th, 2012

Interrogating James Shapiro

James Shapiro relates the plots of The Winter's Tale and The Tempest to James I's attempts to arrange splendid dynastic marriages for his children. Perhaps. James's daughter the Princess Elizabeth ended up marrying a Prince of Bohemia- and it's probably no accident that that's where Florizel comes from. 

Shapiro thinks the move to the Blackfriars Theatre inspired Shakey to try things he'd never attempted before like the statue scene from The Winter's Tale. Yes, but if that scene depends for its effectiveness on candlelit intimacy how did they manage it when the show transferred to The Globe?  Personally I think it would work on any stage. Again, there's only the one statue scene. It's not as though the later plays were littered with these show-stopping visual effects. 

Towards the end of his career Shakey stopped referring to the audience as "auditors" and started calling them "spectators". That's interesting if it's true. And, no, I'm not going to work my way through the canon checking up. Shapiro's point is that the new indoor theatre offered an experience that was primarily visual not aural. I'm unconvinced. The Blackfriars would have allowed more scope for stage "magic" but not for large-scale spectacle- fights, battles, processions. Also its acoustics would have been better.

Shapiro has Shakey retiring to Stratford after Henry VIII and never writing anything else for the stage. So what about Cardenio and The Two Noble Kinsmen? Cardenio is lost to us, but I'm an enthusiast for The Two Noble Kinsmen. OK, it didn't make it into the folio, but it's as much Shakey's as Henry VIII is- and a much more interesting play.