Friday, 18 January 2013
Sunday, 11 November 2012
As the saying goes: we have seen the future and it works ... or does it? This long article in Guardian Online is the fullest journalistic explanation I've yet seen of what is happening. But it's striking that if you go to Khan Academy, edX, Udacity and the rest, the Humanities hardly get a look in. I completely get how Artificial Intelligence, Chemistry and How to Build a Search Engine can be delivered online, but what will the late 21st century virtual Humanities classroom look like? I remember sitting in a Cambridge lecture room as an undergraduate, with 200 others, being dazzled by the brilliance of Christopher Ricks, Jeremy Prynne or Frank Kermode. You could reproduce that online, though perhaps without the buzz of the lecturer's charismatic presence (which Ricks and Prynne had, but Kermode didn't, so maybe charisma isn't all). I remember teaching Shakespeare to a class of 40 at UCLA: a mix of lecture and discussion, with people putting their hands up. You could do this online pretty easily: 40 Skype connections, 40 little screens and a controlled click to allow the questions to be asked one at a time. But what would an Oxbridge style one on one tutorial, the historic apex of higher education, look like online?
Friday, 26 October 2012
Saturday, 7 April 2012
Sunday, 21 August 2011
We have just received the completed text of our final director interview - fittingly, from RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd himself, on his epic production of the three parts of Henry VI. A few high res pictures still to come from the archive, but otherwise everything is on course for delivery of the last batch of individual volumes. If all goes well in production, our ten year task will be over. We began work shortly before Michael became Artistic Director; we published the Complete Works in 2007, at the climax of the extraordinary RSC Complete Works Festival, and we will bring the Individual Titles to completion as the RSC-produced World Shakespeare Festival gets under way in London in April 2012.
Since the RSC has nearly always produced the Henry VI plays as a cycle, we were always keen to publish all three parts in a single volume.The question then arose as to whether there should be any other joint titles or double volumes. We seriously explored the idea of doing Henry IV Part 1 as both a double volume with Part 2, in the Folio texts, and an individual volume of Part One alone in its Quarto text. This would have got round one of my few regrets about our Folio-based editorial policy: the watering-down of Falstaff's magnificent oaths and exclamations. I argued that theatregoers, who often get treated to paired productions of the two parts (most recently at the Globe), would like the double volume but that students doing Part One as a set text (it is prescribed far more often than Part Two) would like the singleton. But the publishers did not buy this argument.
The publishers' decision is always final: especially now the world of print publishing is so much tougher than it was ten years ago when we began. Being brutally realistic, we had to ask: how many copies will be sold of a solo volume of Timon of Athens or King John? We seriously considered not doing some of the plays in this format (and have, indeed, with regret decided not to do The Two Noble Kinsmen, on the grounds that it contains a fair bit more Fletcher than Shakespeare). A compromise was eventually reached: we are putting King John and Henry VIII together in a single volume -- the two "non-cyclical" histories, paired provocatively together (i.e. the two that are not part of a sequence of four plays, as all the other English histories are). I think it works, not least because they are both plays in which religion and politics go together: King John gives an important part to the dispute with a papal envoy, while Henry VIII turns on the break from Rome. Maybe we should have boldly called them "Two Reformation Histories".
The solution for Timon, meanwhile, was to pair it with Titus. "Two classical plays", bringing together Athens and Rome, the great warrior turning on the city and the great philanthropist turning on his friends. Titus has become a much studied, sold, produced and discussed play: we hope it will help Timon along. The pairing also avoided another publishing problem: Jonathan Bate edited Quarto Titus for the Arden Shakespeare series and there was a non-compete clause in the contract: he could not edit the play again in a single volume for a different publisher. Whilst we could have argued that an edition of Folio Titus was a different play, that might have been pushing it a bit.
Questions of this sort around publishing agreements also explain the non-appearance (yet) of e-books. We have a complex arrangement whereby Random House hold US rights and Macmillan publish us in UK/Europe/Commonwealth. But the enforcement of regional rights in e-books is much harder to sustain, so discussions are ongoing. There are various other rights and related issues to be ironed out, as well as technical ones. Thanks for patience ...
On the matter of "Shakespeare & Fletcher", now I'm off (at last) to watch Cardenio. And any readers who have stayed with this blog despite its long silences may like to watch this space for an announcement coming soon regarding Shakespeare's Collaborative Plays.
Friday, 8 July 2011
Thursday, 7 July 2011
Shakespeare scholar Jonathan Bate wrote 'The Man from Stratford' as an attempt to repay William Shakespeare's great gift: the chance to define ourselves through theatre. In this renamed revival, Simon Callow peppers the life with spicy excerpts from the work, making that difficult feat of tone variation look entirely effortless.
Using nothing more sophisticated than a wooden sword and a paper crown, the two actors - Callow and the long-dead Man himself - saunter through an ordinary life, from 'mewling and puking' infant to old fellow 'sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything'. It's a journey that commemorates the passing of an individual's span even as it celebrates the immortal abilities of this particular everyman, a glove-maker's son from Stratford who wrote us into existence.
There are elements of disingenuity. Neither Callow nor Bate deals in subtlety: there is fun here and intriguing sixteenth-century detail, but no argument with the facts as Bate understands them. The props are simple but the lighting is such stuff as Elizabethan dreams were made on, complete with fairy shadows dancing. This is essentially a showcase for Callow. Just as the Bard wrote 'Othello' and 'Hamlet' for Richard Burbage, Bate has written a Shakespeare to celebrate the peculiar gifts and broad abilities of a fine actor. It's a many-faced homage, and a sweetly watchable one at that.