Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Discoveries in The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.
After this post, we'll move from The Undiscovered Country to other matters, but an examination of the use of Shakespeare in that film has led my mind into tangential territory that I find interesting.

All the Shakespeare in that film is given to the villain.  The good guys just watch as their author is misused, abused, appropriated, and twisted—all without even so much as a "base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave" directed at him.

I've repeatedly said that Shylock's "Hath not a Jew" speech is almost impossible to play unsympathetically. In my research for posts on this film (especially on the Nazi use of Shakespeare in the Second World War), I discovered that a version of Merchant of Venice was broadcast on German radio—as incitement to anti-Semitism—on the day before Kristellnacht.

Shylock must have been portrayed with all the worst presumed characteristics of Jews. But I wonder. Could no one hear those lines sympathetically? In the aftermath, did no one think of those words and reconsider?

In the clip I posted in the previous entry, General Chang says the lines, and we fail to sympathize. But, of course, he hasn't been tickled, he hasn't been pricked, and he hasn't even been wronged. Therefore, his claims are ludicrous—we don't have to accept the conclusion of "Hath not a Klingon" because we don't have to accept the premise. But it was surely different in Germany in 1938.

Wasn't it?

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia. Official Site of The Klingon Hamlet.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2016 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest