Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Waste of Shame . . . But Not a Complete Waste

A Waste of Shame. By William Boyd. Perf. Rupert Graves, Tom Sturridge, Indira Varma, and Anna Chancellor. Dir. John McKay. Shakespeare Retold. 2005. DVD. Open University / BBC, 2005.
I finally managed to get (and then to see, which was an entirely different and entirely frustrating matter) A Waste of Shame—part of the Shakespeare Retold series, but not one released as a commercial DVD in the US.

[Side note: it’s available through amazon.uk at a very high price and in PAL format (so most DVD players . . . apart from those in computers . . . won’t play it) and through Films for the Humanities and Sciences for an even higher price (but in Region 1 format). I managed to get our library to buy the PAL format one, and, with a lot of fighting (the disc seems a bit scratchy & PAL format was confusing), I managed to watch it.]

The film is a riff on the sonnets (and on all the scholarly ink that has been spilt all over them), set in contemporary (to Shakespeare) London and its environs (among which we include Stratford). We meet the young man and the dark lady of the sonnets, and we get periodic lines from the sonnets that seem to fit with this fanciful biographical derivative.

I’m trying not to let my disagreement with the interpretation / potrayal get in the way of a commentary on the film itself, but it’s not too easy. I suppose I am guilty of being on the bardolatry side of things, and when Anne Hathaway Shakespeare is presented as a hideous shrew and Shakespeare as an absentee father who sends no money back to Stratford and who (paraphrasing Anne’s accusation) won’t come home to visit a sick child—only a dying one . . . well, it’s disturbing, innit?

There’s much more to say on this subject, but there’s also an awful lot of grading to do. And I really ought to do that.

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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.
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