Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fire Over England's Tilbury Speech

Fire Over England. Dir. William K. Howard. Perf. Laurence Olivier, Flora Robson, and Vivien Leigh. 1937. Videocassette.

After an earlier post on Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth I, I remembered that the 1937 film Fire Over England also has a version of Elizabeth I's speech at Tilbury. That film's version is much more thrilling and much more moving—possibly because it's closer to the actual thrilling and moving words of Elizabeth:

Of course, she has the "heart and valor of a king" instead of the "heart and stomach of a king" in this version. Perhaps stomachs aren't quite as en vogue now as they were in 1588. Alternately, it's possible that the phrase "stomach of a king" tends to conjure up an image of the later years of Henry VIII, Elizabeth's father.

Here's most of the text of Elizabeth I's actual speech—for purposes of comparison with the speech above:
My loving people . . . I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour, and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England, too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm. (Somerset 464)

Works Cited

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Attempting to Avoid Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice. Dir. Trevor Nunn. Perf. Gabrielle Jourdan and Lawrence Werber. 2001. DVD. Lexington Road Entertainment Group, 2001.

The anti-Semitic attitudes portrayed in The Merchant of Venice cannot be eliminated. Although we may loathe them, those attitudes are an integral part of the plot—as are the attitudes sympathetic to Jews that the play presents. Whether Shakespeare himself was anti-Semitic or not, the play grapples with the attitudes some Christians had toward Jews in his day.

It's possible to read Shylock as an anti-Semitic fantasy of how Jews behave; but it's also possible to have a production of the play with a Shylock who is not an anti-Semitic caricature of a Jew.

The 2001 Trevor Nunn production provides a brilliant moment in the middle of the courtroom scene. In it, Tubal exits with a significant look at Shylock:

At that moment, we understand that Shylock is not acting as a Jew. The only other Jew in the courtroom (and the absence of any others may also be a telling point) dissociates himself from Shylock.

It does not remove the anti-Semitism in the play, but it does go a fair way to making it clear that this Shylock is not to be considered an emblem of all Jews. Instead, he is emblematic of any human being's potential evil.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks with Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton and Keanu Reeves. 1993. DVD. MGM, 2003.

We all occasionally find it difficult to find adequate words to give thanks.

When we do, we turn to Shakespeare.

Perhaps the best expression of thanks in the Shakespeare canon is Don John's terrific monologue in Much Ado About Nothing, here delivered with the inimitable style of Keanu Reeves:

"I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you." (I.i.157-58)

May you all have a delightful Thanksgiving.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

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 2008-2039 (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