2014年4月4日 星期五

Measuring America’s Shakespearean Devotion

Measuring America’s Shakespearean Devotion

April 01, 2014
In May 1911, women (and one dog) of the Wednesday Morning Club of the remote town of Pueblo, Colo., decked themselves out as Shakespearean characters.
In May 1911, women (and one dog) of the Wednesday Morning Club of the remote town of Pueblo, Colo., decked themselves out as Shakespearean characters.
Scott Rubel
New York has been handed a surplus of Shakespeare over the last six months. To celebrate the 450th anniversary of his birth, there were eight Broadway and Off Broadway productions on offer — enough, surely, for even the most ravenous Shakespearean appetite. But to a 19th-century American, this stuffed schedule might well look like slim pickings.
Two hundred years ago, Shakespeare accounted for one-quarter of all dramatic productions in cities up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Philadelphians, between 1800 and 1835, could see 21 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays. In the decade after the Gold Rush, Californians stood in line to see a raft of them. Some were presented in the palatial Jenny Lind Theater in San Francisco, where miners, the historian Constance Rourke wrote in “Troupers of the Gold Coast,” “swarmed from the gambling saloons and cheap fandango houses to see ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Lear.’ ”
Americans were mad for Shakespeare. For the evidence, look no further than “Shakespeare in America: An Anthology From the Revolution to Now,” to be published by the Library of America next month, just in time for that big birthday.
The collection, edited by the eminent Shakespearean James Shapiro, a professor at Columbia, begins with a parody of Hamlet’s soliloquy written by an anonymous Tory in 1776, responding to the Continental Congress’s demand in 1774 that all colonists sign on to a boycott of English goods. It starts: “To sign or not to sign? That is the question.” The book ends with “Nets,” a 2004 work by the poet and visual artist Jen Bervin that highlights selected words in the sonnets, eliciting unexpected meanings and associations.
There are discoveries and surprises along the way, like Lord Buckley’s beat-era “Hipsters, Flipsters and Finger-Poppin’ Daddies,” an extended riff on Shakespeare’s most famous speeches (“I came here to lay Caesar out, Not to hip you to him”), and “Shakespeares of 1922,” a vaudeville sketch by Lorenz Hart and Morrie Ryskind. But for many readers the real eye opener will be the heated love affair, richly documented by Professor Shapiro, between ordinary Americans and the most exalted writer in the English language.
Since colonial times, Americans have made Shakespeare their own.
Since colonial times, Americans have made Shakespeare their own.
Associated Press
“The 25-year period around the Civil War was the most extraordinary,” he said in an interview. “You have John Quincy Adams on Desdemona having sex with Othello, Lincoln reading ‘Macbeth,’ and another president, Grant, rehearsing the role of Desdemona at a military camp. You couldn’t make this stuff up. This is how central a preoccupation Shakespeare was at the time.”
Professor Shapiro, in his introduction, leads off with Grant’s brief turn on the boards, which he rightly calls “one of the more memorable episodes in the history of Shakespeare in America.” The year was 1846, the place was Corpus Christi, Tex.
To distract the troops, a theater was hastily constructed and a production of “Othello” put into motion. James Longstreet, the future Confederate general, was originally cast as Desdemona, but was judged too tall for the part. The shorter Grant took his place. “He really rehearsed the part of Desdemona, but he did not have much sentiment,” Longstreet later recalled. In the end, Grant was replaced by a professional actress at the insistence of the officer playing Othello, who, Longstreet wrote, “could not pump up any sentiment with Grant dressed up as Desdemona.”
It was not fanciful to think that ordinary soldiers might enjoy a Shakespeare play. Americans in the 19th century absorbed him whole from earliest childhood. “There is hardly a pioneer’s hut that does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s. “I remember that I read the feudal drama of Henry V for the first time in a log cabin.”
Shakespeare’s words fell on fertile ground, thanks to the American education system, which stressed public speaking as an essential acquirement in a democracy and regarded Shakespeare’s works as a gold mine of political and moral set pieces.
Excerpts featured prominently in elocution books like “The Columbian Orator” and “The National Orator” and in the advanced McGuffey’s readers. “Both boys and girls gave recitations and performed excerpts from the plays,” Sandra M. Gustafson, an English professor at University of Notre Dame, said in an interview. “This was an essential part of education.”
Women seized on Shakespeare as a way to construct a homemade version of a college class. In the second half of the 19th century, women’s Shakespeare clubs began popping up all over the United States, from Worcester, Mass., to Waxahachie, Tex., some 500 of them in the peak years from 1880 to 1940.
“They’d meet once or twice a month,” said Katherine West Scheil, an English professor at the University of Minnesota and the author of the recently published “She Hath Been Reading: Women and Shakespeare Clubs in America.” “There was pretty intense study, with quizzes on the plots and the characters and memorization exercises. They’d read the roll and as each name was called, a member would recite a Shakespearean text.” Some clubs took down their minutes in blank verse.
Americans claimed Shakespeare as their own partly because he spoke to the grand questions that stirred the nation. “Issues like immigration and race that couldn’t be dealt with directly could be confronted through Shakespeare,” Professor Shapiro said. “We didn’t have a language to express our feelings about these troubling questions. There probably wasn’t another writer on either side of the Atlantic that allowed audiences to work through issues and divisions as he did.”
With the rise of a more robust American literature, the influx of immigrants outside the Anglo-Saxon tradition, and the spread of other forms of mass entertainment, Shakespeare lost his grip on the common reader. Professor Shapiro’s anthology includes Maurice Evans’s preface to a cut-down version of “Hamlet” that he presented in 1944 to an audience of G.I.s in the Pacific with the assumption that most of them had never seen a Shakespeare play. “We could not presume any on their part any knowledge of the tragedy or any familiarity with the conventions with which it is usually associated,” Evans wrote. General Grant must have spun in his grave.


Scott Rubel
200年前,莎士比亞佔據了東海岸城市舞台劇目的1/4。1800年到1835年,費城可以看到莎士比亞全部37部劇目中的21部。淘金潮之後的十年間,加利福尼亞也可以看到很多了。有些劇目是在舊金山宮殿般的詹尼·林德劇場上演,歷史學家康斯坦斯·魯克(Constance Rourke)在《黃金海岸的演員們》(Trouers of the Gold Coast)一書中寫道,淘金者們「從賭場和廉價舞廳蜂擁而來,只為一睹《哈姆雷特》(Hamlet)和《李爾王》(Lear)。」
美國人為莎士比亞而瘋狂。若說證據,只需在《莎士比亞在美國:從獨立戰爭至今的選集》(Shakespeare in America: An Anthology From the Revolution to Now)中尋找,這本書將由美國圖書館(Library of America)在下月出版,為了趕上莎士比亞誕辰的日期。
這部選集由哥倫比亞大學教授、著名莎學家詹姆斯·夏皮羅 (James Shapiro)編輯。全書第一篇是對哈姆雷特那篇獨白的戲仿,由「無名氏托里」創作於1776年,是為了呼應1776年大陸議會要求所有殖民地居民在抵 制英貨的文件上簽字。文章開頭是「簽還是不簽?這是問題。」全書最後一篇是《網》(Nets) ,這是詩人和視覺藝術家詹·波文(Jen Bervin)的作品,從莎士比亞的十四行詩中選出詞語,為它們賦予令人意想不到的涵義和組合方式。
全書中有許多發現和驚喜,比如洛德·巴克利(Lord Buckley)在垮掉派時期寫的《潮人、冒失鬼和打響指的老傢伙》(Hipsters, Flipsters and Finger-Poppin』 Daddies)就是莎士比亞最著名的演說(「我今天是來埋葬凱撒,不是來讚美他」)的延伸樂段;還有《1922年的莎士比亞們》 (Shakespeares of 1922),是洛倫茲·哈特(Lorenz Hart)和莫里·里斯金德(Morrie Ryskind)創作的歌舞雜耍劇本草稿。但對於許多讀者來說,最令人大開眼界的還是夏皮羅教授記載的大量對莎士比亞的熾熱愛意,從普通美國人到最有名的英語作家應有盡有。 
Associated Press
「南北戰爭時期的25年間是最特別的,」他在接受採訪時說,「約 翰·昆西·亞當斯(John Quincy Adams)寫過苔絲特蒙娜與奧賽羅發生性關係,林肯也讀《麥克白》(Macbeth),還有格蘭特總統,他曾經在軍營里綵排過苔絲特蒙娜這個角色。這些 都不是能編出來的。那個時候人們對莎士比亞的迷戀就到這個地步。」
為了給軍人們提供消遣,一座劇院迅速建成了,將要上演《奧賽羅》 (Othello)。苔絲特蒙娜一角本來要由未來的南部聯盟將軍詹姆斯·郎斯特里特(James Longstreet)出演,但人們覺得他個頭太高。個頭矮一些的格蘭特就接替了他的位子。「他真的在綵排中出演了苔絲特蒙娜,但他沒多少感情,」朗斯特 里特後來回憶。最後,在飾演奧賽羅的軍官要求下,一位職業女演員又取代了格蘭特,朗斯特里特寫道,那個飾演奧賽羅的軍官「看到格蘭特穿成苔絲特蒙娜的樣 子,根本沒法入戲」。
普通士兵可以欣賞莎士比亞戲劇,這並不是什麼新奇的事。19世紀, 美國人從孩提時代就開始全心全意地欣賞莎士比亞。「幾乎所有拓荒者的小屋裡都會擺上幾卷莎士比亞,」亞里克斯·德·托克維爾(Alexis de Tocqueville)在19世紀30年代寫道。「我記得自己是在一座小木屋裡第一次讀到《亨利五世》(Henry V)這部歷史劇。」
《哥倫比亞演說家》(The Columbian Orator)、《國家演說家》中都有顯著的莎士比亞選段,高等麥克格雷(McGuffey)教材讀本中也有。「男孩和女孩們都會朗誦和表演劇本選段,」聖母大學的英語教授桑德拉·M·古斯塔夫森(Sandra M. Gustafson)在接受採訪時說,「這是教育中不可缺少的一部分。」
「她們一個月聚會一兩次,」明尼蘇達州的英語教授與最近出版的《她在閱讀:美國的女人與莎士比亞俱樂部》(She Hath Been Reading: Women and Shakespeare Clubs in America)作者凱瑟琳娜·韋斯特·謝爾(Katherine West Scheil)說。「她們進行很認真緊張的學習,有關於情節和人物的測驗,還有默記練習。她們點名,每個被點到的人都要背上一段莎士比亞的作品。」有些俱樂部連備忘錄都是用素體詩寫的。
美國人聲稱莎士比亞也是他們的,部分是因為他提出的那些大問題也是 這個國家所關注的。「現實中無法直接處理的移民和種族之類題材,可以通過莎士比亞的作品去面對,」夏皮羅教授說,「關於這些令人困擾的問題,我們卻沒有一 種語言可以用來表達我們的感情。在大西洋兩岸,或許沒有另一位作家能像莎士比亞那樣,可以令讀者去深思這些問題與分歧。」
隨着美國文學日益興盛,盎格魯-薩克森族裔以外的移民大量湧入,其 他形式的大眾娛樂開始普及,莎士比亞也漸漸失去了對普通讀者的吸引力。夏皮羅教授的選集中有一篇毛里斯·伊文思(Maurice Evans)為刪節版的《哈姆雷特》寫的序言,1944年,他曾為太平洋戰場上的大兵們演出了這個版本,他覺得他們當中大多數人都應該沒有看過莎士比亞戲 劇。「我們不應當指望他們對這出悲劇有任何了解,或者熟悉與它有關的任何傳統,」伊文思寫道。格蘭特將軍有知,想必在墳墓里會非常不安吧。