Archive for the ‘Shakespeare’ Category

A play ethic   Leave a comment

Timothy Morton’s lateset post is titled Drama as Ecological Form. I’m glad he is now considering drama as an ecological form and look forward to his thoughts on the subject. I’m also delighted to discover Una Chaudhuri’s work, given that my own impulse to transition from a geology PhD to further studies in literary ecology was initiated by a three week international voice workshop on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

In the course of the last seven years, I’ve searched out authors that have recognized drama as a “quintessentially ecological art form”. Part of my motivation being to write an “ecological play” about carbon capture storage. (I now plan to complete a second draft of my manuscript by this summer).

Here are some quotes from two references that I’ve found particularly useful:

In How Plays Work David Edgar writes that The playwright David Hare sees theatre as essentially meteorological – like the weather, it happens when two fronts meet: what the actors are doing and what the audience is thinking.”

Edgar also makes a very useful comment on “The liminal zone”… where lies are exposed, disguises tested and the truths of individuals are revealed (p 73):

“In exploring the relationship of location to genre, there are two special cases, one a tragedy, one usually seen as a comedy… Indeed, you might define Shakespeare’s two principal genres in starkly simple terms: in the comedies people are driven into the countryside where they dress up as other people, come in again, and get married; in the tragedies, they strip off stay outside, and die.” (p. 74-75).

Joseph Meeker in his “Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic” (1997) suggests that in comedies people get back inside through a “strategic and clever” reconciliation (p. 16): “When the usual patterns of life are disrupted, the comic spirit strives for a return to normalcy… (It) is a strategy for survival. (p. 14 -15).” Meeker reckons that “a rhapsody extolling human conquests over nature appears at a crucial point in Greek tragic drama, for the human elevation over natural environments is an essentially tragic assertion.”

Personally, I also find it timely to rethink ecological theatre. This weekend I attended the “Literature and Altered States” conference at Lausanne University.

The first item on the program was “Mania in The Bacchae”. It was observed that in Euripides’s play each character has a different reading of the following terms: Sophia (Wisdom) ; Phrônesis (Perception/judgement); Sôphrôn (Knowledge of limits).

Are these idiosyncratic readings informed by each character’s place in society? …. The more I think of it, the more I want to devote time to an ecological reading of this play!

My last attempt to write about ecological theatre was for Geneva University’s English Department Student Newspaper. See:

Nisbet Eco-theatre

…Having completed my reading of Finnegans Wake, I remain intrigued by the many instances, not only part II- chapter II of the book, where I’m persuaded that I’m witness to a shadow play located within Joyce’s mind. J.L. Styan insists that “the play is not on the stage but in the mind” (Edgar 2009, p.7). In Finnegans Wake the play is not on the page, but in the mind…

Images from the 2007 Theatre du Mouvement workshop, “At the juncture of Body and Object”. International Puppetry Institute, Charleville-Mézières.

Posted March 7, 2011 by R.H.H. Nisbet in Drama, Gesamtkunstwerk, Shakespeare

Chest Cee! ‘Sdense!… you spoof of visibility in a freakfog,   Leave a comment


In this chapter I’ve:

Vibed with the “Eyrawygla saga” and his “exceedingly nice ear” (48.16-21).

Met Padre Don Bruno (50.19).

Lost the identity of “the body” in the fog of night stories “this scherzarade of one’s thousand one nightiness” (51.4-6)

Met a native of the “sisterisle” (Scotland?)

Been presented flat scenes like “a landscape from Wildu Picturescu… or some seem on some dimb Arras dumb as Mum’s mutyness” (53.1-3). A silent semblance of appearance that introduces the arras in Gertrude’s chamber in Hamlet. And perhaps the echo of Polonius (who fatally stood behind it) in the shadowy cry of “letate!” (Laertes) as a midnight hour is struck (53.20).

There is a shift to the waxy world of “Madam’s Toshowus” and our “notional gullery” (57.20-21)-  We are in London. “Longtong’s breach is fallen down” (58.10). There is a woman “callit by a noted stagey elecutioner in “a waistend pewty parlour” (58.34-36).

Yet there is still talk on the street of the “Irewaker” (59.26). And this tips into bad egg cracks (homelette, hegg).

This would make sense as an evening newscast is being related: “Earwicker’s version of the story filmed, televised and broadcast” (lii). Typically a newscast moves from international, to national, regional and then local news…

There is mention of  “the park” (60.24) and Caligula (Camus?). Before a switch to Sydney…

Then later on there is a wedding to the “lottuse land” (Ulysses ref?), “Emerald-illuim” and first pharoah, “Humpheres Cheops Exarchas” judge of the “common or ere-in-garden” (62.19-21).

There’s an attack. And a pub crawl around biblical symbols Blazes, Hell, Sun, Lamb (63.23-24) finishing in the “Ramitdown’s ship hotel” (63.25). Very funny.

In addition to Hamlet /Homelette, perhaps the song “This old man, he played one” is rolls around underneath this chapter?:

He played knick-knack on my thumb. (on a drum, on my tongue)
With a knick-knack,

paddy whack, (64.24)…

So many needles to ponk out   Leave a comment


This section includes:

“- The four old men bother HCE – The case against HCE – The funeral games – HCE drinks the dregs and passes out” (liii).

Lots of themes and characters are reprised in the final pages of this chapter. Maybe, I’m starting to “get them”.

I feel as if I’ve been hanging out somewhere thats not  normal. But now I’m getting the hang of it. My best analogy is when I was sent to France for the first time on an exchange trip. I was seven years old. Little made sense to start with:

They poured hot chocolate on my sugar puffs!

They served salad, then meat and veg, then potatoes, then dessert as distinct courses at dinner!

They didn’t have carpet anywhere, so your feet were freezing as soon as you got out of bed.

They boiled prawns ALIVE!

Listening to them was like sitting at the bottom of a dark murky swamp, there was no sense. You just had to watch familiar approximations of a nuclear family moving about, and guess.

There were no curtains. There were shutters. And there was no light on in the hall at night. So you had to sleep in the pitch, pitch black: Very scary.

AND, the mother cut baguettes, balancing them across her breast. The serrated knife slicing too and fro… It was horrible.

But I went with it. At the end of my first exchange visit I thought I’d learnt French. I came home speaking pigeon English… Currently, I reckon I’m at an equivalent position with regard to Finnegans Wake: or “Wimmegame’s fake” (375). I can spot:

The use of more foreign language in this section than there has been for a while: “tutti, tempo” (369); “blanche” (370).

Language play that approximates the French contrapètrie: c.f. “Treamplasurin” (370).

Familiar characters as they whizz past: “Schelm the Pelman” (369); “Fingool” (371). The wake: “here’s the hearse and four horses” (377).

Nursery rhyme allusions: “feof of fofrummed” (370); “hoompsydoompsy” (373); “hunphy-dunphy” (375); “the house that juke built (375).

Brawling: “Let him hare another between the spindlers (375).

War references: Mausers (372); Culottisism (374); Nazi Priers (375); Gun! (377).

Sports reportage (football this time): “Partick Thistle.. Brystal Palace agus the Walsall (378).

My right-on pre-school-post-colonial education (where we were taught alternative nursery rhymes like

“I’m the king of the castle, C-A-S-T-L-E” to eschew the master-slave grand narrative attendant in: “…and you’re a dirty rascal”); naturally leads me to connect war, team sports, brawling and nursery rhymes.

Is this part of Joyce’s collage here? Joyce certainly brings the coerciveness of language (the hypnotic use of rhyme and rhythm) into relief with the war-like chant:

“His bludgeon’s bruk, his drum is tore. For spuds we’ll keep the hat he wore. And roll in clover on his clay By wather parted from the say.” (372).

Shakespeare’s arch villain, Richard III, is also satirized by Joyce: “Heigh hohse, heigh hohse, our kingdom from an orse!” (373).

This collage refracts historical events concomitant with the period in which Finnegans Wake was composed (Nazi), but also sticks in other struggles. For example “Interprovincial cruxifixomers…” (377) make an entrance.

Well that is the best of my pigeon Joyce for tonight. Sorry for the nose blowing on the recording. Viral attack. Another cold.