Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Will

I watched the first couple of episodes of Will last night, thanks to my Sister-in-Law who told me it was on and where to find it.  (Because I'm slow on pop culture stuffs.)

Things I liked:
It felt like the producers/directors were trying more to catch the sense of shockingness, wildness, and "on the make-ness" of early modern London (especially from the point of view of a newcomer from a smaller community, Shakespeare), rather than being "accurate" in terms of music, costuming, and so forth.  It was like watching a really good modern production of Shakespeare that's trying to do the same sort of thing.  (It's sort of like making some things feel familiar rather than emphasizing the estrangement of the past.)
Cast diversity.  (First, England in the early modern period was more diverse than popularly thought, and second, give those actors a job!)
Music.  (I laughed at "London Calling"; I liked that it wasn't all Purcell and lutes.)
Staging the Theatre.  (That dance scene early on with Will Kemp: chaos.  Fun.  You definitely get a sense that the audience had a lot of power and was active in the theatre.  I found putting women in the background/offstage at the Theatre interesting, but I'm not sure I buy it.)
Edward III.  (They gave it to Shakespeare, which was interesting.)

Things I didn't like:
Torture.  (I just can't watch torture.  Or won't.  Showing torture in explicit ways seems really popular on TV in the past couple of years, and probably contributes to me watching less TV.)
Shakespeare's Catholic.  (Maybe.  No one really knows.  It gives them lots of tension.  I usually don't get that much sense when I read early modern lit and such that most people were really focused on anti-Catholicism in the 1590s because Mary Stuart was dead and the Armada defeated.)  (I bet they read Stephen Greenblatt, eh?)
Chronology?  (Shakespeare's first plays get performed in the early 1590s, but they've killed off James Burbage via torture, though he didn't die until 1597.  I don't know how he died, but it seems like they missed opportunities to do more with Burbage.)

If this becomes a "thing," then we can expect our students to declare with confidence that Shakespeare was Catholic and so forth.  Worse things have happened.  (At least it doesn't show Oxford or Bacon writing the plays, right?)

I'm probably not going to watch more because I really dislike torture.

1 comment:

  1. You're a stronger person than I! Thanks for the report.

    I'm not remotely interested in the question of Shakespeare's confessional identity (though I think it's unlikely that he was a recusant Catholic in any serious, committed way). But there's definitely a hardening of religious lines in the 1590s; it's only toward the end of Elizabeth's reign that the separate identity of "recusant" really gains purchase, and that's also when the Jesuit mission gets serious. There also starts to be the question of Elizabeth's successor, and what might happen to the religious settlement depending on who he or she is.

    But yeah, weird how fixated pop-Shax culture has become on this religion question. Cynically, I see it as about American sentimental ethnic/religious tribalism--similar to every damn white person's sudden interest in their lost ethnic roots; you know: "we were persecuted TOO!!!"