Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries : Essays in Honor of James P. Lusardi

Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries : Essays in Honor of James P. Lusardi

Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries : Essays in Honor of James P. Lusardi

Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries : Essays in Honor of James P. Lusardi

Synopsis

This book assembles a cast of sixteen distinguished theater historians and performance critics, each of whom has contributed significantly to our understanding of issues associated with performing works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Their essays, all appearing in print for the first time, are presented in two groupings: a theater history and practice section, in which contributors examine matters related to performance in Shakespeare's time and our own, and a performance criticism section, in which contributors treat modern productions on stage and screen. In the theater history and practice section, Roslyn L. Knutson explores the 1599-1600 repertory of the Admiral's Men and the Chamberlain's Men, who performed in rival playhouses.

Excerpt

“Every performance is an act of criticism.” those of us who worked with James P. Lusardi during his twenty years as coeditor of Shakespeare Bulletin know how often Jim spoke these now canonical words. It did not take a hundred productions of Hamlet, which he certainly experienced, for Jim to come to this recognition: it took only two. During his undergraduate years at Lafayette College (Jim was Class of 1955) and his graduate years at Yale (Class of 1963), the prevailing approach to Shakespeare was literary, with New Criticism urging a search for the embedded textual meaning. When scholars like Jim became theatergoers, however, it became clear that interpreting Shakespeare was the work of diverse minds, engaged not only in the practical exercise of performance but also in acts of criticism. When one overlaid just one production of a Shakespeare play on the received text of that play, one realized that it was no longer possible to agree with A. C. Bradley’s respectful but misguided insistence that King Lear was too big for the stage.

Jim never abandoned the rigorous close reading of the New Critics; indeed, some would say he perfected it. But over the course of his thirty-five-year academic career, he developed an uncanny eye for interpretive detail. a textual critic from the start (he edited The Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer in The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More [1973]), Jim always instructed Shakespeare Bulletin reviewers to focus on the details. “We don’t want the ‘I like parsnips’ variety of criticism,” he would say; “we want focused, thoughtful observations. Notice the details, collect and connect them, describe them, and determine how they reveal conception and meaning.” in the halcyon days of his own theatergoing, before cancer grounded him, Jim would average one hundred plays a year. For him, each production, no matter how it twisted the text, provided yet another angle of vision on Shakespeare; even “bad” productions taught him something about alternative modalities of reading.

Jim developed so nuanced an understanding of the interpretive process in performance that colleagues loved asking his opinion of Shake-

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