Wednesday, September 8, 2010

PEG Class 9/3/2010

After Sarah’s introduction to the history and importance of Blackfriars, she introduced Dr. Ralph as the main lecturer. This year the PEG class studies power in Shakespeare. Ralph talked first about money as power, discussing how Blackfriars cost more than the Globe and how the people in gallant stools and lords chairs had more power, even pushing a nearby actor out of the way if he obscured their view. He then got Sarah, Jeff, and Maxim to perform several scenes, while he explored the power dynamics in each.

  • Othello tells Desdemona to go to bed. First they performed it out of context, and it looked like they wanted to sleep together—the power of the conjugal debt. Also, Othello has power because he’s the husband giving the wife an order in public. Then they performed two versions of it in the context of Othello having recently struck her and being full of menace. Now power came from fear. After each time, Ralph asked the students what the power was to get them thinking, as opposed to just telling them, a good choice.
  • Brabantio begs the duke to punish the man who stole his daughter. As a friend of the duke, Brabantio has some power. The duke has the most, and even though he shares it with senators he promises to soak the man with everything in the book. Brabantio fingers Othello, and the senators and then the duke “basically say, ‘bye-bye,’” as Ralph puts it, showing their power over Brabantio. The reason: Othello has the most power because they need him to save the city from the Turks. Despite what he says, Dr. Ralph’s not a bad actor.
  • The scene from II Henry IV with Falstaff’s mistress, Nell Quickly, and the beadle. On the surface, the beadle has the power because he represents the law. By the end, however, the whore leads him offstage. She feels power because of her pregnancy and because she knows Falstaff, a big buddy of the new-crowned king. She also uses the power of language, very important to Shakespeare, as she insults the beadle. To show the power of insults, everyone got to insult Jeff as a nuthook and a pasty-face. The students sure enjoyed that.

Then, unfortunately, we ran out of time, demonstrating the Power of the Clock. It seemed to me that after each scene they had a good idea of the power dynamics. I wonder what they’ll do next week?


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