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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Free Willy or What You Will or What Will Really Is!

P.S: This post has been necessitated by a little exchange of comments to the previous post between Srini and myself. What started as a small exchange about favourite Romantics ended in this. I always knew this one was coming some day, because it has been occupying my mind for a long while now, only it needed the right stimulus, I guess!

Ok, off with preludes... this one's about The Bard. About how Indians view him, sycophantically revere him and shamelessly venerate him, putting on the pedestals of academic sanctum sanctorums. He's definitely worth it, I must admit with unabashed submission of my higher cerebral functions to his genius. But do Indians - at least the academia and the macademia, literati and the cognoscenti, glitterati and the media-tors - know The Real Bard? Do the teachers teach The Real Shakespeare? I doubt it.

What is:

Like Wordsworth, Shakespeare is the most abused among poets of any age, clime or culture. They are taught for all the wrong reasons. Poetry, lyrical qualities, rhyme, meter... Stuff and non-sense. I don't say these don't exist in their works. But the way academics and teachers make it look or sound, it is as though this is the reality. Why? All our teachers are High Priests and Priestesses of the Morality Brigade who have been evangelised to sing Hosannas and shoot roses through the barrels of their guns at prepubescent children, lest they become Romeos and Juliets at 15 and elope. They are self-styled Montagues and Capulets warring against anyone who claim Love is Shakespeare.

I don't want to, given the current scenario, teach Shakespeare in an academic setup and classroom atmosphere. You can't talk about something without touching the root of it. People who would have witnessed the recent Tim Supple's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DREAM would have proofed the pudding. He is raw, war, love, hate, envy, jealousy, fear, tear, lust... Shakespeare is PRIMAL. The man lived such a life. He was a lover, scholar in the learn-by-tribulations mould, philanderer, gay, go for broke stock-trader, struggling two-bit actor... everything that morality brigade would love to sweep under the carpet. And they have. Remember what they taught you in school? Daffodils... The Solitary Reaper... The Trial of Shylock... Caliban and Prospero... anything else? Oh, occasionally they would talk about The Taming of the Shrew because it is all about male chauvinism and sexism of the paternalistic pig variety that shows the conquest of a shrew by a shrew-d guy! But what is the real Shakespeare? The REAL SHAKESPEARE was what a lot of parents who had come (armed with their many children and their 50s University educated Shakespearean poetry and erudition) to watch Supple's Midsummer and walked half-way through at the sight of physicality is all about.

TWELFTH NIGHT: Siblings - Siamese Twins? - get parted in a shipwreck. The girl lands on alien shores. In order to protect her identity (virginity?) she dresses as the page to the Duke of the Island who is in love with a certain Countess Olivia. Soon the page becomes the Duke's confidante and is sent to woo the Countess. The Countess falls in love with the page boy who is actually a woman. The actually a woman page-boy hermself (term courtesy Sarah Kane, "4.48 Psychosis") is secretly in love with Duke. Meanwhile there is Malvolio - the dirty old Puritan who is all passion and love inside - desires the Countess, his Mistress. Uncle Toby to Count Olivia is secretly pimping his niece to the moneyed ass Sir Andrew Agueface... and also desires the governess Maria of the house. What do we have? A story of love, lech and cross-dressing. But what do the schools and colleges teach? Iambic Pentameter and Poetry.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: A certain Duke has vanquished the Queen of Amazons and brought her as booty to swive her botty. A father wishes his daughter on his favourite man. The daughter is in love with another MAN. Another girl is in love with the father's favourite man who has already swived her botty too much. And the paternalia decrees she either turns her rich flower of virginity to the father's favourite man or turn in the direction of the convent to perhaps find a Holy Father who shall probably pass Holy Water before he shows the Holy Spirit! And the besotted lovers flee, the beseeching lovers pursue. In the forest, under the moonlight, on a full moon day, infested with fairies and magic flowers with potions amorous they meet. Meanwhile the Fairy God and his Fiery Feisty Queen are at loggerheads over a boy. Oberon is a Bugger, Titania's little boy is being sought by Obi to be swived in HIS BOTTY! Gosh. Obi lulls Tit-ania into swyving with an ass... The greatest interpretation came from Jan Kott the Polish critic, I think. The scene where Titania stands behind Bottom, one-leg astride on the front of Bottom's torso and another behind, her betweens crushing the back of his neck even while she goes orgiastic over his two ears (it's all graphically in the script if you read between the lines), all the dirty faeries encircling... it is straight out of Mozartian excesses in bordellos of Vienna and Italy. Or is it the reverse? Anyway, in the Elizabethan England, Ass's head was considered a phallic symbol of plenty. So what do we have in MSND? And what of Puck? Whose lover is he? And what are we taught? Iambic Pentameter (Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania) or philosophic poetry (The course of true Love ne'er did run smooth). The only scenes any school chooses to perform on annual days or inter-house dramatics are the Puck scenes while the *uck scenes are cautiously expurgated.

ROMEO AND JULIET: Two star-crossed lovers in their 15s and 16s, at the heights of hormonic explosions, forbidden by the respective families to seek each other because of a family feud, try to elope because the itch overcomes all. Qayamat se Qayamat tak? And what are we taught? R&J is a sweet play about love and romance and hence of superior poetry. Well, love and romance leads to children not only to poetry!

THE TEMPEST: A Banished Duke who's also a magician lures his callous brother and his men to the island in which he has taken refuge. The Ruse? He makes his naive daughter fall in love with his brother's son. What are we taught? The Magic of Will's Poetry, the silliness of Caliban, the naughtiness of Ariel.
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE: Ah, the teachers can heave a sigh of relief here. Safest of all Shakes. Because it is about Shylock's greed. Jew Bashing. Adolf would have been proud of the Arya Varga. How we assassinate Shylock's character. What do we have against Jews? Steve, you hearing? You must not shoot Munich, you must come here and do a Chennai. Sue the academics Steve, they are bashing Jews in the name of teaching Literature. Awright, shucks folks, I got a little sentimental there. Getting back... what do they teach MoV for? The Case of the Correct Casket... the Ingeunity of Portia... the True Friendship of the Genteel Males. You tell me! What of Jessica's lust? What of Portia's love? What of the basic servant's Love of Nerissa? What of dear Launcelot Gobbo? They don't talk about all that. The ship that sunk is more important in MoV than the ship that sunk carrying Kate Winslet and Di Caprio, man.!
Academia Nuts Tutty Frooty Fortune Cookie Harlequin Romance Mill & Boon (oh, I was just swearing folks!)
Listen, I don't want to make this post long because 1) it's already long and 2) the damn Will, Willy, Billy fella has written close to forty plays and hundred and bloody odd sonnets all about a certain Dark Lady who many infer actually to be either his Duke friend or De Vere or some such guy. Why am I not quoting the exact figures. Well, I know the precise number of plays and sonnets, but do we need those little details? Hardly the point of this post is it?
You explore the story of the rest of the plays and their intricate complex web of plots including KING LEAR with his excessive love for his three daughters at his old age and of PERICLES and TITUS ANDRONICUS who have other human aspects of their own, and come to a conclusion what Shakespeare is all about. And without explaining the varied richness of the tangles of emotions that are involved in Shakespeare how can one explain his poetry? Because Poetry at the very least is emotion recollected (read transcribed) in tranquility. At its best is the expression of man's innermost stirring of heart and feelings evoked in response to an event of happening.

Poetry is Direct Emotional Response

So... What Must Be:

Use Shakespeare to show kids how not to be stupid like R&J, how not to get desperate like Orsino and Viola, how to be smart like Portia, how to be human like Shylock, how to enjoy life like Falstaff, how not to be obsessively stupidly Tamil TV Serial-ish like Helena, how not to be Puritanically living a shadow life like Malvolio, how not to be psychologically defeated like Macbeth (hmmmph! that is the last straw. The guy is so dumb. He believes Witches and doesn't even realise that Conundrums and Riddles and Oracles are ambivalent. He must have read ANGELS AND DEMONS before getting scared of Birnam Woods to Dunsinane come! And what of Caesarian? Macbeth is dumb and dumber!), how not to go ego-massaged like Richard II with the caterpillars of his commonwealth, how not to suck up to your loyalty for two brothers as in As You Like It... and HOW TO BE STOICAL LIKE FESTE (my fav character in all of the Bard's creations!) You think I can impart all these to students inside a classroom without spelling out the intricacy of the web The Bard weaves?

Teachers, leave them kids alone... and away from William Shakespeare. Go teach Robert Frost.


Aashirwad said...

Have read most of the post. All the Karthiyani-Annapoorni-Madhumita-Sarayu types in our school are too shy to talk about th *uck scenes even in front of mature teens like us...sheesh. Some of them don't even understand the poetic aspects of it. Very shameful, because what they're trying to do is make us appreciate Shakespere/Wordsworth/Frost/(put famous poet here). What the'yre succeeding in doing is making us hate them (the poets) because of their (the teachers') stupidity.

Having said that, maybe we must meet up in a larger group and re-script Shrekspere.

Srini said...

Mmm Sir KK,

Glad that a little discussion with a literary minnow has opened quite a good ost from you, with a touch of slang and a humour very subtle too... Loved the part where you say "love and romance do not produce poetry. They only produce children." Wow! I am still laughing out loud.

As for Shakespeare's sub-texts, oh yes, but for that matter even Shakespeare's texts cannot be taught in a closet! And to hell with the iamb... what if it was the greatest English metre (though it remains to be my favourite because of a man by name Thomas Gray... we start where we end. It all began with the man stuck a tight stomach didn't it?... lol)

Srini said...

Dear (sir) KK,

Have posted a poem on something we have discussed before - it is on how paper works better in terms of human element over techno stuff! Well... hope you find the read ok!

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

Dear Dear KK,
this applies not only to the bard but also to our own Valmiki and Vyasa and all those of their kind...The original Ramayana has some really explicit references to the human body...stuff which is actually written in a poetic way but still not taught to people...invariably sanskrit texts have some of the most erotuc descriptions on the planet...I doubt whether racy bestsellers can even come close...

enjoyable post KK


Krishna Kumar said...

hehehe! this applies downright to Kalidasa. I guess the reasons for the non-popularity for staging love stories from sanskrit literature is not the non-approachablity of language or anything else, it is the sickness of the Indian mind that can't comprehend the erotic as a rasa but as virasa. I mean... look at the amount of eroticism in the sculptures of our temple towers, see how nubile ravi varma's saraswathi, lakshmi and parvathi are! And these are artistic responses of rich imaginative minds, not of crass voyeurs! When will we ever mend. Anyway, am right a-visiting your blog. Haven't done in a while. I have been, but not posting. Apologies.

Srini said...

Dear (sir) KK,

Have posted snippets from past Musings of mine! Do skim through them when you find time! Cheers!

Srini said...

Dear sir (KK),

It has taken me a week - sorry about that - to oblige to your request: that is a short poem. 23 lines was the shortest I could manage. Do venture to read it should ypu find time!