Blackfriars Conference 2013—Colloquy #8: Adaptations and Sources

 Good afternoon, all! Sarah Martin here to liveblog Colloquy #8: Adaptations and Sources. Our session took place in the S.P.A.C.E. building in downtown Staunton.

Chair: Edith Frampton, San Diego State University

Presenters: Amy Bolis from the University of Minnesota, Julia Griffin from Georgia Southern University, Amanda Hughes from the University of Alabama Huntsville, Tsui-fen Jiang from National Chengchi University, Mel Johnson from Mary Baldwin College, Louis Martin from Elizabethtown College, and Edward Plough from Delta State University.

 Our Chair, Edith Frampton from San Diego State University, began today’s session with a brief autobiography before asking each of this afternoon’s presenters to do the same.

 Frampton then gave a brief overview of her paper. Frampton argued that Shakespeare used moments in his plays to mock Robert Greene’s famous diatribe in which he describes Shakespeare as an “antic playwright” and a “shakes-scene”. Frampton pointed to moments such as the entrance of the simpleton William in As You Like It and references to the “green-eyed monster” in Shakespeare’s plays as evidence for her claim.

 Julia Griffin’s paper explores the relationship between Shakespeare and Plutarch and emphasizes the role of intermediary translators as sources for Shakespeare’s plays. Griffin used Antony and Cleopatra as her example of such influence. Griffin demonstrated that the influence of intermediary translators led to moments that lack clarity in Shakespeare’s plays, such as the suggestion that Cleopatra celebrated her birthday twice a year.

 Mel Johnson’s paper drew parallels between the “bedchamber scene” in Cymbeline during which Iachomo sneaks into Imogen’s bedroom as she sleeps and The Rape of Lucrece. Johnson argued that The Rape of Lucrece imbued Cymbeline with a sense of antiquity and authority and a sort of “creation myth of Britain” as James I, a Scottish king, became the English monarch.

 Edward Plough began his presentation with a brief performance. Musicians Scott Campbell and Jordan Zwick performed both Gower’s prologue from Pericles and a song from Plough’s musical adaptation of the play, Of Moonjays and Motorcycles. Plough’s paper explored the relationship between Gower in Pericles and a female nurse in Of Moonjays and Motorcycles. Plough explained his choice to create the Gower character as a nurse as Gower mentions that his, “physic” has worked before. Plough chose to pen a musical with Pericles as his source text because, he argued, Pericles is uniquely relevant to the millennial generation.

 Tsui-fen Jiang’s paper explored the role of Shakespeare in adaptation through the play, Goodnight Desdemona/Morning Juliet, a play that asks the audience to consider whether or not Othello and Romeo and Juliet were meant to be comedies. Jiang argued that we view female characters through the lens of patriarchal society and explored what happens when Ann-Marie McDonald, a female playwright with a female heroine, revisits the two iconic Shakespeare heroines.

 Louis Martin’s paper examined the different film versions of Hamlet and the role of the ghost in each one. He gave descriptions from several film adaptations including Kenneth Branagh’s and Franco Zefirelli’s Hamlets from the 1990s. He explored how the films both reflect and challenge Shakespeare’s play and in some cases, further the ambiguity that Shakespeare created in Hamlet.

 Amy Bolis discussed two adaptations of Othello: Harlem Duet and a hip-hop adaptation, Othello The Remix. Both adaptations portray Desdemona only as a voice and not a realized character that an actor embodies. Bolis argued that, while in both productions, Desdemona is only a “stage device”, Desdemona’s role in Harlem Duet is actually progressive as the absence of Desdemona highlights the “white privilege that Desdemona holds over” Othello and the problems that entails.

 Amanda Hughes’ paper explored the role of the Gothic in Shakespeare’s plays from Richard III to Hamlet and its decline in the Romances. Hughes argued that Shakespeare’s plays were influences on 19th Century Gothic writers as well as being Gothic texts themselves. Hughes argued that Richard III epitomizes the Gothic in Shakespeare’s plays through his use of binaries “dreadful marches, delightful measures”. Richard subverts the norm and creates an “atmosphere of terror” that effectively makes the play Gothic.