Saturday, 13 February 2016

This is how to do it!

I had this memorised at one time - copying the rhythm and inflections.

Not many modern actors can do, or even attempt to do, what Olivier does and all actors used to do - speak blank verse as verse. Indeed, their directors will not let them.

And if you do not, you lose a great deal. Shakespeare wrote it as verse for a reason, and so speak it as prose throws away half the effect - and creates a different effect.

But, of course, if you are trying to be different from Olivier just for the sake of being different... well, greatness casts a long shadow.

[PS I don't blame Tom Hiddleston for the above fiasco - he is indeed one of my favourite actors - because he is only doing what the director's 'concept' demanded; and makes as good a job of it as could be done.]


Leo said...


"We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakespeare spoke..."


Nicholas Fulford said...

Another very fine version is Kenneth Branaugh's

I cannot honestly say which is preferred to my ear, as both bring their own passion, tone, and both elevate the spirit to pinnacles of intensity. Olivier's is less and more, being less of other instruments, and more by standing alone.

Albrecht said...

Regarding #2: There's another thing we need to shake off - that trope of recent depictions of heroic figures: The weepy-eyed hero of tender sensibilities whose voice quavers between a plea and a tear-choked whisper. Puke.

Nicholas Fulford said...

One thing to keep in mind Albrecht is that narratives and their interpretations do not remain fixed in their time and geography. This is not a statement of "should" or "should not", it is just what happens. Now there is nothing to say that artists, academics and the common man cannot try to retain the kernel of these important narratives, and even be inspired to create their own works that explore and support these important themes. Literature has often been a powerful tool for enlightening the reader, to introduce ideas and struggles with which the reader may not be acquainted. One of the great beauties of our brains is that we have this remarkable ability to communicate symbolically, and that those symbols - presented coherently and with potent inspiration - can move us so deeply. In many cases these become kernels in the minds of men, shaping their thinking and behaviour. Good narratives and interpretations elicit hope, provide meaning, and bring out the best of what it is possible for us to be. Likewise, cruel, despicable narratives and interpretations can be a dark and withering poison that breeds the very worst of what it is possible for us to be.

I do understand how it is sometimes necessary for art to portray the worst of what we are - as warnings - but the balance should favour aspirational ends that through struggle can be realised.

Nobody should be under any delusion; most good things do not come easily in life and without struggle. We have to struggle and through that struggle discover the better, (and to that point hidden), qualities of what we are capable of being. Heroism and personal sacrifice require intense struggles with instinctive reactions, narrow self-interest, laziness and a host of other debilitating strangling vines.

Thorns of the mind should be burned within the radiant and unfiltered splendours of beauty, longing and love. Oddly, it is in our most weakened states that what is most real reveals itself. Often - perhaps even always - all the clothing with which the mind surrounds and encumbers itself has to be ripped away so that the essential man is liberated from his prison.

Anonymous said...

It's since been taken down, but a few years ago someone posted a video edit he'd made by mixing the music composed for the St. Crispin's Day speech in Branagh's version into the Olivier version. Twice as moving.

--360 Decrees
(Still can't get through via Open ID. Have they had a falling-out with Yahoo?)

Bruce Charlton said...

@360 - My blog seeting is that anyone can comment including anonymous, but word verification is unfortunately necessary or else I get swamped by spam... that's all I know about it!