https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2022/06/woke-globe-dwight-longenecker.html

The reconstructed Globe theater is a masterpiece, a beautiful dream-come-true and a wonderful contribution to the universal Shakespeare industry. If only the productions of the Bard’s plays were as authentic as the theater in which they are performed, instead of being the puerile pastiches that their producers foist upon us.

It was a glorious June day when our pilgrimage group strolled up the South Bank of the Thames from Tower Bridge to tour the re-constructed Globe Theater. The special project of American filmmaker Sam Wanamaker, the Globe is located across the river from the City of London just a short distance from the actual historical site of Shakespeare’s theater.

A tour of the Globe whisks you back to the sixteenth century. The heavy oak beams are held together with wooden pegs, the thatch on the roof we were told, is authentic—albeit treated with a modern fire retardant. The Globe is not just a Disney-esque replica, but an actual working theater. Tickets for the groundlings go on sale the day of the show for just five quid, while the rest of the seats vary in price. Renting a cushion for three pounds is an extra luxury.

While the theater is a faithful reconstruction of Shakespeare’s venue, don’t expect the plays themselves to be authentic. The globe is woke. During our tour the company were busy rehearsing an upcoming production of King Lear with a female Lear. I realize that in Shakespeare’s day gender confusion was not unknown: Queen Elizabeth was famously masculine, and in the theater female parts would have been played by boys, but must the whirligig of time bring in such revenges that Shakespeare’s male characters must now be played by actresses? A female King Lear? I did not see the whole cast list, but are Lear’s daughters now bad boys instead of spoiled girls? Do they complete the charade by calling the play Queen Lear?

No. Of course not. The feminist agenda is not about elevating women but forcing women to assume masculine traits. The same feminist propaganda was evident in the production of Much Ado About Nothing we enjoyed when we returned to the Globe that afternoon. If you remember the play, Leonato is the patriarch whose daughter Hero is maligned by her fiancé Claudio. Leonato’s brother Antonio plays a supportive role in the drama as Leonato berates the unjust Claudio and attempts to steer the cast to a fair conclusion. But wait. In the Globe’s production Leonato and Antonio have been replaced by “Leonata” and her sister “Antonia.” Hero doesn’t have a Dad. There is no loving, protective patriarch. Instead “Leonata” plays the single parent and berates Claudio not with the thundering tones of a righteous father, but with the nagging anger of a momma bear. This switch in the cast is simply presented to the audience without explanation. The directors have therefore emasculated and mutilated Shakespeare’s play without so much as a “by your leave.” This sort of wanton vandalism is like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

The woke approach—a feminist reading of the play which intentionally undermines the patriarchal premise—may be interesting in an academic way, but is it necessary? When I was studying scriptwriting it was hammered home that we should avoid all preaching. “Tell a good story” we were told, “Don’t preach a sermon. Nothing destroys a script more quickly than imposing your message on the story.” Or, as the movie mogul growled to the novice screenwriter, “You wanna send a message? Use the Western Union.”

The same should apply to the interpretation of a play. Spare us the heavy-handed feminist reading, the gay play, the lesbian subtext, and the Marxist reconstruction. It’s not clever, and it’s not funny. I don’t say this because I disagree with the particular sermons being preached, but because it is just so awfully sophomoric, bombastic, crude, and obvious. A female King Lear? Really? Substituting Leonato and Antonio with “Leonata” and “Antonia”? Come now. Remember Ogden Nash’s dictum “Here is a good rule of thumb: Too clever is dumb.”

That this feminist tract should be imposed on Much Ado About Nothing is even more absurd because the play itself deals with the timeless war between the sexes perfectly adequately not only in the dramatic injustice done to Hero, but also in the delicious subplot between Benedick and Beatrice. In Beatrice Shakespeare has created a compelling, fully feminine, boisterous and feisty female. Why drown out this subtle and beautiful interplay and conflict between male and female with a heavy handed feminist re-interpretation of the play? Imposing “Leonata” as a domineering harridan diverts our attention from the truly sympathetic feminist in the play: Beatrice.

The other ridiculous irony in this gender-bending, woke approach to Shakespeare is that it has no logical end point. Shall we have a female Hamlet? Will she be called Hamlette? If so, must Ophelia be a fella? Why not have a Lord MacBeth who manipulates his wife to do the dirty deed rather than the other way around? Or for that matter let us have a Lady MacBeth played by a man, while MacBeth is played by a woman. We’ll call him “Mack” and she can be “Beth.” The Globe is all the world, and if all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players, then why not let all the men play the women and all the women play the men, and then the Globe can be complete in its woke sermonizing, and be one huge self-congratulatory, self-righteous celebration of transgenderism.

That this travesty of Shakespearean interpretation takes place in the perfectly-restored Globe theater is especially ironic. There are the oak beams and wooden pegs, the wattle and daub, the thatched roof and the authentic-looking stage, but the directors have distorted the plays with their woke sermonizing. The play, the play’s the thing wherein they’ll catch the conscience of the Queen.

To be consistent with the banal modernistic interpretation, the globe theater should be made of plastic, vinyl, steel, and glass and fitted with jumbo flat-screen TVs with a booming sound system instead of a stage. You wanna be modern and up-to-date? Go the whole hog and do Shakespeare meets a rock concert. You want Queen Lear? Why not just do Queen and have the leather clad cast sing “We Will Rock You?”

I rant. But if my rant verges on the ridiculous it is only because the producers and directors at the Globe have pushed Shakespearean re-interpretation to the edge of the absurd. The reconstructed Globe theater is a masterpiece, a beautiful dream-come-true and a wonderful contribution to the universal Shakespeare industry. If only the productions of the Bard’s plays were as authentic as the theater in which they are performed, instead of being the puerile pastiches that their producers foist upon us.

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

The featured image, uploaded by Jack1956, is a photograph of a “View of Shakespeare’s Globe set up for a performance of Romeo and Juliet in March 2019.” This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email