Tuesday, December 1, 2015

On Rapping Shakespeare: A Response to Mark Rylance

I recently read an interview with the talented Shakespearean actor Mark Rylance, who is fast becoming a big TV and movie star due to his brilliant portrayals of Thomas Cromwell in the BBC miniseries Wolf Hall and the Russian spy Rudolf Abel in Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies. In the pages of The Guardian, Rylance complained that most Shakespearean actors impart an inappropriately slow, portentous, and reverent delivery to Shakespeare's lines, which should instead be spoken as rapidly as rap. Rylance also compared Shakespeare's speeches to Rolling Stones lyrics, asserting, "To take a song like Honky Tonk Woman and study it for its literature" does "a disservice to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who would like it to be revered as a great rock'n'roll song." He added that we should likewise "revere [Shakespeare] in the way he would want to be revered -- as a playwright."*

Now, an actor as good as Rylance deserves to be listened to. He knows his craft. But if you sense something fishy about his argument, it's because it's fishy. My