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This article is taken from PN Review 30, Volume 9 Number 4, March - April 1983.

The Case for a Double Standard Julian Symons

A FEW weeks ago I wrote and performed in a television programme called Shakespeare in Perspective, one of a series which precedes the BBC productions of the plays. The protagonists are chosen because they are thought to have some relevance to a particular play-Wolf Mankowitz viewed The Merchant of Venice in relation to the position of Jews in Shakespeare's England and the unlikelihood of the dramatist having met a Jew, John Mortimer on Measure for Measure was discovered beside the Law Courts, and so on. I was invited to discuss Macbeth because I write crime stories, and the producer made it clear that he did not want an academic or historical view of the play. Nor did he ask for a commentary on this particular production, which indeed I hadn't seen, but for a personal view of the play-that is, the personal view of a crime writer. I was asked to remember also that the television audience of millions was not the same as a theatre audience of hundreds or thousands. Most of the television watchers would not know the play, many might be watching a Shakespeare play for the first time. Hence, in the Perspective script it was desirable to suggest the course of the play in general, although of course not to show it in detail.

Given such a simplistic approach, can anything interesting be said? I hope so, and it is not at all my intention to criticise the producer or director, whose requirements ...


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