05 August 2013

Cuffs, bars, guns, and Shakespeare

Malcolm Harris on Shakespeare in prison. The whole essay is excellent, but I was especially taken with two paragraphs, one from Brecht and one from Harris.

Brecht:
Shakespeare pushes the great individuals out of their human relationships (family, state) out onto the heath, into complete isolation, where he must pretend to be great in his decline … Future times will call this kind of drama a drama for cannibals and they’ll say that the human being was eaten as Richard III, with pleasure at the beginning and with pity at the end, but he was always eaten up.
Harris:
If the carceral system is the country’s fundamental fact, then its fundamental logic is that of cuffs, bars, and guns. No readings or performances are going to change that, but they can change the way we see it from the outside. Without a story about 2,266,800 bad choices, America is just a country that keeps its underclasses in cages. Shakespeare’s drama for cannibals lends a sense of noble inevitability to a prison system that’s not only historically and globally specific, but exceptional. It’s fitting theatre for a society that eats its own.
Also, there is mention of C.L.R. James's great Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways.

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