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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: June ::
*TC*, Satire, Doubling / Double Bills
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 162. Tuesday, 11 Jun 1991.
 
(1)	Date: 	Sat, 8 Jun 91 10:39:14 PDT
	From: 	Kay Stockholder <
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	Subj: 	[*TC*, Satire, Genre]	
 
(2)	Date: 	Mon, 10 Jun 1991 23:28:34 -0400
	From: 	Steve Urkowitz <surcc@cunyvm.bitnet>
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 2.0153  *TC*, Genre, Satire
 
(3)	Date: 	Tue, 11 Jun 1991 09:57:41 -0400
	From: 	David Richman <
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	Subj: 	Genre, Doubling, and other matters
 
(4)	Date: 	Mon, 10 Jun 1991 23:18:37 -0400
	From: 	Steve Urkowitz <surcc@cunyvm.bitnet>
	Subj:   Re: SHK 2.0157  Doubling & Double Bills in Shakespeare
 
(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Sat, 8 Jun 91 10:39:14 PDT
From: 		Kay Stockholder <
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 >
Subject: 	[*TC*, Satire, Genre]	
 
For Geoffrey Hargreaves and George Mosley.  The reason that I
don't say that I find it useful to think of literature as refer-
ring rather than literature refers is that I believe that litera-
ture refers, and in saying so it is clear that it is I who hold
that belief, otherwise I wouldn't be saying it.  This does not
mean that literature doesn't do other things besides refer, and
that there aren't other ways of talking about it. If we differ on
this point, it is only on a question of style of discourse rather
than content.  About T&C as satire: of course the play could be a
satire of a literary form, or a parody, as you say, but I don't
think it can be a satire without being a satire of something out
there in the world, other literature or plays being as much out
there in the world as courts and kings.  In a sense I do think
that a part of T&C is a parody of aspects of courtly love, but I
don't think it is Shakespeare's intention to mock it, so much as
to show Troilus in his posturing making mockery of courtly
stances, and thereby emptying them of meaning, just as Hector
empties of meaning the code of honour he professes by trivi-
alizing it in the service of his need for self-esteem.  Because
just about all the characters do something like this, with the
exception of Pandaras, Thersites, and, in a way, Cressida, none
of them are, as I said before, particularly likable.  To perform
the play in the way I envision it would not please a large
audience, and certainly not an audience of undergraduates, but it
would please some with a sufficiently sophisticated taste for
jadedness.  It's all right to perform it in other ways that can
make it more attractive to a large audience, but in teaching it I
would rather make the students aware of the deep cynicism of the
play than pretend it isn't there.  Some of them like it, some
not, but not all students have to like every play that Shakes-
peare wrote in order to increase their range of understanding and
capacity for literary apprehension.
 
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Mon, 10 Jun 1991 23:28:34 -0400
From: 		Steve Urkowitz <surcc@cunyvm.bitnet>
Subject: 2.0153  *TC*, Genre, Satire
Comment:      	Re: SHK 2.0153  *TC*, Genre, Satire
 
Dear Satiroids,
 
We have not been listening to the same tunes.  We have not been laughing
at the same movies.  Remember Kubrick's *Dr. Strangelove . . .*?   I saw
it when it came out in a nearly empty theatre in Rochester, NY during an
abortive year of graduate study.  Sat in that theatre hooting and laughing
from the opening credits to the doomsday mushrooms.  (Anyone ever make the
connection between the end of *Dr. S* and the end of *Gravity's Rainbow*?
Sing along with the end of the world?)  No one else in that place was
laughing!  Now, a few years later, after I had studied satire with
John R Clark while he was at CCNY (he's now at U of South Florida), I was
at University of Chicago hoping to write on Swift and Pope.  Went to
Ned Rosenheim, a very funny man, and showed him some of my ideas about
satiric structures.  First he recommended a lobotomy, and then he
prescribed a tutorial with him on (this being U of Chicago) Aristotle's
*Poetics*.  After a couple of weeks we saw this wasn't going to work out,
and then I belatedly read his book on Swift.  As I recall, where Clark
argues that Swift cavorts most outrageously, dancing on the ceilings,
Rosenheim argues strenuously that at that spot, in Book Nine of Tale of a
Tub, there and only there in Swift's entire literary career he, the old
curmugeon, is being SINCERE!  I abruptly altered my plans, went into
Medieval drama and thence forward to Shakespeare and T&C.  Why this tale?
From one T&C reader I hear the question, "where is the drama in watching a
stupid debate among the greek generals? "  From elsewhere I hear, " It
doesn't seem right to say that the play satirizes courtly love . . ." and
"none of the characters is sympathetic."
 
I agree that Shakespeare was writing a "black comedy."  I'd say, right,
that's what at least some kinds of satire are.  But Aristophanes wrote
a lot of them, too.  And the dopey Squire's Tale seems to be gentle
Chaucer's trial at the scheme, And "Hero and Leander" and "Venus and Adonis"
and Astrophill and Stella each have very funny, very bleak, and very deadly
inversions of the courtly love version of human sexuality.  The debate of
the council in Troy is beautiful, and oh so sad, and oh so funny.  We
(or rather some of us) find Troilus very very sympathetic especially
because he is so very wrong.  Maybe I like these guys and these
love-shattered ladies because I still wince from the same lacerations, the
effect of flying ideally at full speed into those mountains of reality.
 
May I suggest that satiroids look at the BBC-TV/Time-Life video of T&C?
Maybe that would give a local habitation for otherwise drifting appelations,
like "sympathy" or "dramatic effectiveness."  Or may be we'll watch the
greater darkness descend over our computer screens.
 
                     		As ever, tickling in the dark,
		     			Steve Urkowitz <SURCC@CUNYVM>
 
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Tue, 11 Jun 1991 09:57:41 -0400
From: 		David Richman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Subject: 	Genre, Doubling, and other matters
 
     Richard Ellmann's biography of Oscar Wilde demonstrates, among
other things, what can happen when art and life are too irreverent and
outrageous.  *Troilus and Cressida* is an irreverent, outrageous play.
I think it engenders in its critics a similar, if lesser, discomfort to
that generated by the life and work of Oscar Wilde.  Do any SHAKSPEReans
know more than I do about how the play was received by audiences circa
1602?  If we have to call the play something, how about borrowing a leaf
from Polonius's book and calling it historical-tragical-satirical-parodical?
 
     I grant that Shakespeare did not often engage in parody, but with
*Poetaster*, *The Knight of the Burning Pestle*, and *The Revenger's
Tragedy*, outrageous satire laced with parody was in the air during
those years.  It can be argued (at least by me) that *Cymbeline*
parodies the genre in which it partakes (whatever that is -- tragical-
comical-historical-pastoral?), and that Enobarbus is a great parodist.
A good performer can make the audience laugh knowingly even as it gasps
in wonder at the description of Cleopatra's barge.
 
     To move to another subject, how was *TC* cast during Shakespeare's
time?  Did the same boy actor play Helen, Cassandra, and Andromache?  I
doubt that Shakespeare doubled the fool and Cordelia.  Wouldn't the fool
have been played by Robert Armin, while Cordelia was played by one of
the boys?
 
     Doubling can be used to underscore a theme or to set up a
suggestive relation among characters.  A mid-'seventies performance of
*Measure for Measure* emphasized the play's opposition of scope to
restraint by casting the same male performer as Mistress Overdone,
Barnardine, and the votarist of St. Clare who instructs Isabella about
that order's austerity.  Peter Brook famously doubled Theseus with
Oberon and Hippolyta with Titania (so did many others).  The doubling
permitted him to draw a sort of Jungian connection between the day-world
and the night-world.  To my taste, his production slipped a bit when
night changed to morning in the fourth act, though I may be in a
minority here.
 
     A program called ACTER has been sending troops of English
performers to college campuses.  Doubtless many SHAKSPEReans have seen
these troops.  In each case, five performers will mount a play on a bare
stage, with minimal lighting, and with myriad multiple casting.  Often,
a performer will switch roles midscene.  Many uncanny effects are
achieved, since the performers play on the theatre's central paradox:
the spectators know they are watching a play while they agree to pretend
that they don't know this.  In a recent *Winter's Tale*, for example,
Leontes and the old shepherd were played by the same actor.  Thus, the
man who banished the infant Perdita to the desert coast of Bohemia was
there to receive her when she arrived.  In the same production, Florizel
and Polixines doubled, and the rebellious child and ruling parent in
each of us was explored.  With subtle changes in stance and voice, and
with suggestive use of small costume pieces or props, performers
instantly changed from one character to another and back again.  The
spectators had willy-nilly to suspend a good deal of disbelief, but most
spectators seemed glad to make the imaginative effort and to reap the
accompanying imaginative pleasure.
 
     I must prepare a production of *Merry Wives of Windsor* with eight
performers, suitable for travelling to high schools throughout New
Hampshire.  I haven't yet decided on the multiple castings for that one.
I may steal an idea from Michael Kahn and have a female Falstaff.  I am
also considering a puppet Falstaff.  I hope we can approach the mirth
and festivity that Kahn's production achieved.
 
					David Richman
					University of New Hampshire
					
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Mon, 10 Jun 1991 23:18:37 -0400
From: 		Steve Urkowitz <surcc@cunyvm.bitnet>
Subject: 2.0157  Doubling & Double Bills in Shakespeare
Comment:      	Re: SHK 2.0157  Doubling & Double Bills in Shakespeare
 
Dear Ken,  Ah, if only the Monty Python crew had been called in to edit
the Oxford Shakespeare, then you would have had your rich imaginings
served forth.  As it is, the OUP text occasionally does whip in a juicy
bit from a naughty quarto in the Henry Sixes, but who's gonna notice?
At the Berlin World Shakespeare Congress there were deliciously literate
pastiches of text layered on text, but not much ordered as you would have it.
Video disk technology or even a pair of VCRs could create such a fusion for
anyone willing to take the time.  What did that old man say out in the rain
about spilling all of nature's germans?
 
          				Steve Urkowitz
					<SURCC@CUNYVM>
 

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