1991

Cuts and Interpolations in Performance

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 292. Thursday, 7 Nov 1991.
 
Date:         	Wed, 06 Nov 91 10:43:04 EST
From: 		Lorin Wertheimer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: 2.0288  Cuts & Interpolations in Performance
Comment:      	Re: SHK 2.0288  Cuts & Interpolations in Performance
 
In response to Roy Flannagan--
 
Your points are well taken.  Shakespeare's texts, when "messed with" lose
their timeless quality.  I, too, find Olivier's Hamlet a bit dated, somewhat
like an obsession commercial.  Although I had no problems with Zeffirelli's
R & J, I am sure certain things stick out as sixtiesish.
 
I do differ with you in some respects.  First, can we claim Shakespeare's
works are really timeless?  If directors feel the need to make changes, does
that not speak to a different outlook in the twentieth century?  If not the
text, other theatrical conventions have been changed.  Our theaters are shaped
differently, our actors have a twentieth century style, technology changed, etc
 
But more importantly, what does it matter if theater has a timeless nature?
Film is one thing; it is preserved intact.  A movie is somewhere closer to
a painting, once it is complete it can be viewed over and over.  The movie,
like the artwork, changes as the society which views it changes.  But with the
movie, Shakespeare the screenwriter and Shakespeare the playwright have little
in common.  Shakespeare's conventions of the stage can not hold for the screen.
Modern cinema must adapt any Shakespeare script, making it cinematic,
entertaining, otherwise you end up with BBC productions, which, while chocked
full of good acting, are boring to all ends.
 
But theater is different.  Theater is not timeless.  It is immediate.  As a
student of the theater (director/actor/writer) the one thing I have learned
is the extent to which the play is influenced by the audience.  Not only in
rehearsal, when we must consider sightlines or audience reaction or how long
the text can be before people in the front row begin to fall asleep, but in
performance, when the play takes on a life of its own each night and actors
respond to the energy of the audience, whether silent tension, laughter, or
boredom.  There is no use for a play which can be reproduced exactly year
after year--It cannot be done night after night the same way and still be
interesting.  Very few plays run for more than a year.  Some musicals do,
but few plays.  Texts stay around, old scripts are revived, and productions
are taken on the road.  But the play lasts only from eight pm to ten thirty.
 
I don't know if I have made myself clear.  One of the dangers American Theater
is prey to is losing its immediacy.  This has little to do with Shakespeare
and yet is intricately tied to his work.  Experimentation which goes on with
Julius Ceasar is often a dismal failure.  But it is often an extreme success.
Even "traditional" productions are anything but that.  If, somehow, we could
preserve the theatrical experience and replay it the next evening or the next
month or the next century, it would make no sense.  Theater occurs at the
moment it occurs.  That, not its beauty nor its timelessness, is where the
rub lies.
 
Lorin Wertheimer
Brown University

Authorship Controversies: Oxford

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 291. Thursday, 7 Nov 1991.
 
Date: 		Wed, 6 Nov 91 10:19:32 PST
From: 		This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject: Authorship: The Earl of Oxford
Comment: 	SHK 2.0286  Authorship: The Earl of Oxford
 
It does make a difference though, because if the Stratford man wrote the
plays, as on the whole I think he did, then what we have infused into the
plays as a whole is the psyche of one who both envies and despises the
world of privilege based on a hierarchical and traditional ideology that
on the whole he defends. If the Oxford man wrote them, then we have the
psyche of a self-satisfied and privileged person who is free to be deeply
critical of the world he inhabits. Apart from arguments based on external
evidence, problems of dating, and the like, the internal evidence that for
me points toward the Stratford man is the number of self-hating outsiders
there are in the plays--Iago, Othello, Hamlet (if one sees him, despite
being a prince, as rendered an outsider by Claudius), Caliban, and so on.
Even apart from the self-hating characters, the figure of the stranger,
after the book by Fiedler, looms so larger than one would think it would if
the plays came from the pen of the Oxford man.

Public Domain Project

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 289. Tuesday, 5 Nov 1991.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Tue, 5 Nov 1991 18:34:00 -0500
	From: 	Sean K. Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Subj: 	Public domain Shakespeare
 
(2)	Date: 	Tue, 5 Nov 1991 11:33:19 -0500
	From:	Ken Steele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Subj:   Public Domain Projects
 
 
(1)------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Tue, 5 Nov 1991 18:34:00 -0500
From: 		Sean K. Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: 	Public domain Shakespeare
 
Great idea, encoding Shakespeare in public domain.  Count me in to type
a scene or two.  I don't own any folio or quarto texts personally, but
have access to a number at my university library.  I don't think, however,
that I am qualified to edit such texts, or annotate them at all.
 
If you would like me to type a scene or two, just send a document with the
format, preferred source, and which scene you would like typed.
 
Free Shakespeare is very exciting, both for its practical usage and
broadened access, and for what it shows us about this new medium, about
the new freedom of information, made possible by computer networks, allowing
for cooperative efforts.
 
Yours sincerely,
Sean K. Lawrence.
 
(2)-----------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Tue, 5 Nov 1991 11:33:19 -0500
From:		Ken Steele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject:      	Public Domain Projects
 
There does indeed seem to be continued support for the concept of
public domain texts of Shakespeare, and although I don't want it to
become the only thing we talk about on SHAKSPER, I would like us to
arrive at some sort of consensus regarding our needs and methods.
 
Michael Hart, Director of Project Gutenberg, has kindly offered the
services of some Project Gutenberg volunteers to enter text, although
he notes that they will not be Shakespeare experts and would prefer to
work with plain ascii text rather than complex tagging.  He reports a
number of volunteers who like Shakespeare and are willing to work on
more than one play each, either in text entry or proofing.  Apparently
they are used to entering much longer texts than the sort of
single-scene procedure we are considering.
 
Once again, the question becomes choice of copytext for a public
domain text of Shakespeare.  If our only public-domain choices are
outdated (and eccentric) nineteenth-century editions, or the original
quarto and folio texts, I think it's reasonably clear which is
preferable.  The more textually-inclined among us could eventually
create edited versions of the texts if people need a public-domain
*edition* of Shakespeare.  In fact, once we have a public domain text of
the First Folio, it should be reasonably simple to produce public
domain texts from it of the Second Folio, Third Folio, etc., on down
to the eighteenth-century editions, who then proceed to reprint each
other too.  Naturally, I'm not talking about a project which would be
completed this month or this year, but in the long term I think this
might be viable...
 
The major stumbling-block is that most of our volunteers don't have
the Norton facsimile at home; instead, they have the Yale (if we're
lucky) or the Penguin or Pelican.  Either we need someone with
institutional photocopying privileges, to mail copytexts to
volunteers, or we're going to have to run collation software to
compare whatever texts get submitted with the Howard-Hill texts from
the Text Archive, and to bring our public domain texts in line with
the Norton facsimile.
 
Any suggestions?
 
					Ken Steele
					University of Toronto

Request to ALL re: Work in Progress

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 290. Thursday, 7 Nov 1991.
 
From: 		Ken Steele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: 	Request to all Members re Work in Progress
Date: 		Thu, 7 Nov 91 8:57:30 EST
 
Dear Fellow SHAKSPEReans;
 
Since SHAKSPER was just a glint in my eye, I've hoped that it could be
used for rapid communication of quickly obsolescent material to
Shakespearean scholars.  In my mind, this included calls for papers,
announcements and reviews of recent publications and productions,
discussions of textual cruxes, information about new discoveries
(documentary and archeological), and word of work in progress.
 
In particular, more traditional print media have not been able to
provide up-to-date indexes of dissertations, articles, and books in
progress, in manuscript, and in press.  Such information could help
scholars avoid duplication of effort, and could provide valuable
contacts for specific information not yet available.  I somewhat
prematurely offered such an index some months ago, but have only now
managed to complete the required editing of the SHAKSPER Member Biography
files to produce even a preliminary version of the file.
 
In doing so, I encountered several difficulties which, perhaps, should
have been anticipated.  First of all, the earliest biographies are
about a year and a half out of date now.  Secondly, many included only
general statements of research interests, while others offered exact
titles for forthcoming works.  Thirdly, SHAKSPEReans are an
interesting bunch, and are at work on literary scholarship in other
periods, theatrical productions, and quite unrelated projects.
 
I have somewhat ruthlessly decided to limit this works in progress
index to scholarly projects in Shakespeare, Medieval and Renaissance
literatures.  Information about individuals, productions, and research
in other fields remains available in the SHAKSPER Biographies, of
course, but my aim was simply to create a research tool for
Shakespearean scholars.  If anyone would be interested in compiling a
list of SHAKSPERean playwrights, producers, and actors, and their
recent and future work, I believe that would also be of great value to
the group as a whole.
 
At the moment, then, I have a single file which summarizes information
about works in progress from the five member biography files.  It is
currently arranged, as the biography files are, in chronological order
of membership, and regrettably omits many members who did not offer
information in this regard, or whose information my bleary eyes
somehow managed to overlook.  I suspect that I will be arranging the
list alphabetically by author, for neatness if nothing else, but do
not feel that any more complex indexing will be required when an
electronic text can so easily be searched.  (I welcome suggestions from
members as to what they would organization or information they would find
most useful.)
 
MOST IMPORTANTLY, I would ask members to check their entries in the
SHAKSPER Member Biography Files.  (You can obtain the entire set of
current biography files by requesting BIOGRAFY PACKAGE SHAKSPER from
the Fileserver, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)  If you can add any
information to that entry regarding dissertations, articles,
monographs, or editions recently published, forthcoming, or in
progress, please write the information in a short paragraph and
forward it to me.
 
Once the hoped-for deluge has diminished to a trickle, I will
integrate those updated paragraphs, organize the index, and post it to
the Fileserver.  (Naturally another announcement will indicate the
file's availability.)
 
Thanks in advance to all who make this effort.  Not only will the
information you provide further scholarship, but it might just
increase advance orders for your books! :-)
 
					Ken Steele
					University of Toronto

Cuts & Interpolations in Performance

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 288. Tuesday, 5 Nov 1991.
 
 
Date: 		Mon, 4 Nov 1991 14:18:37 -0500
From: 		Roy Flannagan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: 	Additions and Subtractions
 
     After Dryden, Davenant, and several composers diddled with
{The Tempest} in 1667, ridding it of about a third of Shakespeare's
text and balancing asymmetrical plot elements with symmetrical ones,
the play became a musical spectacular in the eyes of the public, for
over seventy five years.  The Dryden and Davenant adaptation is
fun to watch: I have seen it, and it is charming fluff--appealing for
its songs, for the on-stage spectacle as in the opening scene, even
for its perfectly-balanced plot.  But it is not what Shakespeare wrote.
The assumption of the collaborators must have been that Shakespeare
wouldn't have held the stage and sold tickets in 1667, and that
therefore he must be improved.  The adaptation did quite well.  It
was the only {Tempest} available in London (according to Orgel)
until Garrick's 1757 production, which itself cut over 400 lines.
 
     Dryden and Davenant were doing what in the U.S. in the
Sixties would have been called "making Shakespeare relevant," as
with {MacBird}, the parody of {Macbeth} and the satire of Lyndon
Johnson's White House.  Directors of Shakespeare on stage and
in film, from Max Reinhardt to Laurence Olivier to Peter Brook, have
also tinkered with various plays to make them palatable to the audiences
of the various eras. Reinhardt decided Mendelssohn's music and ballet
were as necessary to {Midsummer Night's Dream} as any other element: his
movie is about 20% ballet; it uses the film medium for special effects,
such as the illusion of fairies flying through clouds.  In the brilliant
movie of {Richard III}, Olivier decided to leave Queen Margaret out of
the action, and, just like that, Richard's antagonist was gone from the
film, as if she had never existed in the play.  Olivier of course had to
shorten the play to fit the expected two hours of a popular film, but he
also added scenes such as the drowning of Clarence or the smothering of
the little princes, dramatizing narrative.  In his less-successful
{Hamlet} Olivier also cut much but dramatized the drowning of Ophelia.
In cutting or augmenting what was in the text, Reinhardt or Olivier
seemed to date the production according to the era in which it was
filmed.  Reinhardt's {Midsummer Night's Dream} has affinities with
{The Wizard of Oz} and American vaudeville; Olivier's dreamy Hamlet,
who "cannot make up his mind," is on a psychoanalyst's couch for his
problems with his mother because Olivier was reading E. Jones.
 
    I have been reading the manuscript of a new book on Peter
Brook that shows how and where he cut lines from {King Lear}, lines
that help create sympathy for Cordelia or Lear, deliberately, in
order to stress the Brechtian or absurdist or cruel elements in
the play.  But the deliberate removal of sympathy from tragic characters:
that struck me as manipulative directing.  Brook imposed a kind of
cold will on the play--Scofield speaks in a slow voice that seems
to indicate either that Lear is emotionally deprived or that he
has already had a minor stroke--that removed sympathy from the main
characters, even from Kent.  Brook took away certain elements of
stage-craft, varied lighting, for instance, in order to emphasize
others, such as the metal thunder curtain that appeared on stage and
was visibly rattled to create the sounds of the storm.
 
    The effects of Brook's production on stage and in the subsequent
movie were startling and emotionally wrenching, especially with
Scofield as Lear, and Brook did create a great moment in modern theater,
but the removal of sympathetic lines and the very starkness of the
production date it today as "Sixties stuff," rather than timeless art.
Brook's production is part of theater history, but it is trendy and
dated, no longer as powerful as it was when you first saw it.
 
     Who am I to criticize Dryden, Reinhardt, Olivier, and Brook?
I am not a director, nor am I a Shakespearean scholar, not having
published much about his work.  I have just independently
decided that it is dangerous to assume that Shakespeare did
not know what he was doing on stage, and thus has to be "improved" for
each generation.  I feel the opposite: if a director recreates the text
successfully, the play will have the vitality and appeal to its audience
it first had on the stage--when Shakespeare and his company either
flourished or starved by how they presented their collaborative work
to the Elizabethan or Jacobean public or aristocratic audience.  Also,
if a director tampers with Shakespeare, the tampering will almost
inevitably reflect worse on the director than on Shakespeare.
Students of mine invariably laugh with embarrassment today when they
see the "page" in Zeffirelli's {Romeo and Juliet} singing that silly
romantic Sixties song at the Capulet feast (though they do cry later
with that same theme music prompting them to do so).  They might
be equally embarrassed to see the naked Lady Macbeth in Polanski's movie,
and they might be even more embarrassed to see Nicol Williamson's
Freudian entanglement with Gertrude or Laertes kissing Ophelia with
incestuous passion in the same production.
 
    There are the kinds of problems Steve Urkowitz points out between
Folio and Quarto.  Which published text should be considered the
acting version, the one that worked on stage, and which even in 1623
would have been considered a "literary" version, a reader's Shakespeare
as opposed to a dramatic Shakespeare?  Directors often argue that the
plays that we have in modern editions are impossibly long because
they do represent conflations of acting texts, either by the Folio
editors or by modern editors erring on the side of inclusiveness.
 
    Also, we might assume that Shakespeare learned by his own mistakes,
since his later plays are more economical, they use fewer cheap
effects, their poetry is more varied, more immediate, less
rhetorical, and less declamatory.  Shakespeare must have at one
time decided to remove most of the bombastic language and Grand
Guignol effects of Marlowe from his own plays, and he obviously
removed couplets from the speech of his characters except to
mark scene changes or exits and entrances.  Perhaps that is an
argument that "early Shakespeare" should be acted differently
from "late Shakespeare," but in the case of plays for which we
have no certain dates, the logic won't hold.
 
     *Perhaps* Shakespeare's audiences could sit patiently
longer, perhaps they could listen to declamatory speeches longer,
not being attuned to the brief attention-span that watching
television promotes; perhaps they liked outrageously extended
conceits and puns more than does a modern audience that can't
catch much of the double entendre.  But Shakespeare's audience
had the good taste and discretion to applaud and support Marlowe,
Jonson, Marston, and Shakespeare, among others: they were a
demanding audience, they liked variety, and they were bright.
 
     Get to it, Flannagan: what's your point?  My point is that
directors had better not make idle interpolations or excisions from
the text of Shakespeare's plays, lest history laugh at them
or be embarrassed for them.  Brilliant directors or actors
like Olivier will certainly add meaningful gesture or nuance to
the words, as when Olivier as RIII gave the fierce glare to the
Prince of York when the little Prince joked about riding
on his crippled back.  But beyond that point, for instance
when Olivier ate the rabbit guts in {Lear}, the director may be
laying himself open to ridicule for messing with Shakespeare.
 
Roy Flannagan

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