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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: October ::
Rs: Lady Montague's Death
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 255.  Wednesday, 14 October 1992.
 
(1)	From: 	Nick Clary <CLARY@SMCVAX.BITNET>
	Date: 	Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1992, 09:40 EDT
	Subj: 	RE: Lady Montague's Death
 
(2)	From: 	William Kemp <
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 >
	Date: 	Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1992, 10:51:38 EDT
	Subj: 	vanishing characters/doubling roles
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Nick Clary <CLARY@SMCVAX.BITNET>
Date: 		Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1992, 09:40 EDT
Subject: 	RE: Lady Montague's Death
 
If nothing else, the death of Lady Montague balances out the losses: the
house of Capulet, the house of Montague, and the house of Escalus, each loses
a pair of its family members.  Is fate fair, or what?  Of course, that still
leaves me wondering.  She appears in only two other scenes.  In 3.1 she does
not speak, but in 1.1 she speaks twice: first, she restrains her husband who
presses to engage "villain Capulet," then later she inquires after Romeo,
"Right glad...he was not in this fray."  Clearly she is not antagonistic to
love, as Tybalt and Mercutio are, each in his own fashion.  Perhaps her
death, combined with the death of Paris, answers as much to the calculus of
composition as to the exigencies of casting?
 
Nick Clary
clary@smcvax.bitnet
 
(2)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		William Kemp <
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 >
Date: 		Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1992, 10:51:38 EDT
Subject: 	vanishing characters/doubling roles
 
The question about Lady Montague dying so that Shakespeare could use the actor
in another role bothers me -- or the answers bother me. Of course, Shakespeare
might have killed her off because he didn't have enough actors to bring her
back onstage. And of course, as someone suggested, Adam may disappear because
the actor playing him is needed for other tasks.
 
But:
 
Shakespeare is quite willing to throw a character away once s/he's served hir
purpose and equally willing to invent a new one to serve another purpose. The
efficiency of a well-made play isn't part of his dramaturgy.
 
Besides, the death of Lady Montague contributes to the sense of general gloom
at play's end. If Shakespeare really didn't have enough actors to mount the
final scene, he could simply ignore Lady M -- no need to write into the script
that she died.
 
I'm bothered by the assumption that each script was written for a specific
number of actors.  We know that the company recycled plays, sometimes adapted
and sometimes not. We know that the company hired journeyman actors to swell a
scene or two. We also know that they doubled parts. But none of that sustains
the assumption that our playwright sat down at his desk thinking, "O. K., I've
got twelve actors this month." Can anyone suggest why I should abandon the
assumption that Shakespeare wrote his plays for a largish company, for
performances in different venues, and expected scripts to be adapted to various
cast sizes and physical spaces? The alternative assumption -- that each play is
an occasional piece, for x number of actors, in y space, at z time -- seems to
exceed our evidence by a wide margin.
 
Bill Kemp
Mary Washington College
Fredericksburg, Va.

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