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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: October ::
More on Lady Montague's Death
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 257.  Wednesday, 14 October 1992.
 
(1)	From: 	Stephen Schrum <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1992, 17:55 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: Lady Montague's Death
 
(2)
 
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(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Stephen Schrum <
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Date: 		Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1992, 17:55 EDT
Subject: 	Re: Lady Montague's Death
 
I am glad to hear the question raised about deaths because of actors needed
elsewhere. Too often I have heard literary arguments about structure,
character, and various other real concerns, and yet another real concern--
the basics of playmaking and the strange twists and necessities which sometimes
arise from that act--are ignored. Does a character disappear from deep
meaningful significance or just because the playwright forgot where and
when that one exited and...
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Rick Jones <
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Date: 		Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1992, 19:56:00 CST
Subject: 	RE: Lady Montague's Death
 
Perhaps, given 	William Kemp's comments, I should try to clarify my own remarks
on the whole death of Lady Montague business.  First, I agree entirely with his
assessment that
 
>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.
 
But none of this assumes that any given play was written for a specific number
of available actors.  What it does mean is that, intentionally or otherwise, a
number of Shakespearean characters are easily doubled.  I tried to suggest
earlier that it matters little whether the dramaturgy was adapted to the need
for doubling or the possibility of doubling was a happy by-product of a
dramaturgical decision: what matters, at least to me, is the fact that doubling
very likely occurred, and that the playscript was easily adapted to that
purpose.
 
Kemp asks:
>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?
 
Well, no, I sure can't.  But I don't think that's really the point. First off,
we have no way of knowing what Shakespeare really wrote: many (most? all?) of
the plays were printed from promptbooks, after all. Secondly, to suggest that
Shakespeare may have kept the general size of the company in mind when writing
an individual script -- and to have built in a few opportunities for doubling,
etc. -- is a long way from requiring that
 
>each play is an occasional piece, for x number of actors, in y space, at z
>time.
 
The original question was whether a particular solution was "plausible".  That
question, I think, can only be answered in the affirmative.  Whether the
suggestion in fact represents the actual process of writing and rehearsing R&J,
we'll never know.
 
Rick Jones
Dept. of Theatre & Communications Studies, Cornell College, Mount
Vernon, IA 52314
Phone: 319-895-4233
FAX: 319-895-4492
e-mail: 
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From:		Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:		Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1992
Subject:	Lady Montague's Death
 
After posting my original query about Lady Montague's death, I checked the
announcements of it as they appear in Q1, Q2, and F1.  What I found in Q1, the
source of most of the interesting stage directions that make their way into
modern editions, was that no reason is offered for Lady M's demise and that
Benvolio too dies mysteriously and unexplained:
 
	<Prin.> Come Mountague, for thou art early vp,
	To see thy Sonne and Heire more early downe.
	<Mount.> Dread Souereigne, my Wife is dead to night
	And yong Benuolio is deceased too:
	What further mischiefe can there yet be found?
 
Without getting into the issue of how Q1 was transmitted, that only Lady M's
death is mentioned in Q2 and F1 supports William Kemp's assertion that
 
>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.
 
Nevertheless, what was behind my question was an interest in trying to
understand the conditions under which the play was composed: doubling being
one such factor.
 
Hardy M. Cook

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