Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: November ::
Hero's Mother Again
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 300.  Tuesday, 3 November 1992.
 
From: 		Michael Friedman <FRIEDMAN@SCRANTON>
Date: 		Tuesday, Nov. 3, 1992, 14:20 EST
Subject: 	Hero's Mother
 
Imagine my surprise when, after a few days snowed under by midterms, I check my
e-mail to find that my comment on Hero's mother has created a flurry of
responses.  After reading them all, I'd like to try to get my two cents in.
 
I approached this issue originally from a performance-oriented point of view,
and my interest in the problem was geared towards the modern, rather than the
Elizabethan, stage.  In my textual analysis, I noted what John Drakakis has
expressed so well: "Marriage in this play is (I think ironically) offered as a
form of SILENCING females, and what better way to show this on the stage than
to have a silent woman--Leonato's wife."  The question, then, as I saw it, was
not to determine whether or not Innogen was a part of the text (she undoubtedly
was), but how to use what the text offered to present a coherent comment on the
silencing of women as they became wives in Messina.  In other words, I tried
to answer the question Tad Davis asks, how can her silent appearance in the
play carry the burden of such significance?
 
To answer as best I can, I need to offer a few theories about performance.
First, while it is probably necessary to see the text as "radically unstable,"
performance requires an attempt at stabilizing the text, at least temporarily,
for any given performance.  Innogen cannot be an intention under consideration
on the stage; she's either in the production or she isn't.  A director going
from text to performance also has no choice but to add to the text in giving it
concrete embodiment on the stage.  For example, the way in which Claudio makes
his exit in 4.1 is extremely important to an audience's interpretation of his
character, but the text does not tell us exactly how he leaves the stage; the
director and actor must make a decision about which stage signals will be added
to Shakespeare's written text to create the performed text.  Hence, a
considerable amount of a director's job involves deciding what to add to the
written text and how to choose between the innumerable options.  Now, a
director could simply put on what he or she considers a "straight" production
of *Much Ado* which selects only the most "natural" costumes, lighting, and
stage business, but I  would argue that any such production is actually based
on countless ideological and interpretive assumptions common to that director's
era.  I believe it is more honest and clear-sighted to acknowledge our
ideological assumptions up front and explore the ways they influence
performance choices.
 
Therefore, I consciously assumed a feminist perspective and set about to try
to find a way to employ Innogen to express a point about wives and silence in
the performance of *Much Ado*.  Consulting the history of the play's
performance, I found that a few productions, including Daly's (1896) and
William Hutt's at Stratford, Ontario (1971) had included some version of
Innogen, but there wasn't much information on how she had been deployed.
Eventually, we decided to "add" Innogen into both 4.1 and 5.4, ending the play
with a silent tableau of the married women: Hero, Beatrice, and Innogen.
Responses to a questionnaire given to audience members confirmed that
spectators did connect this moment to the general trend toward the silencing of
female characters as they approach marriage.  Clearly, we overstepped the
written text by inviting Innogen to her own daughter's weddings, but the
question I would put to the network is, given the acknowledged intentions of
our production, did we exceed the bounds of legitimacy by adding that moment
to the text in order to bring out on stage a thematic issue that is
demonstrably present in the written text?
 
It might interest some people to know that some members of our audience were
enraged that we dared to "insert" a silent woman into the cast just to make  a
feminist point.  Whether Shakespeare "intended" the feminist point or not,
however, I think we were hardly guilty of inserting her into the play.
 
While discussing this point with me, Alan Dessen once suggested that
Shakespeare changed his mind during the composition of 2.1 when he realized
that he needed both Margaret and Ursula (note that they have no entry
direction for 2.1 although they speak); once those characters were
established, he contends, Innogen was forgotten, mainly due to the number of
boy actors required.  I think he may well be correct, but expunging her from
the play (which the editors of the Folio chose not to do) seems to close off
valuable possibilities for performance that are not balanced by a significant
gain through leaving her out of the text.
 
As a side note, does anyone have any insight into another "ghost," the
character Violenta listed in the entry directions of 3.5 of *All's Well*?
 
                                                Michael Friedman
                                                Friedman@Scranton
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.