1992

Shakespeare as Himself (Con't)

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 370. Friday, 11 December 1992.
 
(1)     From:   John T. Aney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 92 11:05:27 EST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 3.0367  More Rs: Shakespeare as Himself
 
(2)     From:   William Proctor Williams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 92 18:40 CST
        Subj:   Himself
 
(1)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John T. Aney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 92 11:05:27 EST
Subject: 3.0367  More Rs: Shakespeare as Himself
Comment:        RE: SHK 3.0367  More Rs: Shakespeare as Himself
 
Anyone else interested in this question of "Shakespeare as Himself" should
check out the October 1991 issue of The Atlantic.  In the midst of a detailed
debate on the authorship question of Shakespeare's work, there is an article
about computer analysis of Shakespeare's "voiceprint", i.e. using the computer
to try and determine a "statistical fingerprint" that is unique, they say, to
every author, and apply this print of Shakespeare's work various theories about
the Bard.  By determining this voiceprint, and comparing it against the
voiceprints of the most oft-mentioned pretenders to the Bard's throne (Bacon,
Marlowe & Sir Edward Dryer) the analyzers (a political science professor and a
computer programmer at Clarence McKenna College) determined that there were no
matches...Shakespeare's voiceprint was different from any of theirs.  However,
to throw a digital monkey-wrench into the works, they also discovered
Shakespeare's voiceprint closely matched that of Queen Elizabeth...
 
Back to the "Shakespeare as Himself" topic...the article also mentioned work
done by Donald Foster, professor of English at Vassar.  Foster posits that by
analyzing WHEN Shakespeare uses certain words rarely, and how, statistically,
these rare words show up.  What he discovered, is that when these rare words
show up in two plays which are seperated chronologically, the later play will
have these words equally distributed among characters, and, in the earlier
play, the words would be focussed primarily on one role.  The hypothesis is,
that these roles which had the rare words in them were the roles Shakespeare
himself was playing, since"the words that Shakespeare the writer had at the tip
of his pen were the ones he had been reciting as Shakespeare the actor."
 
This analysis is actually backed up by the evidence we have that tells us what
roles he plays, i.e. the Ghost in _Hamlet_ and Adam in _AYLI_.
 
Anyway, even though this winded message is really about some interesting
statistical analyses being done on Shakespeare, and gives us some idea of
Shakespeare THE ACTOR, and doesn't have anything to do with trying to find out
when Shakespeare himself is making statements to his audience, its still worth
checking into, if any of you have not yet.
 
Whew.
 
jta
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(2)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 92 18:40 CST
Subject:        Himself
 
I think Timmie may be, in part, right.  But the personae in +Hamlet+ is a
little too complex for such a reading.
 
William Proctor Williams                  TB0WPW1@NIU

Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet* (Con't)

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 369. Friday, 11 December 1992.
 
(1)     From:   Gus Sponberg <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 1992 11:18:18 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
(2)     From:   Steve Schrum <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 92 13:50 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 3.0365  Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
(3)     From:   Rick Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 1992 14:53:28 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 3.0368  More Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
(4)     From:   William Proctor Williams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 92 18:46 CST
        Subj:   Directors' Rights
 
 
(1)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gus Sponberg <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 1992 11:18:18 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
Comment:        RE: SHK 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
I find it interesting that almost every reference to this movie refers to
it as Mel Gibson's *Hamlet*, and not Franco Zeffirelli's (it was Zeffirelli's
was it not?). It's always Zefirelli's *Romeo and Juliet*. I suppose this
is testimony to the prestige of the role and the theatrical custom of
identifying any production of it by the name of the performer of the
title role. I suppose it is a tribute, too, to the impression Gibson made
in the part. I can testify to this: he certainly got quite a few of my
students interested in *Hamlet* and Shakespeare - student who I can verify
had given little attention to the play or the playwright prior to seeing
Gibson's performance. So purely from a pedagogical point of view, I would
answer Gary Davis by saying that yes, it was justifiable. But we ought to
remember that Gibson probably had little to say, finally, about what went
on the screen. Zeffirelli (or whoever the director was) called the shots,
literally.
 
Gus Sponberg
Valparaiso University
 
(2)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Schrum <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 92 13:50 EST
Subject: 3.0365  Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 3.0365  Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
Re: the cutting of the Fortinbras subplot--doesn't this create a problem
with the whole of HAMLET? We have Hamlet working to restore order to the
kingdom, and finally, when he has taken action, we see the stage
littered with the usual complement of bodies. But who shall rule now?
The chaos seems to have ended, but who will take over in the aftermath?
 
Steve Schrum
Penn State Hazleton
 
(3)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 1992 14:53:28 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 3.0368  More Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
Comment:        RE: SHK 3.0368  More Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
I'm more of an actor and director than a Shakespeare scholar -- at least
relative to most members of the SHAKSPER fraternity -- I take a slightly
different view of authorial intent. It strikes me that what Shakespeare (or any
other playwright) intended tells us part of the story -- but that the text also
exists independent of the author.  I know from my own one not terribly
successful attempt at playwriting that even lousy playwrights (such as myself)
often create tonal richness that isn't at least consciously intended. I'd want
to give directors who make honest and informed attempts at interpretation every
possible leeway: as I tell my directing students, a critic can talk about
ambiguity, but a performance must take sides.
 
Perhaps a corollary point is the way we look at certain characters: e.g.
Petruchio does some things that we in 1992 find offensive, but we're clearly
supposed to like him.  Which is more important?  I don't know, and I tend to
distrust those who say with confidence that they do.
 
-- Rick Jones
Cornell College
 
(4)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 92 18:46 CST
Subject:        Directors' Rights
 
Right on, about Directors' rights.  Any Director should have the right to
produce the play she/he sees in the text.  But the text should still be
paramount.
 
TB0WPW1@NIU

More Rs: Shakespeare as Himself

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 367. Friday, 11 December 1992.
 
(1)     From:   William Proctor Williams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 10 Dec 92 22:35 CST
        Subj:   Shakespeare as himself
 
(2)     From:   Timothy Bowden <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 10 Dec 92 18:18:51 PST
        Subj:   Re: Rs: Shakespeare as Himself
 
(3)     From:   John Drakakis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 92 14:30:52 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Another R: Shakespeare as Himself
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 10 Dec 92 22:35 CST
Subject:        Shakespeare as himself
 
In the various exhortations by "Chorus" in +Henry V+ we
we have the playwright (Shakespere) speaking in his own voice.
 
William Proctor Williams              TB0WPW1@NIU
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Timothy Bowden <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 10 Dec 92 18:18:51 PST
Subject:        Re: Rs: Shakespeare as Himself
 
If there were one moment in all of the plays you would bet on to come
directly from the heart and to speak with the voice of the Bard,
wouldn't it be Hamlet's instructions to the players?  Detailed opinion
in his own field.
 
-Timmie
 
=========================================================
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Timothy Bowden)
uunet!scruz.ucsc.edu!clovis.felton.ca.us!tcbowden
Clovis in Felton, CA
=========================================================
 
(3)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 92 14:30:52 GMT
Subject:        Re: Another R: Shakespeare as Himself
 
The problem with trying to determine which parts of which Shakespearean
texts are in Shakespeare's own "voice", is that as a question it is
unanswerable. We might be able to guess, but then all that gets exposed
are our criteria for guessing.  For example, if we start from the supposition
that Shakespeare was a good listener, a good re-teller of stories, someone
who seems to be at peace with the world, loyal and true, then we would
most certainly come up with Horatio in Hamlet.  On the other hand, if we
surmise that Shakespeare was a dyed-in-the-wool bastard- and anyone who
is prepared to leave any member of his family his second best bed might
bear this out- then we'd go either for Edmund or Don John.
 
I want to suggest that one of the rare occasions where we hear Shakespeare's
"voice"- though I do not believe that for one minute it is present to
itself- is in IV.ii. of Much Ado where the speech prefix reads "Kemp".  Now
if the copy behind Q is Shakespeare's foul papers, then the substitution
of "Kemp" for "Dogberry" here, and elsewhere in the scene indicates that
Shakespeare intended that Will Kemp should play the part of Dogberry. Of
course, when I say "Shakespeare intended" what I really mean is that the
theatrical subject "Shakespeare", constructed within those discourses which
signify a professional man of the theatre, wrote- not "himself"- but
a convention within which his own practice was inscribed, that the professional
"clown" should play the part of Dogberry.  Now, of course, IF the copy for
Q and F is not authorial foul papers, or if it was contaminated by the
interference of another scribal hand, then my argument concerning this
example of an authorial voice falls.  If, in the case of the simplest of
referential examples in a Shakespearean text the issue remains very
problematical, does anyone REALLY think that we have any chance of locating
Shakespeare's "voice"?
 
Merry Christmas
 
John Drakakis
Department of English Studies
University of Stirling

More Rs: Mel Gibson *H

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 368. Friday, 11 December 1992.
 
(1)     From:   Nikki Parker <N_PARKER%This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 10 Dec 92 23:11 EDT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
(2)     From:   Tad Davis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 10 Dec 92 23:11:01 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
(3)     From:   John Enriquez <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Dec 1992 10:11 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 3.0365  Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
 
(1)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nikki Parker <N_PARKER%This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 10 Dec 92 23:11 EDT
Subject: 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
Comment:        RE: SHK 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
Re: Gary Davis
 
As with most movies, they probably didn't have enough time...although,
Kenneth Branaugh's "Henry V" included much, if not all of the original scenes.
 
I actually prefered Olivier's Hamlet....
 
                        -Nikki Parker
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tad Davis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 10 Dec 92 23:11:01 -0500
Subject: 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
Comment:        RE: SHK 3.0364  Q: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
I think it's often justifiable to omit scenes or parts of scenes: I have
never seen a production that didn't, except for the BBC series and the
Caedmon recordings, and I slept through at least some of both. (He's for a
jig or a tale of bawdry or... the proverb is something musty.) Simply in
the interests of time and the attention span of the audience, it may be
necessary to do some cutting, even drastic cutting. "Take him whole or take
him not at all" is not a way to draw more people into the magic circle.
 
An earlier discussion on this list, regarding Branagh's "Henry V," shed
quite a bit of light, for me, on the way this kind of cutting can change
the meaning of a scene by reducing its moral complexity. If you missed that
discussion, it might be useful to dig it up.
 
More interesting to me than the cuts, in this version, are the
rearrangements. For example, Zefferelli seems to have put the "nunnery"
scene and the "play" scene through a blender. The result is jarring if you
know the play, but I've never heard anyone unfamiliar with the text
complain about it. The Tony Richardson version, if I remember correctly,
also rearranged some of the scenes, though the parts within themselves
remained relatively intact.
 
There are many microscopic cuts. Zefferelli, like many other people who
have "done" this play, elected to show the ghost without armor. This led to
some interesting cutting and hedging of lines: no longer does the ghost
wear his beaver up, or carry a truncheon. At least Z. recognized the
problem: one director whose production I saw seemed to think "beaver" was a
reference to a kind of beaver-skin cap. The drawback is that the actors
seem often to be on the verge of uttering the dropped portions of lines,
and holding themselves back with effort. But maybe this is just my
imagination. I'm not sure why Z. left the armor out.
 
As with any other translation, the question is not necessarily how faithful
is it to the original text, but how well does it reproduce the effect aimed
at in the original text, in a different "language"? I don't know how you
can do that without making guesses at the author's intent, and I wouldn't
dare.
 
Maybe one justification for doing the cuts and rearrangements is that the
play can now speak, on at least some level, with some degree of success, to
people like my nine-year-old daughter, who's watched it with me twice.
("Hamlet was BAD!" she exclaimed after the first time. "Look at all the
people he killed!") No, those people aren't going to be able to read the
latest critical commentary on the play, based on that contact with it; but
most of them wouldn't anyway. (I don't mean to sound condescending: I can't
comprehend most critical commentary on Shakespeare either.) At least
they've had a brush with the original, and some of them will go on to the
original with more enthusiasm than they would have otherwise.
 
My biggest problem with the movie isn't the cutting or rearranging but Mel
Gibson's performance. Much of his blank verse comes out sing-song, with
emphasis in strange places, often working against the emotion in the
speech. (For some reason, the way he says "I do not set my life at a PIN'S
FEEEE" grates on me terribly.) I expected better. Mad Max and Lethal Weapon
notwithstanding, Mel Gibson is a good actor. Before he got into that other
stuff, he did "Gallipoli."
 
Tad Davis
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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Enriquez <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 Dec 1992 10:11 EST
Subject: 3.0365  Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 3.0365  Rs: Mel Gibson *Hamlet*
 
Robert O'Connor's remarks about his "horror" at Zefferelli's
rearrangement of *Hamlet* rev up an old debate.  Do directors have
the "right" to change the text?
 
Well, of course they do, for two reasons.  First of all, directors
are no more or less qualified to make judgments about texts than
those of us academics who argue over whether WS wrote "solid" or
"sullied."  There is sufficient leeway about the text that directors
of necessity have to make choices, just as editors do.
 
Second, and more importantly, directors have a responsibility for
the production that forces them to make overall artistic judgments,
which often requires revisions of the text.  One of the choices
facing every director of a Shakespeare play is whether to perform
the "whole" text.  The usual argument for doing this is that most
plays last three and a half to four hours under present conditions.
Most performances today do not last as long and are not intended
to be used as were 16th century shows.  Consequently, if the
director decides to shorten the performance in accordance with
present standards, she has to cut, rewrite, and revise, usually
fairly substantially.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; I saw
a production of *Romeo and Juliet* a couple of years ago that had
been cut pretty brutally, and it was one of the best R&Js I'd
ever seen.
 
What this does do is force us to consider these different productions
on their particular merits.  You can't say that Zeffirelli's *Hamlet*
has a better story than, say, Gielgud's *Hamlet*.  But you can say that
both directors have something different to say about *Hamlet*.  If
you like, they are both retelling a familiar story in their own
particular way, and they can be compared on that basis.
 
I remember a class discussion on the movie version of _The Color
Purple_, in which many of the students trashed the movie, saying
it didn't hold a candle to the novel.  My argument, then and now,
is that they are necessarily different works.  The tools of movie-
making and the tools of novel-making are so different that the
experiences are so different that they cannot be directly compared.
This holds for Shakespeare, too; he isn't writing anything new, but
his work is so rich that people are always finding something new in
it.  These interpretations help to make Shakesperiana vital and
fascinating.
 
Jon Enriquez
The Graduate School
Georgetown University
ENRIQUEZJ@guvax      (Bitnet)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.    (Internet)

Another R: Shakespeare as Himself

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 366. Friday, 11 December 1992.
 
From:           Melinda M Hale <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 10 Dec 92 19:09:50 EST
Subject: 3.0361  Shakespeare as Himself
Comment:        Re: SHK 3.0361  Shakespeare as Himself
 
> I am looking for information on the idea of whether or not Shakespeare
> ever, in writing his plays, speaks through his own voice.  Many argue
> that he does so in the Ghost character of _Hamlet_, but does this
> happen in other characters and plays as well?  Are there times when
> Shakespeare acts as an "opinion editor" of sorts?
 
I have always regarded the final lines of _Two Noble Kinsmen_ as
Shakespeare's own opinion, since they reflect -- almost sum up -- some of
the themes of the other plays.  Furthermore, these lines have such a
"parting advice" flavor; if it were a movie, this would be the part where
the actor turns and faces the camera directly.
 
This is the first thing that pops into my head, though if I really perused
my Riverside, I'm sure I could come up with more.  The comedies,
especially, have a precise order, laid out and even numbered by the
author, and if one reads them in that order, one can see how they fit
together, the common ideas.  Clearly, a lot of the words are Shakespeare's
own opinion (how very Renaissance).
 
Melinda Hale
Boston
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