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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: April ::
Re: Speaking the Verse
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 233.  Friday, 9 April 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Antony Hammond <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Apr 1993 16:21:56 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Speaking the verse and early printed texts
 
(2)     From:   Jay Edelnant <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Apr 1993 13:22:50 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Voicing Shakespeare
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Antony Hammond <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Apr 1993 16:21:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Speaking the verse and early printed texts
 
With reference to the discussion initiated by Timothy Pinnow concerning
the value of the punctuation, spelling, and capitalization found in early
printed texts as tools which the actor can use to interpret his or her
part.
 
This is a far more complex matter than those who have contributed on it
seem to realize.
 
Pinnow says that the Folio's accidentals (spelling, punctuation,
capitalization) contain "a wealth of how to speak the words", and he
responds to Bernice Kliman by talking about "print setting errors, or
faulty memories of actors" etc.  Does he know *nothing* about the textual
transmission of Shakespearian texts?  And if so, shouldn't he try to find
something out before offering advice to others?  I am constantly amazed at
how people will display ignorance to electronic bulletin boards that they
would be ashamed to proffer in print, or even before a class.
 
Likewise, to Milla Riggio: the punctuation in printed Elizabethan/Jacobean
dramatic texts does not "have more to do with vocal expression than
grammatical necessity".
 
Please read Malcolm Parkes's exhaustive study of Western punctuation in
his recent book *Pause and Effect*, in which he shows that punctuation in
written or printed texts has, since classical times, had two not entirely
compatible functions: grammarians wanted it to identify the syntactical
elements of the sententia; rhetoricians used it to highlight the shape of
the periodus and its constituent elements, the cola and the commata.  The
pauses and inflexions used when speaking a text cannot always be precisely
indicated by punctuation, and may indeed differ greatly from the
punctuation in the text, if it was conceived on a primarily grammatical
rather than rhetorical basis.  This led Parkes to distinguish between
"deictic" punctuation, which prescribes meaning by singling out a specific
way of interpreting a phrase or sentence, and "equiparative" punctuation,
which, either through paucity or through superabundance allows for variety
of interpretation.
 
In the Shakespearian period, the punctuation (and spelling, and
capitalization) of most theatrical manuscripts was equiparative, usually
because it was very limited in quantity.  There is nothing to suggest that
authors or scribes routinely used these elements of graphic script to try
to specify or even hint to actors how the lines might be interpreted.
Take a look at the only surviving professional actor's Part from the period,
that of Orlando in Greene's *Orlando Furioso* if you don't believe me: the
actor, Edward Alleyn, went over the script himself and corrected it, but
added no marks that might be called interpretative.
 
Examination of the surviving exemplars shows that the punctuation of
printed dramatic texts bears little resemblance to that of manuscripts
used in the theatre.  The duties of compositors included "styling" their
copy by punctuating it and revising its spelling and capitalization in
accord with their professional conventions.  The exploded notion cherished
by Neil Freeman and others--that, in early modern printed dramatic texts,
a capitalized word (or one presented with some other form or forms of
*litterae notabiliores*) or one spelled in an unusual way, or the use of
unusual punctuation, was intended as a signal to *the actor* for an
intended emphasis or otherwise special pronunciation--derives, I think,
from John Dover Wilson.  In his edition of *The Tempest* for The New
Shakespeare (Cambridge, 1921), he wrote `The stops, brackets, capital
letters in the Folio and Quartos are in fact stage-directions, in
shorthand' (p. xxxvii).
 
They are, *in fact*, nothing of the kind; and though this information was
not available in 1921, it most certainly is now.  The whole idea is rooted
on the one hand in a misconception about the "formal" nature of spelling,
capitalization and so on, arising from ignorance of the role the
compositor plays in "dressing" his copy decently for print, and on the
other from the false assumption that printed texts were intended for
playhouse use.  There may be one or two highly specific exceptions, but in
general there is *no evidence* that printed texts were punctuated,
spelled, or capitalized with any thought to their potential usefulness for
contemporary performers.  The whole thesis is mere flying saucers.
 
Having said that, let me make it clear that I agree wholeheartedly with
Skip Shand that the use of early printed texts is an invaluable asset to
students in coming to terms with the essential otherness of Shakespeare
and his contemporaries from ourselves.  It makes them aware of some at
least of the different conceptions of text held in the seventeenth
century.  For though the compositors most certainly did not style their
text to assist actors, they did style it for readers, and a veritable mine
of information exists in that fact which someone with expertise can
develop.
 
But please don't look for easy answers.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Edelnant <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Apr 1993 13:22:50 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Voicing Shakespeare
 
Two additions to the list of voicing Shakespeare texts:
 
_Shakespeare Aloud_ by Edward S. Brubaker, published by himself in Lancaster
PA, 1976.  A slim pamphlet but sensitive to the issues. Turns up in college
libraries--I don't know if it's still available.
 
Kirsten Linklater's newest, _Freeing Shakespeare's Voice: The Actor's Guide
to Talking the Text_. (NY: Theatre Communications Group) 1992.   Longtime
Shakespeare and company director/mentor turns her attention and voice
production method on Shakespeare--not unlike C. Berry's _The Actor and the
Text_ (which was published originally in the UK as _The Actor and his Text_).
 

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