Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 51. Friday, 29 January 1993.
Date: Friday, 29 Jan 1993 14:51:38 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0050 Re: Impossibility of Performance Criticism
Comment: RE: SHK 4.0050 Re: Impossibility of Performance Criticism
I doubt performance criticism is either more or less impossible than criticism
in any other mode. Dialogue between performance criticism and other sorts
of criticism is difficult and, as Michael Friedman points out, good performance
criticism is difficult to write. Yet didn't Shakespeare intend his plays
to be performed? (Pace, intentional fallacy.) If other critical modes
can't accommodate performance criticism, might not the fault rest with the
other modes? If we cannot devise a critical vocabulary for the precise,
useful discussion, shouldn't we send out a warrant for a new vocabulary?
The project of a book on teaching Shakespeare through performance is quite
exciting. A couple suggestions: A nuts-and-bolts essay, early in the book,
about an actor or actress thinking his or her way precisely through a speech
or bit of dialogue. What are the various ways the line can be effectively
delivered? What does the passage itself teach the potential performer about
how it is to be delivered? With what movements, gestures (if any) and in
what physical position is the speech delivered? In other words, survey the
sometimes terrifying array of perfectly valid choices that suggest themselves
to the performers of even an apparently simple sequence.
I think Steve Urkowitz, who is on this list, has used performance to encourage
students to think and feel their way through differences between Quarto and
Folio texts. (Maybe you could talk about that, Steve.)
A couple of fine books are J.L. Halio's book on Shakespeare in performance,
and Robert Cohen's book on acting Shakespeare. I'm afraid I haven't got
the bibliographical references, and I don't recall the exact titles. Also
Robert Hapgood's book on Shakespeare the theatre poet is useful.
I realize that much of the foregoing is basic stuff, but I sometimes fear
that in our rush toward critical sophistication, we lose the essential joy.
University of New Hampshire