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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Re: Acting Time and Cutting Scripts
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 845. Friday, 25 November 1993.
 
From:           James McKenna <MCKENNJI@UCBEH>
Date:           Thursday, 25 Nov 1993 22:13:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        cut scripts
 
Concerning Dr. Godshalk's interest in frequent cutting and mixing of the
scripts:
 
In reading Shakespeare and Jonson recently, I noticed that both playwrights
have a large number of plays within plays.  This led me to look at the
audiences of those plays within plays as some sort of mirror of actual
Renaissance audiences.  Jonson even includes such audience-control tools as a
contract with the audience (_Bartholmew Fair_) and an example of how not to be
an audience (_Staple of News_).  It seems clear to me that the playwrights'
concerns about the audience included discipline rather high on the list of
priorities.
 
Given such a concern, it seems also likely that jiggering with the script would
be a reasonable response: cut what didn't play well last time; expand what did.
Any given text, then, might represent the longest possible version of a play,
not a version that was ever really played.  _Henry V_ is a good example of a
play that might have been printed from such a patched and worked-over script.
The Choruses fit so poorly with the play, both in tone and in simple logic that
it is hard to believe that the play was ever supposed to be performed as it was
published in the folio.
 
This reminds me of two major origins of the Renaissance drama: traveling
mystery plays and the schoolboy productions of classical plays.  Suppose we
combined the ambience of a mystery play production before a public audience
with the attempted refinement of classical drama as performed in private
schools.  Doesn't that sound something like the Globe?
 
Lively and even disruptive audience response, such as we see in _Love's Labors
Lost_ and _Midsummer Night's Dream_, seems likely.  It's hard to imagine such a
nightmare as _The Knight of the Burning Pestle_ coming wholly from Beaumont's
imagination.  And if these were the audiences companies had to play to, then
day-to-day cutting makes good sense.
 
In answer to your query, though, no, I don't know of any.  But you knew that
(didn't you?)
 
Well-stuffed and humming,
 
James McKenna
 

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