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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: June ::
Re: Character
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0519.  Thursday, 9 June 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Jun 94 16:41:19 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0512  Re: Character
 
(2)     From:   Jon Connelly <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Jun 1994 16:43:33 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0506 Re: Character
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Jun 1994 20:38:55 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   A. C. Bradley and Terence Hawkes
 
(4)     From:   Thomas Ellis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Jun 1994 22:53:45 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0493  Re: Character, et al.
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 Jun 94 16:41:19 EDT
Subject: 5.0512  Re: Character
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0512  Re: Character
 
A response to Paul Hawkins:
 
Surely we all grant that there have been dreadful "naturalistic" productions
of Shakespeare.  But just because these examples exist does not mean that
theatre professionals as a group are less than mindful of basic tenets of
their own field.  Surely we do not claim that English professors are, as a
class, a pack of blithering idiots just because a goodly percentage of what
we hear at conferences or read in journals is either self-evident or drivel.
 
I would also argue that such terms as "character", "motivation", etc., do
have specific meanings to people in the theatre.  The problem is not that the
terms are vague, but rather that they also exist as terms of general
conversation, and other definitions than the ones relating particularly to
theatrical production are often applied to theatre settings.  I'm reminded of
a former colleague in music to whom applying the term "classical music" to
Tchaikovsky represented a gaffe of monstrous proportions: Tchaikovsky was a
*romantic*, you see.  But to most of us, the man was still a classical
composer.  Thus, "action" to an actor doesn't necessarily have anything to do
with movement or gesture: rather, it means that a character (yes, a
character!) must DO something with every line, with every gesture.  Those
actions are inextricably linked to motivation (a.k.a. intention), which is
simply what a character WANTS to achieve in the SHORT term [notice how I
carefully avoid getting into discussions of through-lines!], but has only a
peripheral relationship to a character's psyche.  Sometimes a character
succeeds, sometimes s/he fails: either way, the next time s/he speaks (or
often before), s/he has adopted a new strategy, based on a new set of
short-term desires.  In other words, employing the basic tenets of 20th
century (or late 19th century) acting theory is not to be equated with an
attempt to do psychological naturalism.
 
Finally, I don't think Pamela Bunn was asked to answer the unanswerable.  Her
post read to me as if she were asking *herself* unanswerable questions, or,
rather, approaching an answerable question (how to play Cordelia) from the
wrong perspective (playing emotions instead of actions).  From the response
her post generated, however, one thing is very clear: it was a good question,
the kind that too few students ask (perhaps for fear of being treated as Ms.
Bunn was by Terence Hawkes).  I am left in a state of curiosity, however --
Pamela, did you get anything useful out of all this blather we have
generated?
 
Cheers,
 
Rick Jones

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jon Connelly <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 Jun 1994 16:43:33 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 5.0506 Re: Character
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0506 Re: Character
 
Re: Jim Shaefer's query,
 
I don't know anything about Strindburg, but "Birkiss is willin'" sounds an
awful lot like "Barkis is willin'," which is from _David Copperfield_ I
believe.
 
Jon Connolly, UC Santa Barbara
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
Date:           Wednesday, 08 Jun 1994 20:38:55 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        A. C. Bradley and Terence Hawkes
 
In Terence Hawkes's recent attempt to pass the Turing test, he claims to keep a
copy of Bradley's SHAKESPEAREAN TRAGEDY by MY bedside -- NOT his bedside. I
find this lapse very telling. Thus we can not infer that Terence Hawkes has a
bed -- normal for people, but not computers.
 
Also, notice that he does not claim to have READ Bradley's book. He merely
mentions titles of appendices, titles that can be obtained by computer
connections. I see no evidence of a high programming skill in this response.
 
Whoever is programming the Terence Hawkes Computer needs to work on simulating
higher cognitive skills, what we English majors call "thought." Just one idea
might make me reconsider my conclusion.
 
Dancing in flames, I remain
 
Bill Godshalk (programmed by Robin Godshalk)
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Ellis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 Jun 1994 22:53:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0493  Re: Character, et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0493  Re: Character, et al.
 
To Jean Peterson:
 
Your post of 4 June begs some interesting questions:
 
(1) "mistaken,anachronistic assumptions [about character, subjectivity, etc]"
Your apposition of "mistaken" and "anachronistic" implies that anachronistic
assumptions = mistaken assumptions. But in speaking of language used to
describe human experience, can we truly label any assumptions, however
anachronistic, as "mistaken"? On what basis? This seems to be a peculiarly
postmodern prejudice on your part-- that anachronistic assumptions are
therefore mistaken assumptions.
 
(2) While it is true that the essentialist constructs of identity and
subjectivity implicit in Stanislavskian concepts of character, motive, and
interiority have as little in common with whatever Shakespeare's contemporaries
might have thought about these issues as they do with postmodern constructivist
assumptions, you are forgetting that "the map is not the territory and the name
is noth the thing named." That is, the vocabulary we use to describe our
experience is, of course, a cultural artifact, but it does not necessarily
follow that the phenomenon to which that vocabulary alludes--i.e. human
experience itself--is as culture-bound as the jargon we invent for talking
about it. If it were, why would Shakespeare's plays continue to be immensely
popular. Remember, Shakespeare did not talk about human experience so much as
he portrayed images --not simply of the way people WERE ca. 1600, but also the
way people TEND to react in certain circumstances. And this is the foundation
of his continuing appeal, is it not? We IDENTIFY with these fictive constructs,
even though they inhabit a cultural frame of reference vastly different from
our own. Our concepts of identity have changed; we haven't.
 

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