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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: May ::
Re: Morality; Polonius; Bloopers; Character; Doubling
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0411.  Sunday, 8 May 1994.
 
(1)     From:   William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET>
        Date:   Saturday, 07 May 94 15:05 CDT
        Subj:   Morality
 
(2)     From:   Roger A Stritmatter <
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        Date:   Saturday, 07 May 1994 12:04:36 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Polonius
 
(3)     From:   Tom Dale Keever <
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        Date:   Saturday, 07 May 94 19:51:36 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0407  Qs: MIT/Stanford Project; Hand's *Henry VI*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET>
Date:           Saturday, 07 May 94 15:05 CDT
Subject:        Morality
 
Dear Shaksper,
 
In the old days we all thought we knew what was moral and what was not.
Apparently those of Alan Sinfield's generation neither know nor care.
 
In the old days those of us asked to review a book which treated so closely
what we have done, and what our very close colleagues have done (in this case
Sinfield, Dollimore, Drakakis, Hawkes, et al.) would make this a book we could
not review because we could not be objective-fair-reasonable--or even
evaluative.
 
No so for Alan Sinfield -- he took the book, took the money, and wrote an
explanation of himself -- not a review (TLS 22 April, 1994, pp. 4-5).
 
I do not know what penalty (he'll love that word) should be exacted, but I do
know who will not review for me again until the crack of doom.
 
William Proctor Williams
Northern Illinois University
TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger A Stritmatter <
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Date:           Saturday, 07 May 1994 12:04:36 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Polonius
 
Martin Mueller's question about the latinity of the name Corambis reminds me of
an intriguing fact that any careful reader of the Shakspere allusion books can
learn in about five minutes. It seems that one of the literary pseudonyms of
Shakespeare, under which he's alluded to by a number of prominent literary
figures of the early 17th c., was "Labeo," after the Latin admiral famous for
his equivocating linguistic strategies.  It seems that Labeo once secured the
surrender of his opponent on the promise that after the cease-fire, he would
divide the conquered navy in two parts  and leave half to the opponent.   He
then instructed that all his opponent's ships should be cut in half and left to
sink five fathoms or more deep.  He  offered the defeated admiral whichever
half he preferred.
 
"Of course" is an ellipses for the many pages of scholarship -- see EK Chambers
on Hamlet, Dover Wilson on Hamlet, or J. Valcour Miller on the history of the
question (in Ruth Loyd Miller, ed, 1975) for the details -- which seem to be
missing from the collective consciousness of present-tense academic discourse
on allegory and authorship.
 
I'm still wondering if Professor Orgel can explain the dramatic values
Shakespeare might have had in mind if, as Hibbard says, he went out of his way
to ridicule someone as obscure as Pullen and ritually murder him on the
Elizabethan stage with the interesting line "dead for a ducat!"
 
Cecil was known around court as "Pondus," and sometimes "Polus."  But that's
only the most superficial reason for knowing that he's the prototype for the
man Shakespeare immortalized with the line "more matter and less art!"
 
Perhaps Marting Mueller could offer an English transliteration of the name
"Corambis" which could shed further light on these unnacountably abstruse
matters.
                                Best Regards :)
                                Roger Stritmatter
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Dale Keever <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 07 May 94 19:51:36 EDT
Subject: 5.0407  Qs: MIT/Stanford Project; Hand's *Henry VI*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0407  Qs: MIT/Stanford Project; Hand's *Henry VI*
 
Three posts on assorted subjects.
 
RE: New Knowledge
 
As a non-academic theater professional I have felt a bit out in the cold during
the debate over student bloopers.  I don't see any reason not to enjoy or share
them, but it is not for me to dictate ethics to other professions.
 
My only recent experience with academic bloopers was reading one on the front
page of the NY Times "Arts and Leisure" section. For a feature linked to Denzel
Washington's RICHARD III in Central Park the editors in "Culture Gulch" engaged
the services of a professor at Columbia to discuss feminist issues in the play.
 The "New Knowledge" she revealed was that the seduction scene with Lady Anne
takes place over a casket holding the body of her murdered husband (?!?).
Perhaps we should wrestle with the moral issues involved in laughing at
professors' bloopers. That point still moot I will refrain from mentioning
either the professor's real name or the one she uses on her mystery novels.
 
                                   * * *
 
RE: Orsino
 
Like Bill Godshalk I am curious to know more of what Terry Hawkes means when he
says Orsino "has no character."
 
Until recently I was inclined to agree that the role was hopelessly thin and I
was thankful that when I did the play I was Sir Toby.  I had to rethink a lot
of preconceptions when I saw Hamburg's Thalia Theater's stunning WAS IHR WOLLT
a few months ago, though, not least the widely shared prejudice that can be
summed up, "Krauts can't do comedy!"  In this production EVERYONE was funny,
not just Belch (or "Rulp") and Aguecheek ("Bleichenwang"), but even Orsino and
Sebastion!  The humor resulted from the actors' fleshing out what the text gave
them in original, striking, and surprising ways.  Orsino was petulant and self
absorbed to the point of silliness.  He may not have been very likeable, and
the audience wondered, as always, what Viola saw in him, but he had a singular
and sharply defined character capable of holding the stage and getting big
laughs.  In the hands of an actor who is willing to sweat the details and build
a precise persona, in this case a careful craftsman named Jan Josef Liefers,
every person of the drama is potentially a "character."
 
                                   * * *
 
RE: Doubling
 
Watching The Arden Party's LEAR last night in SoHo's Ohio Space I thought of
the recent posts about doubling.  Director Karin Coonrod did her LEAR, as she
has earlier done ROMEO & JULIET, LOVE'S LABOURS, and numerous other "classics,"
with radically truncated casts - three men and two women in the case of LEAR.
Coonrod did a good bit of work cutting and rearranging the text as well.  The
result was very enjoyable and the fact that everyone except Lear was appearing
and reappearing in multiple roles stopped mattering early on.
 
At Edinburgh, where shoestring productions are the rule on The Fringe, I saw
two other companies mount small cast Shakespeare. The Custard Factory did AS
YOU LIKE IT and MEASURE FOR MEASURE with three actors and abridged texts, the
latter more successfully.  One of the best shows I saw at that year's festival,
though, was the Cambridge Experimental Theater's RICHARD III.  The text was
only lightly abridged, but the huge cast of characters was effectively
portrayed by three energetic performers, moving from one scene to the next with
great zest and establishing almost in an instant who their new characters were.
 
If the vision of the production is strong enough, and the actors have the
range, Shakespeare can be done with much smaller casts than one might think.
Doubling, though more often than not a necessity, should be treated, too, as an
opportunity.  Having to build several well-defined characters in a single
production offers great training for actors.  I doubled as The Duke and Pinch
in COMEDY OF ERRORS with The National Shakespere Company and as Charles and
Silvius in AS YOU LIKE IT for Jean Cocteau Repertory.  In both cases the
necessity of inventing physical details to distinguish the two characters
helped sharpen my work.
 
I have less enthusiasm, though, for theory-driven doubling like the
Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania under debate.  I have seen this tried with
varying degrees of success.  Directorial choices that leave the audience
wondering, "What does he MEAN by that?!?" are almost always missteps.  Look at
the radical choices of real directorial geniuses like Brook or Miller and they
almost always look so natural they seem inevitable and are accepted in an
instant, not puzzled over.
 
The Fool/Cordelia doubling is built into the text of LEAR, of course, and has
given rise to the widely accepted theory that one actor played both in the
original staging.  Thus the line "Since my young Ladies going into France, Sir,
the Foole hath much pined away," spoken as the actor was finishing his costume
change, is revealed as an "in joke."
 

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