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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: May ::
Re: Doubling; Double-Casting; Polonius
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0420.  Wednesday, 11 May 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 May 94 11:08:08 EDT
        Subj:   Doubling (sort of)
 
(2)     From:   John C. Mucci <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 May 1994 11:56:43 -0400
        Subj:   Doubling; Polonius
 
(3)     From:   Ronan Clifford <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 May 94 11:26:26 EST
        Subj:   Polonius
 
(4)     From:   Pat Buckridge <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 May 1994 17:02:47 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Polonius/Corambis
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 May 94 11:08:08 EDT
Subject:        Doubling (sort of)
 
The recent thread on doubling prompts me to ask SHAKSPEReans for comments on
the flip side of the phenomenon: double-casting.  By this I do not mean
variations on the theme of four actors playing Lear simultaneously, but
rather the very common practice (especially on college campuses) of casting
two different actors to play the same role on alternate nights.  More often
than not, women's roles are doubled; men's aren't.
 
This happens quite a lot with Shakespeare for a number of reasons: the desire
to expose students, especially but not exclusively theatre or English majors,
to at least one Shakespeare production sometime in their undergraduate
careers; the fact that most Shakespearean plays are profoundly male-dominant
in terms of available roles; the fact that many if not most undergraduate
theatre programs have more good women than men (I was recently in a situation
in which the 4th best "Jennifer" was better, over all, than the 4th best
man); the desire to give more women the opportunity to have experience with
Shakespeare; the fact that the people designing the season are too lazy to
find complementary plays to balance the available roles for a season (or, to
be fair, the reality that the *rest* of the canon isn't exactly bursting at
the seams with wonderful plays which have more roles for women than for men).
 
I have a pretty good idea of the opinions of theatre people on this phenomenon:
the range, as one might expect, extends from "don't do Shakespeare" to
"necessary evil".  I'd be especially interested in the perspectives of those of
a more literary bent, although I'd be happy to hear from directors and
season-planners as well.
 
BTW, this is all related to a panel I'll be chairing at ATHE this summer on
"Social and Ethical Concerns in Season Selection".  I'd be happy to provide
more details on that as things become clearer.
 
Cheers,
Rick Jones

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John C. Mucci <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 May 1994 11:56:43 -0400
Subject:        Doubling; Polonius
 
The question of doubling is one which has come up before in this conference,
and it does beg the question of the resources available to the Elizabethan
acting company, no matter which.  It is interesting that Shakespeare's plays
need more players than most other Elizabethan plays, and as such doubling is
almost always required.  Taking that (and some of the respondent's queries) to
the logical further step, may I quote from Arthur Colby Sprague's monograph,
THE DOUBLING OF PARTS IN SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS (1966):
      "In number of actors a London company at the close of
      the 16th century, with its eight or 10 sharers and
      half-dozen hired men, was well off.  This compares not
      unfavorably with some of the stronger provincial
      troupes of a century and a half ago [or] with some of
      the stronger repertory theatres of today.  Shakespeare
      had no need to economize. That his freedom in the
      multiplying of characters was enviable is implied by
      the abrupt variations in number of roles from play to
      play. ...A playwright who could indulge himself in such
      an unnecessary character as Peto in 1 Henry IV, not to
      mention the proleptic archbishop and Sir Michael of Act
      IV/4, is writing under little restraint."
To me, this says that Shakespeare was somone who had no problem being
extravagant, and perhaps was not terribly concerned with the fiscal exigencies
of the theatre. It is an aspect of the author's character which is not often
taken into consideration.
 
--------------------------------------------------
Martin Mueller, referring to the motto of Lord Burleigh asks, <I'm a moderately
accomplished Latinist, but the of-courseness of the explanation eludes me.
Please explain.>
 
Burleigh's motto was "Cor unum, via una" that is, "One heart, One Way."  It is
not much of a stretch to see hear "Corambis" as "Cor Ambis" ("Double-hearted")
as a parody on that motto.  That, in and of itself is mild compared to the rest
of the allusions in *Hamlet* which --to many Stratfordians and Oxfordians
alike-- depict Polonius as Cecil, Lord Burleigh.
 
- Burleigh wrote down for his son a number of "preceptes" (his term for them),
which sound like maxims very similar to Polonius' precepts delivered to
Laertes. May I quote a few?
      "...Let thy hospitality be moderate; & according to the
      means of thy estate; rather plentiful than sparing, but
      not costly.  Beware of surety for they best friends.
      He that payeth another man's debt, seeketh his own
      decay..."
As would also Polonius advise, the list goes on and on and on. *How can anyone
not see & agree with this parallel?* Personally I find it extremely compelling,
but in light of so much more, it becomes overwhelming.
 
- Burleigh was indeed known as *Polus* or *Pol* at court.
 
- Burleigh He was proud of the fact that he was born during the Diet of Worms,
and made mention of that fact at court, as well as in a letter which was not
published until several hundred years after his death. The line in *Hamlet*
about "A certain convoca- tion of politic worms are e'en at him,/Your worm is
your only emperor for diet" has been pointed out to refer to Charles V's
convocation, but--why? What has it to do with *Hamlet* unless talking about
Burleigh?
 
And this too asks the question, how could a fellow from Stratford (as Charlton
Ogburn writes), "lampoon the man who for 40 years was nearest the Queen in
power, let alone can [Stratfordians] account for the appearance of the royal
coat of arms" on the title page of the 1604 play?
 
Other bits of information, such as the report given to Elizabeth about the
guest list at the Order of the Garter banquet in Denmark, which included a
certain Heer Guildenstern and two Heer Rozenkrantz say to me that there is
something connecting the royal court very closely with *Hamlet.* It is
undeniable.
 
However, to the original point, there is simply too much amiss in the
traditional explanations for authorship for the linchpin of Burleigh to be
ignored.
 
John Mucci
GTE VisNet
Stamford, CT
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ronan Clifford <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 May 94 11:26:26 EST
Subject:        Polonius
 
If anyone is interested in the non-encroaching theory that Labeo/ Shakespeare,
no matter what else he may be doing, is making a glancing gesture in the
direction of a real life senator/counselor/senex, Professor Baluka (English,
Jagiellonian U) tells me that many articles in the 1970s and 1980s mention the
Polish tract *De optimo senatore* of Laurentius Goslicius, a work translated
into English and published, according to STC, as *The Counselor*.   And that's
no Polish joke.
 
Best regards from Krakow,
Cliff Ronan SWTSU/U Silesia
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Buckridge <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 May 1994 17:02:47 +1000 (EST)
Subject:        Polonius/Corambis
 
I do think Stephen Orgel should not feign ignorance of the Oxfordian
implications of the Polonius question.  There are probably - indeed there are
certainly - many people out there who would like to see him seriously address
such questions as how, if Polonius is a caricature of Burghley, William
Shakspere of Stratford hoped to escape arrest and judicial mutilation for such
a liberty.  But of course, says the orthodoxy, Burgley had been dead for years
before Hamlet was written. Could it be that the Ur-Hamlet was in fact *our*
Hamlet?
 
A little less disingenuousness, please, from people who, I have no doubt, are
very well aware of what's been argued by Ogburn, Strittmatter and many others
on this issue.
 
Patrick Buckridge.
 

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