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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Re: *MM* Ending; Africans in London;
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0220.  Friday, 17 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Luc Borot <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Mar 1995 22:14:23 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0206  Re: *MM* Ending and comedy endings
 
(2)     From:   Helen Ostovich <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Mar 1995 17:36:42 +0001 (EST)
        Subj:   RE:  Africans in London
 
(3)     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Mar 1995 12:09:54 GMT
        Subj:   Characters and Imagination
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Luc Borot <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Mar 1995 22:14:23 +0100
Subject: 6.0206  Re: *MM* Ending and comedy endings
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0206  Re: *MM* Ending and comedy endings
 
I am following the debate from a distance as these problems are rather far from
my current research preoccupations, but I was very interested in the postings
reporting actresses' reactions. I have never been satisfied with the
"happy-end" impression which some directors seem to feel compelled to give by
imposing a marriage-decision on the audience (not on the character, as has been
said, since they don't exist). Stage comedies should give one the possibility
to face more complex situations than TV sitcoms and the like crap. There are
more things in people's life-choices than can be dreamed of in Hollywood and
other sundrie places.
 
Why should an comedy end happily because it's called 'comedy', and why should a
royal wedding be a 'happy ending' for a nun?... Is she more than a nun because
she's a female character, or is she a specific kind of female character because
she's a nun? Why shouldn't a nun be strong-willed in her choice of cloister
life? It's true that in Shakespeare's Protestant England a religious vocation
of that kind could in no way be perceived as superior to a normal matrimonial
situation. To the reformers, it was even an aberration, if not a sacrilege, but
at any rate a superstition.
 
Is Isabella characterised as a nun or just as a woman who happens to live in a
convent? This owes much to the choices of the director and actress, I would
suppose. Yet, is she made to regret her vocation? I'm not a great expert in
nunneries (of either kind) or in the text of MM, but she doesn't sound like
Diderot's *Religieuse*, or does she? She has a text, and I don't consider her
rhetorical talents as necessarily mundane: there is a religious oratory, talent
for speech or languages is a gift of the spirit, so why should it have been a
token of mundanity? I'm trying to find reasons in the character rather than in
her alledged reactions as a XXth-century woman to a deceitful man.
 
In French comedy, Moliere is reputed for the bitter endings of his (very
bitter) comedies. How can Orgon's wife go on living with her husband who almost
let his friend Tartuffe rape her in his presence? If the Orgon family escapes
free from the political and juridical web woven by Tartuffe, the reason is that
"the Prince" has spotted the bigoted crook and helps justice to triumph against
the law which Tartuffe had secured for himself against his benefactor.
Leviathan is the deus ex machina of the happy ending... but there is no
sequence to a play, so Orgon and Madame never had to come to terms after the
curtain call. These open endings are part of the convention of verisimilitude
in classical comedy.
 
To come back to the Isabella case: if the audience reacted more positively to a
'no-marriage' ending, it should not be ascribed to the important attendance of
convent-school audiences on those nights, but to the fact that the absence of
choice is not an accident or an omission, even less an imperfection, but the
result of a profound meditation on drama. A 'no' ending can be made very
spectacular when no one in a conventional modern audience expects a comedy to
end on an anti-climax.
 
                Just my vingt centimes worth of dullness.
 
                        Yours
                                    Luc Borot <
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Helen Ostovich <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Mar 1995 17:36:42 +0001 (EST)
Subject:        RE:  Africans in London
 
According to Emeka Abanime, "Elizabeth I and Negroes" _Cahiers Elisabethains_
19 (avr. 1981): 1-8, there were lots of Africans in London in the 1590s.  By
1596, Elizabeth wanted to stop black immigration because the native English
population was growing so rapidly; she ordered deportations based on economic
considerations; and issued another proclamation in 1601 because, as a result of
skirmishes with Spain, more Moors and Blacks entered England.  This latter
group was seen as threatening because they were _infidels_.  I think both
proclamations are cited in the text of this article.
 
The article goes on to point out that Blacks are not isolated for eviction:
the proclamation also ordered Europeans and white vagabonds and beggars
expelled.  However, she does point out that the status of blacks was at issue:
were they persons or pets?  Many black children were kept as decorative pages,
but their fates as adults are unknown.
 
Helen Ostovich
McMaster University
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Mar 1995 12:09:54 GMT
Subject:        Characters and Imagination
 
I accept that Bill Godshalk is holier than I am. But what makes him think that
when he watches a Shakespeare performance, winsomely allowing his imagination
'full play' and flirting with the idea 'that these characters have a future
beyond the script', he is engaging with it in a mode that is somehow not
political? Fat, as you say in the Republic, chance.
 
T. Hawkes
 

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