1995

Re: Fiennes's Hamlet

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0198.  Friday, 10 March 1995.
 
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 95 10:59:43 -0500
Subject:        Fiennes's *Hamlet* (continued)
 
This is a full version of the Sunday Times review that was summarized in the
earlier post. --Chris Gordon
 
HEADLINE: Steep and thorny way to heaven; Drama
PUBLICATION DATE: 05 March 1995
BY: John Peter
 
Ralph Fiennes is powerfully effective as Hamlet in a production packed full of
savagery and pain, says John Peter.
 
 Jonathan Kent's new production of Hamlet breaks like a winter storm: harsh,
bleak, unromantic, pitiless. If you have ever wondered what the first
performance at the Elizabethan Globe might have been like, this production at
the Hackney Empire could be as near as the modern theatre can come to it
without becoming an exercise in cultural anthropology. The costumes (James
Acheson) are sort of Edwardian, and Peter J Davison's set, dark grey and
cavernous, suggests a weather-beaten, unfriendly old edifice where
eavesdropping is easy and yet a place where you could easily feel exposed and
alone.
 
 From its first moment, the production unleashes a ferocious, irresistible
energy. The Globe almost certainly held more than 3,000 people, standing and
sitting tightly packed; whoever did what the Elizabethans meant by directing
would have known that he had to grab their attention at once and hold it to the
end. The result, hopefully, might have been the kind of stormy, violent drama
you get at the Empire: a piece of thrilling, implacable action that overwhelms
both its characters and its audience.
 
 Elsinore is clearly a relaxed, confident establishment: there is no suggestion
that there might ever have been an interregnum. The court is not surprised by
Claudius's announcement of his marriage: this is obviously the formal, public
sealing of a contract that had been settled in private. To Claudius (James
Laurenson) the marriage is a necessary component of a general political
settlement: his real pre-occupation now is the looming conflict with Norway. He
kisses Gertrude with what you might call a formal passion: it suggests not so
much erotic happiness as the triumph of possession. Gertrude may be no longer
young, but she is regally glamorous: a royal trophy wife. Francesca Annis plays
her as a hard, elegant, self-possessed woman with the touch of the frivolous.
Socially, she is like a superbly organised dinner-party hostess who is
intolerant of anything disorganised; psychologically, she is the kind of
majestically self-absorbed woman who does not like problems and gets impatient
with anybody who has any. As far as she is concerned, her son has been moping
and mourning quite long enough: the whole thing is clearly becoming a nuisance
and getting in the way of the efficient public domesticity to which she likes
to be accustomed.
 
 Not surprisingly, her relationship to Hamlet is distant, watchful and slightly
uneasy. Brooding is not something she understands, and her first speech to her
son is edgy with weariness, almost with annoyance. When she is shown Hamlet's
love letter to Ophelia, any jealousy she might feel is clearly entirely
subconscious: her broody look suggests that the whole thing is an unwelcome
complication that could get out of control. There is no suggestion that she has
ever shared Hamlet's grief, just as the burden of Hamlet's complaint is not so
much that she has deserted him for a stepfather, but that she had been disloyal
to his father.
 
 Ralph Fiennes's Hamlet is that paradoxical creature, a lonely loner: a man who
feels safest behind some sort of protective wall and yet feels the need for the
kind of close companionship he knows he is hardly fitted for. His anger and
frustration are those of a natural misfit: his father's death and his mother's
remarriage only aggravate them, and the encounter with the Ghost (Terence
Rigby) simply removes the restraints of discipline that have held them under
control. He is a nightwatchman of the spirit, always on the alert for disaster.
He is certainly not a sweet prince. This is a harsh, unlyrical reading, savage
and ruthless, giving no hostages to affection or romantic admiration: Fiennes
reminds you how often Shakespeare arouses your feelings and awakens your moral
sensibilities by engaging you with characters who are difficult, unwelcoming,
sometimes even repellent. Morality through sympathy is easy. In Shakespeare, as
in all great drama, moral values are discovered the hard way.
 
 Like all highly individual Hamlets, this one has its contradictions.
Technically, Fiennes is hugely accomplished. The cascading, tumultuous passion
of the production presents no problems to him: the verse is released at an
immense speed, but with almost complete clarity. One difficulty with that is
that you actually become aware of Fiennes's virtuosity: the technical wizardry
draws attention to itself, and simply listening to this reckless outpouring of
the text comes between you and the character you want to get to know. The sheer
speed of the delivery also tears at the intellectual fabric of the play. It is
difficult to think of these lava-like outpourings as the result of any kind of
thought process. The ``To be or not to be'' soliloquy sounds, not like thought
moulding itself into speech, a subtle intelligence grappling with a problem,
but like an obsession that has already been rehearsed more than once: the
spiritual equivalent of probing and probing an open wound. A little slowing
down would make all the difference. It would bring out more of the play's
lyricism and intellectual passion, adding no more than 10 minutes' playing
time.
 
 This need not contradict the notion that this production might be like that
first one with Shakespeare and Burbage. The Globe company is unlikely to have
had a rehearsal period of several weeks. A play as rich and as densely layered
as this one is unlikely to have yielded up all its secrets at the first
attempt, even with the author in charge. Where Fiennes's performance and Kent's
production most probably resemble their originals is in their grasp of the
play's essential theatricality as a work of swift, irresistible tragic action
in which character and circumstance combine in destruction.
 
 This, too, is where Fiennes's performance is so eloquent and truthful: it is a
portrayal of pain that cannot be shared. In this sense, this is a deeply
modern, contemporary Hamlet. He is, ultimately, entirely alone. There is no
family or community to support him. This is not the loneliness of princes, but
the loneliness of personal suffering, partly caused by a harsh, uncaring world
and partly rooted in a deep spiritual maladjustment that nobody can understand,
let alone alleviate. To us, Hamlet's suffering speaks of moral priorities, of
the nature of purity, clarity, self-knowledge and action; but to Hamlet himself
it is merely a waste of his soul. Fiennes's performance is a shattering
portrayal of this loss and this waste. He is, to quote Sartre, a useless
passion.
 
 This is the Almeida Theatre's production, sponsored by AT&T, and it recalls
the Shakespearian theatre in yet another way. A few years after Hamlet was
written, his company took a lease on the Blackfriars, an intimate indoor
theatre seating about 500. Here the King's Men, as they were by then called,
presented exactly the same plays to a smaller, more refined, perhaps more
discriminating public than they did at the Globe to a mass audience. In this
sense, for Shakespeare and his audiences, there was only one theatre. The
Almeida company usually plays to an audience of at most 300; here at the
Empire, in the urban jungle of Hackney, it plays classical drama at the same
high standard of artistry, but to an audience of 900 to 1,000. Perhaps Kent and
his actors will prove that today, too, there is only one theatre, and that
great plays speak to everybody.

Re: Non-Trad Sh; Olivier's Hamlet; Chronology

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0197.  Friday, 10 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Mary Jane Miller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 95 10:00:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0162  Re: non-trad Shakespeare entertainments
 
(2)     From:   E. J. Duggan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 95 16:22:22 GMT
        Subj:   Olivier's Hamlet
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 09 Mar 1995 23:01:51 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0187  Re: Chronology
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 95 10:00:56 -0500
Subject: 6.0162  Re: non-trad Shakespeare entertainments
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0162  Re: non-trad Shakespeare entertainments
 
The 2 Wayne and Shuster Shakesperian sketches are immortal in Canadian Memory.
Frank Shuster is editing black and white versions of these and other sketches
for the CBC so they will reappear on the CBC next year. Meanwhile for
Shakesperians who saw the sketches on the Ed Sullivan Show or when sold to the
UK et al. and who want their won copy, write to the CBC Boutique, Box 500,
Station A, Toronto, M5W 1E9. They will know whether or not these videos have
been released for private sale.
 
Mary Jane Miller
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. J. Duggan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 95 16:22:22 GMT
Subject:        Olivier's Hamlet
 
John Mills writes to the list that he 'cut his teeth' on Olivier's Hamlet.
 
As a Brit, I have great difficulty with Olivier's appearance in this film
because of his strong resemblance to the camp British comic Dick Emery.
 
Has anyone else noticed this similarity, or is it just me?
 
Ooo-ooh you are awful!  But I like it.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 09 Mar 1995 23:01:51 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0187  Re: Chronology
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0187  Re: Chronology
 
Pat Buckridge wants to shake the traditional assumptions about the chronology
of the canon. HAMLET provides us with an interesting case. Obviously the play
was written in or around 1600. (I use the word "obviously" with irony.)
Therefore any earlier reference to Hamlet must be a reference to the Ur-Hamlet
written by Kyd. Although McKerrow argued that Nashe was not referring to the
mythical Ur-Hamlet or to Kyd, I think most recent commentators accept both
identifications. David Kathman argues vigorously for this identification.
 
But read Q1 as an early version of HAMLET, hypothesize that HAMLET was written
and rewritten beginning in the late 1580's, consider Q2 and F1 as two more
versions of this oft-rewritten play, and references to HAMLET before 1600
become evidence that Shakespeare wrote a version of HAMLET before that date.
 
Until I see the Ur-Hamlet in hard-copy, I intend to remain skeptical of its
existence.
 
My major point, however, is: once you acknowledge that the plays may have been
or indeed were revised (LEAR, for example) firm dates of composition distort
the historical reality.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk

Re: Black Characters on Shakespeare's Stage

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0195.  Friday, 10 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Helen Ostovich <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 11:27:50 +0001 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0184 Qs: Black Characters on Sh's Stage
 
(2)     From:   Matthew Henerson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 09:09:20 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0184  Qs: Black Characters on Sh's Stage
 
(3)     From:   David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 18:04:10 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0189 Re: Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackfac
 
(4)     From:   Jean Peterson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 17:51:44 -0500
        Subj:   Othello & Race
 
(5)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 09 Mar 1995 23:12:34 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0189 Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackface
 
(6)     From:   Dan T. M. How <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 21:52:21 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0189  Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackface
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Helen Ostovich <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 11:27:50 +0001 (EST)
Subject: 6.0184 Qs: Black Characters on Sh's Stage
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0184 Qs: Black Characters on Sh's Stage
 
My understanding of how the black characters were played is derived from
Jonson's Masque of Blackness, in which the court performers put on black face
and body makeup.
 
Helen Ostovich
McMaster University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Henerson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 09:09:20 -0800
Subject: 6.0184  Qs: Black Characters on Sh's Stage
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0184  Qs: Black Characters on Sh's Stage
 
To Caroline Gebhard:
 
I have never been involved with a production of *Othello*, so I've never had a
chance to check the truth of this, but I have heard that American Actor's
Equity will not allow a theater to hire a white actor to play Othello in
blackface.  I think a theater can petition the union if the artistic
administration wants to tweak the play in some way (all-black cast with white
Othello etc.), and I know that Chicano, Pakistani, and Native American actors
have played it, but I believe the ethnicity of the role is protected by AEA.
If this rule is indeed on the books, I don't know when it came into effect.
Nor do I know how other acting unions in other countries deal with the
question.  There was a white Othello in England (Paul Scofield at the RNT) as
recently as 1980, and Ben Kingsley played it for the RSC in 1989, but I think
he is half-Indian.  I am sorry that this information is not more reliable.
Perhaps somebody else can confirm or deny some of what I've said.
 
Matt Henerson
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 18:04:10 GMT
Subject: 6.0189 Re: Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackfac
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0189 Re: Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackfac
 
A pedantic correction to Melissa Aaron's note. 'The Masque of Queens' was
performed in 1609, and did not involve black make-up; the 'Masque of
Blackness', performed by Queen Anne and other noble ladies did, but it was
performed in 1605, not 1604.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 17:51:44 -0500
Subject:        Othello & Race
 
One very interesting production of Othello (at one of the fringe theaters on
the outskirts of London--maybe it was in Greenwhich, and around 1989?) cast
black actors as both Othello and Iago (Emilia was also black).  But Othello was
a "white man's black man"--light-skinned and caucasian-featured, a real
poster-boy for assimilation, while Iago was much darker and his features more
African.  The contrast emphasized the operation of internalized racism and
"colonial" mentality--Othello was duped into thinking himself equal with the
lily-white senate and Iago's superior (demonstrated through tone of voice and
body language--he treated Iago like a lackey); Othello didn't see how he
himself was being used.  The population of Cyprus, for example, was
dark-skinned and hostile to the Venetians, and sending Othello to calm the
island down was an act of political cynicism to which Othello was oblivious.
Cassio's drunk scene was used effectively to demonstrate the tensions brewing
on the island and in the ranks (his sneering put-downs to Iago took on a nasty
edge that the Cyprians saw and resented)  And the production seemed to suggest
that internalized racism was one of Iago's nameless motives as well--Othello's
marriage to a white woman seemed to arouse in Iago a fearful combination of
disgust, fury, envy and wish to punish...
 
It was powerfully, effectively done.
 
Jean Peterson
Bucknell University
 
[In 1990, The Shakespeare Theatre produced an *Othello*, directed by Harold
Scott, with Avery Brooks as Othello, Andre Braugher as Iago, Fran Dorn as
Emilia, and Jordan Baker as Desdemona that sounds much like the production Jean
Peterson describes above.  As I recall, the production was originally done for
Yale Rep in 1989. --HMC]
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 09 Mar 1995 23:12:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0189 Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackface
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0189 Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackface
 
Gabriel Egan claims to be confident that there were no black actors on the
sixteenth century English stage. May I ask why? Assuming there were no black
sharers, is it impossible that there were no black hired actors? (There were
black cowboys!)
 
How confident can we be about the color barrier in, say, the 1590s?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan T. M. How <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 21:52:21 -0800
Subject: 6.0189  Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackface
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0189  Black Characters on Sh's Stage and Blackface
 
Here's a thought...any chance there was an actual African-American in
Shakespeare's troupe?

Re: *Macbeth*: Prophecies and Duncan's Murder

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0196.  Friday, 10 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Ron Macdonald <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 09 Mar 1995 11:10:41 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Prophecies in _Macbeth_
 
(2)     From:   Jean Peterson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 17:23:38 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0184  *Mac* Murder
 
(3)     From:   Scott Shepherd <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 10 Mar 1995 16:46:27 -0500
        Subj:   *Mac* murder
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Macdonald <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 09 Mar 1995 11:10:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Prophecies in _Macbeth_
 
It's interesting that Jennie Johnson (SHK 6.0184) should speak of "the Glamis
prediction" and thus recapitulate a conflation I believe Macbeth himself makes.
 In calling Macbeth Thane of Glamis, the witches are neither predicting nor
prophesying but stating the case: Macbeth is Thane of Glamis by virtue of being
his father's son and having inherited the title at his father's death.  "By
Sinel's death I know I am Thane of Glamis" (I.iii.71), he says, "But how of
Cawdor?"  And how king?  It would be nice if the kingship would fall on his
plate, to use Jennie Johnson's phrase, with the inevitability (in a society
committed to primogenitural succession) that the thaneship of Glamis has
already fallen.  Meanwhile, the thaneship of Cawdor has since fallen, but
hardly by the usual orderly succession. This thaneship is rather Macbeth's
reward for his spectacularly sanguinary service in the late rebellion.  It is
by the deeds of his own arm that he has become Thane of Cawdor, and it will be
similarly by the deed of his arm that he will become king.  But perhaps the
inevitability of the first step, his inheriting of Glamis, encourages him to
think of the next steps as inevitable as well, part of a "natural" progression.
 It's striking that in a later aside he speaks of "_Two_ truths" being told "As
happy prologues to the swelling act / Of the imperial theme" (I.iii.127-29).
The first truth, after all, is only one in the very pedestrian sense of a
statement of fact.  It hardly shows that the universe is geared up to make
Macbeth king, though it's scarcely surprising that Macbeth should want to treat
it as if it did.  Shakespeare seems to have been thoroughly familiar with that
form of self-delusion in which we conflate our own desires with the will of
higher powers.  Think of Malvolio on the subject of Olivia: "I have lim'd her,
but it is Jove's doing, and Jove make me thankful!"
 
                                         --Ron Macdonald
                                           <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 17:23:38 -0500
Subject: 6.0184  *Mac* Murder
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0184  *Mac* Murder
 
To Jennie Johnson
 
>Why does Macb. leap to the conclusion that he will become King only by
>murdering Duncan? If the Glamis prediction came true without him batting an
>eyelid, why does he then TAKE action, ie. kill, to secure the second
>prediction, if the first fell on his plate?
 
Macbeth considers just this possibility--"If chance will have me King, why,
chance may crown me without my stir--" (1.3.143-4).  But it just won't happen
fast enough for that "vaulting ambition" that the prediction has set in motion!
 
Lady M. worries that the damn "milk of human kindness" in her hubby won't allow
him to "catch the nearest way"--not the ONLY way, maybe, but the one that leads
to the most immediate gratification.  Look at the play's language of speed,
haste, outrushing and overreaching--once the temptation has entered their minds
(and it doesn't take much--images of murder & mayhem evidently follow swiftly
on the heels of "Hail, Macbeth that shalt be King hereafter!")--there's no
stopping and no waiting for "time" to take its course.
 
>Why does he then presume that by killing Duncan he will become King, when
>Malcolm was pronounced hier apparent before his very eyes?
 
Actually, doesn't the declaration of Malcolm as heir seal Duncan's fate? Now MB
has two obstacles to overcome, the living king and "the step [he] must o'er
leap"--his son & heir! By framing the grooms for the murder, and killing them
before they can speak up,MB & Lady M point the blame for the crime on Malcolm &
Donaldbain--who appear to have the most to gain by offing Duncan (thus removing
all obstacles for MB!) M & D helpfully flee, which places on them the suspicion
of the crime...
 
Did MB "know" or "presume" or "intend" this to happen? There seems to me little
point in asking that question: the play tells us that this is the outcome, so I
think we must be satisfied with that.
 
Further, we find out later that MB is not as slick as he thinks--Macduff is
suspicious from go, and in act 3 scene 4, Lennox observes that Malcolm &
Donaldbain murdering Duncan is about as plausible as Fleance killing Banquo...
 
De-mystifyingly,
Jean Peterson
Bucknell University
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 10 Mar 1995 16:46:27 -0500
Subject:        *Mac* murder
 
Let me amend the look-to-the-mysteries-of-the-text writeoff that ended my last
post re Duncan's murder. There is more to be said.
 
Reassembling the question: since Macbeth recognizes that assassinating the king
is unnecessary (given the prophecy) and insufficient (given the king's two
sons) for the fulfillment of his ambition, why does he do it?
 
Of course it is the nature of prophecies in literature that they are themselves
the catalysts of their own fulfillment, traditionally with the irony that
someone acting to defy a baleful prediction precipitates the very misfortune he
seeks to avoid (eg most famously the father of Oedipus). The innovation of
Macbeth is that the protagonist acts not to prevent his foretold fate but to
encourage it--"unnecessary" only in a limited sense, since in terms of dramatic
structure the prophecy _includes_ Macbeth's response to having heard it. For a
more psychological explanation it is reductive but more or less right to say
that Macbeth is too much a man of action to let the future take care of itself.
Anyway what is clear is that the issue of necessity disappears from his
considerations after the initial determination "If chance will have me king,
why chance may crown me without my stir." This sensible assessment is
apparently not enough to put the idea out of his mind.
 
(Note the dissenting opinion of Lady Macbeth: "Thou'ldst have, great Glamis,
that which cries thus thou _must do_ if thou have it." Mere assertion of
course, but indicative of her attitude about prophecy.)
 
As for who's next in line for the throne, since the monarchy isn't hereditary
that question isn't settled before 1.4 (knowledge of Scottish political history
not required; "we will establish our estate upon our eldest Malcolm" makes the
point), and curiously Macbeth's reaction is not discouragement but improved
urgency. Certainly in this speech ("The Prince of Cumberland!" etc) there is
none of the "come what come may" resolve that ended 1.3.
 
But _whether or not to murder the king_ persists as the prime question of act
1, and if nonnecessity and insufficiency are not the things in Macbeth's way,
what is?
 
A _moral_ uneasiness is evident in the distaste for the affair continually
expressed by Macbeth, who has unseam'd men in war without disgust, but it plays
little part in his deliberations. His most conspicuous speech about the
decision ("If it were done when 'tis done..."), although it makes a brief
detour into a moral question ("He's here in double trust...not bear the knife
myself"), is otherwise entirely concerned with the _fear of consequences_; but
when Lady Macbeth confronts him he makes his argument with completely different
and less relevant objections. He says 1) he wants to enjoy his recent honors
first, 2) he wants to do what is "becoming", 3) he is afraid of failing. All of
these are actual unfeigned worries of his, but they are clearly secondary. Why
doesn't he mention the truly crucial problem which he has just identified to
himself (and to us) in soliloquy?
 
>...we but teach
>Bloody instructions, which being taught return
>To plague th'inventor.
 
Lady Macbeth's persuasions, astounding as they are, can hardly counter this
prophetic insight which he never points out to her. Her appeals, stripped of
rhetorical force, are 1) you promised you would do this so you must, 2) you are
a coward if you don't, and 3) we won't get caught. This last assertion though
remarkably unconvincing does superficially address Macbeth's unspoken chief
anxiety, and it is significant that this is what makes him "settled."
 
Thus, after clearly enumerating all sorts of reasonable arguments against it,
he agrees to do a thing which to imagine appals him, which he knows he
shouldn't do and doesn't need to do. His foremost scruples, namely anticipated
public outrage and his own exposure to assassination, he abandons upon the
flimsiest assurance, as if some men are kept from doing evil only by not having
it suggested to them emphatically enough. When in act 2 he is faced with
carrying out his reluctant resolution, his very apparatus rejects it, falling
into hallucinations, but he sternly reiterates the procedure to himself ("I go,
and it is done"), and commits the crime.
 
All this is essential to our experience of the tragedy. Macbeth's first murder
like Hamlet's inaction _must be_ inexplicable and contrary to overwhelming
opposite motivations--but in some way, to some part of our understanding, it
_makes sense_, ie it occurs to us as authentic unforeign human behavior,
perplexing and troublesome as it is. This paradox, if that's what it is, was
Shakespeare's fascination, and it is ours.

Re: *WT* Productions

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0194.  Friday, 10 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Christina M. Robertson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 10:02:37 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE:  Q: *WT* Performances in 1994
 
(2)     From:   Matthew Henerson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 08:57:14 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0179  Q: *WT* Performances in 1994
 
(3)     From:   Kathleen Kendrick <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 14:48:18 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0179 Q: *WT* Performances in 1994
 
(4)     From:   A. G. Bennett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 09 Mar 1995 15:08:26 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0188  Re: *WT* Prods.
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christina M. Robertson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 10:02:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        RE:  Q: *WT* Performances in 1994
 
Theater Emory, a small professional theater at Emory University performed
_Winter's Tale_ last year. It was directed by Lou Rackoff (sp?) who runs the
North Carolina Shakespeare festival. You're right; the play did suddenly
materialize in various venues all last year!
 
Christina Robertson
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Henerson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 08:57:14 -0800
Subject: 6.0179  Q: *WT* Performances in 1994
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0179  Q: *WT* Performances in 1994
 
To Alex Bennett:
 
I think the California Shakespeare Festival (formerly Berkeley Shakespeare) did
a production of *WT* as part of their '94 summer season, and there was a
production at the Old Globe in San Diego in the summer of '92.  I did not see
either of these, so I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about them beyond the
fact that the Globe production got mixed reviews from local papers.
 
Matt Henerson
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathleen Kendrick <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 1995 14:48:18 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 6.0179 Q: *WT* Performances in 1994
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0179 Q: *WT* Performances in 1994
 
Mr. Bennett:  The Shakes. Rep. produced  Winter's Tale in the fall of '94 at
the Ruth Page Theater on N. Clark Street in Chicago.  It was better than
excellent!  This season they have performed a sparkling *Troilus and Cressida*
and in April, they present *As You Like It* which we are anticipating eagerly.
 
Kitty Kendrick (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           A. G. Bennett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 09 Mar 1995 15:08:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0188  Re: *WT* Prods.
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0188  Re: *WT* Prods.
 
Dear Milla Riggio,
 
I'd love to see a copy of your historical essay from Trinity College, if you'd
be kind enough to send it along via email or snail mail.
 
Thanks!
Alex Bennett (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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