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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Re: Don John; Vice Figures; Aumerle and Banquo
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0321.  Wednesday, 19 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Edward Gero <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Apr 1995 00:12:17 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Don John
 
(2)     From:   Lonnie Durham <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Apr 95 03:01:54 CST
        Subj:   Vice Figures
 
(3)     From:   Edward M Moore <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Apr 1995 09:24:50 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Richard II; Macbeth
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Gero <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Apr 1995 00:12:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Don John
 
I wanted to respond to the questions about Don John. I have had the opportunity
of playing him twice here in Washington for the Shakespeare Theatre.  The last
time with Kelly McGillis as Beatrice.  The thing I came up with for his
motivation (most scholars will tell you, yes, Shakespeare did not want the play
to be too dark) which proved emminentlt playable was this. Given that he is
disinherited because of his birth (see Edmund), he might searching for
alternate sources of funding.  He finds it, I believe, in the person of Hero.
 
What if, (thank you Stanislavski) Don John came into the play with the
intention of marrying Hero in order to inherit Leonato's wealth! Immediately
upon his arrival, (perhaps we see him taking Hero into the house just before
Claudio attempts this) and upon hearing the news *from the great supper*, his
plans are thwarted and proceeds to set about the business of ruining Claudio's
hope.  If he can't have her, his brother's surrogate certainly won't!  He sets
up the ruse and completely destroys the wedding.  He flees having affected the
debacle without incriminating himself, perhaps awaiting the dust to settle so
as to return to do Leonato the favor of marrying the ruined goods, not to
mention Leonato's largesse.
 
It's always been my contention and practice that the superobjective of any
character is made clear at the last bit of action the character does,  which
coincides with the character's functionality designed by the playwright.
 
Hope this helps.
 
Edward Gero
Shakespeare Theatre
Washington, DC

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lonnie Durham <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Apr 95 03:01:54 CST
Subject:        Vice Figures
 
Well, I certainly got spanked for suggesting that Don John and Rich. III might
be relatives and for "flattening" or "levelling" psychologically complex
characters.  But I don't think those making the comments know how *really*
extreme I can become on the topic (Broughton?, Did someone mention
Broughton?!).  Why, I think not only Don J. and R.III are related, but Lear's
Fool, Feste, Iago, Lady Macbeth and Falstaff as well. (One can go on, and I
usually do).  But to say that these characters, fools, villains, crafty
servants, etc., perform a similar function--to bring out unacknowledged motives
in the other characters--is only the *beginning* of such an analysis.  The main
reason for overlaying conventional types of any kind is to bring out
DIFFERENCE, the coin of all meaning.  Most of the serious fogging of our
critical faculties arises not from a failure to discriminate between literary
characters, but from the failure to discriminate between literary characters
and real people. As Northrop Frye once pointed out, a picture af a horse is
more like any other picture than it is like a horse.
 
While it is NOT very edifying to claim simply, as the Introduction to the
Folger edition of *Macbeth* does, that in morality-play fashion, Lady M. is her
husband's "bad angel," it is to a serious extent true that she provides the
"spurs" (which he says he hasn't got) to Macbeth's "vaulting ambition."  But
one can see at the same time that the Vice's typical detachment ("A little
water will clear us of this deed") is shaky, perhaps even feigned, and that
this particular "Vice" will catch a fatal clap of human guilt, try as she might
to shed her humanity. (Cleo's seduction of Antony gives us even another
variant, but there is no denying the parallels).  Come to think of it,
Falstaff, as well, is drawn from a position of pure detached self-interest into
a web of human commitment, much to his sorrow.
 
I make no secret of the fact that I would like to see much more discussion of
literary convention in our exchanges, but our neo-Romantic impulses seem to
make us shudder at the thought of taking note of artifice (for fear, I guess,
of being accused of abandoning the real world which is so in need, apparently,
of our ministrations).  "Depth" and "weight" in literary character, though, is
achieved relatively simply (for an artist, at least, writer OR actor) by
layering or juxtaposing conflicting typologies.  We don't think an essay is
"flat" merely because the author used an alphabet of only 26 letters or a
grammar of only eight (?) parts of speech.  Hmmm. That last reminds me of
Kenneth Burke; oh how I miss him.
 
Sweet Dreams, All
Lonnie Durham
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward M Moore <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Apr 1995 09:24:50 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Richard II; Macbeth
 
Sheldon Zitner published an excellent article on the Aumerle conspiracy many
years ago, arguing (I trust my memory is more or less accurate) that the scene
with the King is comic and calls into question various political pretensions
previously dramatized, in a way not dissimilar from the role Falstaff plays in
Henry IV (in fact, I think the subtitle of the essay is "The Origins of
Falstaff"). I once saw a production which tried to play the scene straight,
and, so funny it was, it convinced me that Zitner was correct.  You don't have
to play it as farce--that could ruin it--but just expect the laughs.  I think
the scene of the Bishops' justifying Henry's claim to France is similar--it is
impossible to play it straight, and when Canterbury is finished, the King asks,
in effect, 'What the hell did you just say?' (Henry V, I.ii.96)  Olivier did
the scene wonderfully.
 
There is a family tree of the line of Banquo, dating from 1578, printed in Vol.
VII of Bullough's Narrative and Dramatic Sources (between pp. 516-17), showing
the descent of James VI from Banquo and Fleance.  I think the tree is also in
H.N. Paul's Royal Play of Macbeth, a book much strained but with much useful
information, relevant to the recent discussion on SHAKSPER.
 

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