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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: December ::
Re: Soliloquies
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0933.  Friday, 1 December 1995.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 1995 23:36:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0930  Re: Soliloquies
 
(2)     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 1995 17:02:24 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0930  Re: Soliloquies
 
(3)     From:   James P. Saeger <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 08:44:10 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Soliloquies
 
(4)     From:   Bradley S. Berens <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 1995 09:47:43 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Hamlet and soliloquies
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 1995 23:36:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0930  Re: Soliloquies
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0930  Re: Soliloquies
 
Robert Appelbaum writes:
>  We know that early modern Englanders generally read aloud rather than to
>  themselves.
 
How do we know this?  How can anyone tell when someone is reading silently --
since they are silent?  I do know that one of the saints -- was it Jerome?  --
was credited with first reading silently, but, of course, this claim has been
well contested. How can we establish with a fair degree of certainty that
Englanders of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries generally read aloud
rather than silently?
 
Just curious.
 
Yours, Curious Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 1995 17:02:24 GMT
Subject: 6.0930  Re: Soliloquies
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0930  Re: Soliloquies
 
I'm sure Robert Applebaum is right - soliloquy on the Renaissance stage is
frequently talking by oneself but to the audience.  I've always thought that
this was the case in 'To be..', so different from the other soliloquies in the
play.  The fluidity of boundaries between stage and audience in the shared
light of an outdoor playhouse makes this possible in a way that the
discrimination of the lighted actors from darkened audience even in an
imitation Renaissance playouse like The Swan inhibits.
 
David Lindley
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James P. Saeger <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 08:44:10 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Soliloquies
 
Robert Appelbaum wrote:
 
> Incidentally, is it an article of faith that "soliloquy" has to mean talking
> *to* oneself?  Can't it also mean talking *by* oneself?
 
I had always understood soliloquies in Shakespeare's plays as the characters
speaking *to* the audience rather than *to* themselves -- as in Hal's first
soliloquy in 1H4 ("I know you all and will awhile uphold/ The unyoked humor of
your idleness") where the "you" refers to the idle audience who have chosen to
watch a play rather than work.
 
Didn't the conception of soliloquy-as-internal-dialogue come along well after
Shakespeare's time in conjunction with the fourth wall and other later
theatrical conventions?
 
James P. Saeger
U of Pennsylvania
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bradley S. Berens <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 1995 09:47:43 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Hamlet and soliloquies
 
This email is in reply to Peter Groves's reply to MY email about *Hamlet*,
soliloquies and the convention that soliloquies are not usually overheard.
 
Mr. Groves opens his final paragraph by writing, "At the risk of appearing
pedantic, moreover, I would have to point out to Mr. Berens that there is an
important difference between *hearing* voices (as in the case of conversation
in a neighbouring room) and *overhearing* what they are saying."
 
You probably shouldn't have taken the risk because your email is such an
*exercise* in pedantry, bad argumentation and misrepresentation of what I said
that it has put me into a perfect snit.
 
First of all, the Tybalt example was one of THREE I mentioned, the last two of
which you don't discuss because you cannot dismiss them easily. OF COURSE
conventions, like all rules, are made to be broken.  All I am arguing is that
in the case of Ophelia and the "to be or not to be" soliloquy there are no
signals to restrict the possibility either way, that it could easily come out
in performance, and that it SHOULD come out in performance someday because it
would be interesting and would allow the actress playing Ophelia to be more
with it and intelligent than the character is usually allowed to be.  Marv
Rosenberg--whose wonderful MASKS OF HAMLET I did finally get around to
checking--reports that "Tree's Ophelia was praying for Hamlet in her little
arbor off the main stage, when she saw his torment in the soliloquy" (487), so
there is some mild precedent for this interpretation, although in a
theatrically weaker version than was originally suggested in this list.
 
Second, in the final sentence of that paragraph-- "Had he [Tybalt] heard
Romeo's praise of Juliet he would presumably have commented upon it: instead he
merely assumes him to be 'fleer[ing] and scorn[ing] at our solemnity'."--you
demonstrate just the kind of vague thinking that provoked my mild objection to
your original post.  You *presume* that a character like Tybalt, who never
responds to anything *but* surface appearances, will, out of character, pay
enough close attention to anything he sees or hears to comment.
 
Third, why the nonsensical (or perhaps just whimsical?) moment in which you
remind me that *Hamlet* is fiction and not history?  The only proper response
to this is to quote my twelve-year old cousin-- "DUH!"  Nowhere in my post was
there even the suggestion that I think *Hamlet* a history *play*, let alone
somehow an exercise in history.  Here you are putting words into my mouth in
order to make your objection to my (once again, originally mild) objection seem
somehow relevant or perspicacious.
 
Let's try to get this story straight, shall we?  Mr. Groves, your original post
replied to the interesting question as to whether or not Ophelia might have
overheard the "to be or not to be" soliloquy by saying, "By convention
soliloquies are not overheard, but there is no compelling evidence either
way--his change of tone towards Ophelia is motivated by his suspicion that she
is deceiving him--and as far as I can see the question is irrelevant: I can't
see that it makes much difference."  From the get-go I have *agreed* with you
that there is no compelling evidence either way, and was *complementing* your
point by noting that, pardner, that there convention you done invoked ain't
much of a convention on old Bill's stage to begin' with.
 
(Now that I take another look at the original post, by the way, I note that
Groves unnecessarily restricts and clarifies the theatrically open nature of
the scene by once again presuming that Hamlet's motivation is clear, that it
has to do with his suspicion that Ophelia is deceiving him.  This is admittedly
possible on stage, but other options are also available.)
 
My original objection was to Mr. Groves's dressing up his perfectly reasonable
comment that there is no evidence either way with an assertion of a theatrical
convention that actually *weakens* the main point he was making.  My current
objection, however, is to Mr. Groves's near-sighted inability to understand
what he reads, or to reply to what has been said rather than to what he wishes
had been said.
 
Bradley Berens
Dept. of English
U.C. Berkeley
 

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