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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: December ::
Re: Silent Reading and Soliloquies
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0937.  Sunday, 3 December 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Valerie Gager <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 18:48:00 -0700
        Subj:   Silent reading
 
(2)     From:   Moray McConnachie <cerberus%sable.ox.ac.uk@ukacrl>
        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 22:45:41 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0933 Re: Soliloquies
 
(3)     From:   W. Russell Mayes, Jr. <
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        Date:   Friday, 01 Dec 1995 16:19:36 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0933  Re: Soliloquies
 
(4)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 17:15:21 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Soliloquies
 
(5)     From:   Thomas Bishop <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 17:58:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0933  Re: Soliloquies
 
(6)     From:   Lyn Wood <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Dec 1995 20:19:32 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0933 Re: Soliloquies
 
(7)     From:   John Mills <
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        Date:   Friday, 01 Dec 1995 16:25:12 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Soliloquies: To oneself and By oneself
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Valerie Gager <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 18:48:00 -0700
Subject:        Silent reading
 
Bill Godshalk asks whether St. Jerome has been credited with being the first
person to read silently.  I believe this distinction goes to St. Ambrose,
bishop of Milan, due to St. Augustine's remarks in *Confessions* VI.3.
 
Valerie Gager
Carroll College
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Moray McConnachie <cerberus%sable.ox.ac.uk@ukacrl>
Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 22:45:41 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 6.0933 Re: Soliloquies
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0933 Re: Soliloquies
 
On the question of silent reading, I wondered if anyone could help me trace a
book which deals with this, in relation primarily to Shakespeare? I rather
thought it was by John Berger, and called The Auditory Imagination : [something
more specific], but apparently I was mistaken, since catalogue searches haven't
helped.
 
To boil it down, it is essentially a rather good argument defending the
armchair reading of Shakespeare against the idea that Shakespeare's writing is
only "properly" experienced in the theatre.
 
Any help cheerfully welcomed by the defeated.
 
Yours,
Moray McConnachie
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. Russell Mayes, Jr. <
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Date:           Friday, 01 Dec 1995 16:19:36 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0933  Re: Soliloquies
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0933  Re: Soliloquies
 
I am not sure if Robert Applebaum was replying to my post when he wrote
 
> Incidentally, is it an article of faith that "soliloquy" has to mean talking
> *to* oneself?  Can't it also mean talking *by* oneself?
 
but since I was at least one of the people who said that soliloquy means
speaking to oneself, I thought I'd clarify my post.  I only meant it in the
sense of its derivation from the latin "solus"  (alone) "loqui" (to speak).
Given that definition, I simply question whether we should call "to be or not
to be" a soliloquy since Hamlet is not alone on stage.  Whether it means
"speaking to oneself" or "by oneself" seems to me more a performance issue than
the admittedly pedantic point I was making.
 
I hope I have not muddied clear waters unnecessarily.
 
W. Russell Mayes, Jr.
University of North Carolina at Asheville

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(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 17:15:21 -0500
Subject:        Re: Soliloquies
 
"Soliloquy" and "monologue", etymologically synonymous, have different meanings
according to those who make such distinctions. As I understand it, a soliloquy
is addressed by a lone actor to the audience (or, for the more psychologically
inclined, himself), while a monologue is what happens when one actor, alone or
not, speaks for a long time without interruption. "Speak the speech...", for
example, is a monologue not a soliloquy. "O what a rogue..." is both.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Bishop <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 17:58:40 -0500
Subject: 6.0933  Re: Soliloquies
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0933  Re: Soliloquies
 
Dear me, the question of soliloquies is a complex one, which I for one would
never want to try to solve by appealing to what early modern people did or
didnt do when they read. I'd want to look at what actors are invited to do with
characters on stage. And there the answer seems to me to be: they do very
complicated things indeed, very rarely simply reducible to "talking to himself"
versus "talking to the audience." What Hamlet is doing is immensely different
from what Falstaff is doing, from what Hal is doing, from what Autolycus is
doing, from what Feste is doing....  (And For Bill Godshalk, the saint was
Ambrose, by the testimony of Augustine who says that Ambrose was the first
person he saw who read without _moving his lips_ which is very different from
reading aloud. For Ambrose, reading was an _entirely_ internal process, for the
others _that Augustine had seen_, it may have been silent, but still mimed
speech in some way. Augustine was trained as a rhetorician, Ambrose as a
theologian, between which kingdoms there is, as they say, some space.).
 
Some examples of how hard this soliloquy stuff gets, real fast:
 
Falstaff says, just before he stabs Hotspur: "Nothing confutes me but eyes and
nobody sees me."  Obviously this a a broad joke delivered by the actor, but is
it by the character? Perhaps, but not more than perhaps, I think. Certainly if
he does know we're there, he also knows we're not going to report him, so he
knows we're different from other listeners.
 
Richard II says "and for because the world is populous/ And here is not a
person but myself/ I cannot do it."  This is harder. It makes very little sense
for the desperately lonely character Richard to be "talking to the audience"
here, though the scene itself makes great and moving play with the sudden
peopling of the world with figures from Richard's mind who are "really" there,
in the audience.
 
Henry V before Agincourt: "O God of battles, steel my soldiers hearts" Surely
to God, this isnt "talking to the audience". Is it then not a soliloquy, but a
prayer? But what is the difference between them? Is it so clear? What about the
case of Clauduis' "prayer-scene"? Or Lear's prayer for the poor (and he isnt
alone on stage then anyway)?
 
Good Old Tricky Dick himself: "Now is the winter of our disconten/ made
glorious summer by this sun of York." Now surely this _is_ "talking to the
audience". Surely here "Now" and "our" are tropes. Yet even this wont work
entirely: they are both tropes and not tropes -- they are complex mixes of
trope and anti-trope, dependent upon the simultaneous presence of the actor
leading us into the play, and us finding there that ole bad character we love
to hate.
 
So it dont work so easy as "talking to the audience" I mean, for Gosh sakes,
_of course_ an actor speaking a soliloquy is TALKING TO THE AUDIENCE. Sheesh!
He's sure as hell not being SILENT to them. But he may be doing something else
too. The real question is (always): what's the relation between the talking
this actor is doing, and the talking this character is doing?  Hic labor, hic
opus est.
 
I'm, as they say, outa here.
 
Tom
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lyn Wood <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Dec 1995 20:19:32 -0500
Subject: 6.0933 Re: Soliloquies
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0933 Re: Soliloquies
 
Bradley S. Berens wrote:
 
>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.
 
During Derek Jacobi's stage performance of Hamlet in 1977-1978, he delivered
"To be or not to be" to Ophelia, who sat listening before him.  Later, when
Jacobi directed Kenneth Branagh in the role for the Renaissance Theatre Company
in 1988, they did the same. Jacobi said (during an interview on the
"Discovering Hamlet" video) that he felt Hamlet's thoughts on suicide planted
the seed in Ophelia's mind and contributed to her own suicide.
 
Unfortunately, I didn't see either of those, so can't say whether Ophelia came
across as more intelligent or not.  I'd like to know about any other
productions with a similar interpretation.
 
Lyn Wood
 
(7)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Mills <
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Date:           Friday, 01 Dec 1995 16:25:12 -0700 (MST)
Subject:        Soliloquies: To oneself and By oneself
 
Judging from the reviews of performance over the past century and more it seems
quite clear that treating a soliloquy as "thinking aloud," which is to say,
"Talking to oneself", is a distinctly "modern" practice.
 
Late 19th. cent. reviewers repeatedly comment on the practice as an innovation,
some with approval, "old stagers" largely with disapproval. It was one of the
distinctive features of Booth's celebrated Hamlet performances, and he was soon
followed in that by many others.  (See my Hamlet on Stage: The Great
Tradition).  20th cent. actors choose one approach or the other.  Olivier,
using a voice over for the most part, talks to himself.  Nicol Williamson, in
marked contrast, talks directly to the camera/audience.  John Mills
 

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