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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: November ::
Re: Southampton; Performance Styles
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0883. Wednesday, 8 November 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Charles Boyle <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 07 Nov 1995 15:00:12 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Southampton
 
(2)     From:   David Jackson <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Nov 95 15:20:20 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0871  Re: Performance Styles
 
(3)     From:   Harry Hill <HILHAR@CONU2.BITNET>
        Date:   Monday, 06 Nov 1995 16:34:19 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0871  Re: Performance Styles
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Boyle <
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Date:           Tuesday, 07 Nov 1995 15:00:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Southampton
 
I've been following a number of threads with interest for the past few weeks,
particularly the question of Shylock being, in part, a portrait of a London
Puritan and Shakespeare's possible involvement in the Southampton circle. Both
ideas make sense.
 
I've just finished a book by Donna B. Hamilton called "Shakespeare and the
Politics of Protestant England." This is from the jacket blurb:
 
"In her compelling reassessment of Shakespeare's historicity, Donna Hamilton
rejects the notion that the official censorship of the day prevented the stage
from representing contemporary debates concerning the relations among church,
state and individual. She argues instead that throughout his career Shakespeare
positioned his writing politically and ideologically in relation to the ongoing
and changing church-state controversies and in ways that have much in common
with the shifts on these issues identified with the Leicester-Sidney-
Essex-Southampton-Pembroke group."
 
She suggests that both Adriana in "Comedy of Errors" and Olivia in "12th Night"
represent Queen Elizabeth. Here in Cambridge, in her lectures at Harvard,
Marjorie Garber has identified both Portia and Henry IV as further portraits of
the Queen (Elizabeth herself, in reference to the Essex/Southampton Rebellion
of 1601, confessed she stood for Richard II).
 
When it was suggested Shylock had more than a touch of William Cecil, Lord
Burghley, that dour and prosperous English Protestant, Garber readily agreed.
The point is, Shakespeare did have a political and religious point of view and,
as Hamilton ably demonstrates, he voiced them in his work.
 
In its simplest terms the Tudor/Cecil faction was the right wing of the Court
and the Essex/Southampton/Pembroke faction was the liberal left. One way of
looking at it would have Burghley as Hoover, Essex as JFK, Ireland as Vietnam
and Shakespeare as (along with everything else he is) Saturday Night Live with
balls and true wit. Like Sidney, Spenser, Lyly and Jonson, Shakespeare was a
skilled court satirist. Like them, both his subject and his primary audience
was the Queen.
 
Needless to say, in that real world long ago, the right- wingers creamed the
dreamers. It all gets very familiar.
 
Charles Boyle
 
P.S.  Bill - We have records of Southampton's payments to other writers but
none to Shakespeare. Perhaps they had a special arrangement.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Jackson <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Nov 95 15:20:20 EST
Subject: 6.0871  Re: Performance Styles
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0871  Re: Performance Styles
 
As a British actor working in America, I have a few comments about the
"national" style issue. Of necessity, this is very personal, and another actor
may have substanitally different views. However, it seems to me that there is
no place for such a distinction any more. Any teacher or program that purports
to be comprehensive must address all aspects of acting (or point the actor in
the direction of other resources) to fullt round out the actor's skills.
Similarly, a partly or totally self-taught actor should seek out as many
resources as possible to become most effective. To say that someone's British
and thus focuses on speech and works from the outside in, while another's
American and thus -focuses on realism and works from the inside out is really
to say that neither of them is doing all the work they should in approaching
their roles. Someone "musically" reciting the words of a character in a
Shakespeare play while not really trying to convince the audience of the truth
of the character is not really acting. In any event, if you asked seven actors
-- regardless of their national background and training -- what their process
is, I suspect that you'd get seven different answers (albeit including many
similar components).
 
As for Shakespeare's language being unfamiliar to American audiences, it's
actually no more familiar to British audiences. In my experience, it's always
important to make sure that in the first 15 minutes of a production the
delivery be geared to accustoming the audience to the cadence and style of the
language, but that doesn't mean the actors should switch off any other elements
of their characters at the same time.
 
In a nutshell, good acting -- and bad acting -- are the same on either side of
the Atlantic. How the actor acheives this depends much more on his or her
personal successes and failures than accidents of birth and education.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <HILHAR@CONU2.BITNET>
Date:           Monday, 06 Nov 1995 16:34:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0871  Re: Performance Styles
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0871  Re: Performance Styles
 
Before people start scoffing at HH Prince Charles' playing Prince Hal on his CD
with Sir Robert Stephens as Falstaff, let me say that the excerpt I heard on
the CBC a few days ago was splendid: he sounds like the prig Hal *is* in those
tavern scenes. Stephens, incidentally, sounded rather standard...your blustery,
rough Sir John with little of the stylishness.
 
        Harry Hill
        Montreal
 

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