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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: November ::
Re: RIP Robert Stephens
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0902.  Friday, 17
November 1995.

(1)     From:   Peter Greenfield <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Nov 1995 11:30:20 -0800
        Subj:   RIP Robert Stephens

(2)     From:   M.S. Burton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Nov 1995 11:42:42 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: RIP Robert Stephens


(3)     From:   David M Richman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Nov 1995 17:17:31 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0899 Re: RIP Robert Stephens

(4)     From:   Tom Clayton <TSC@UMNACVX.BITNET>
        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Nov 1995 21:40:47 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   R.I.P. Sir Robert Stephens


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Greenfield <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Nov 1995 11:30:20 -0800
Subject:        RIP Robert Stephens

I had the pleasure of seeing Stephens' Falstaff in both 1 & 2 Henry IV
at Stratford in 1991; it was a revelation, a Falstaff far more bitter
than jolly, his cynicism cutting through the prince's pretensions as
much as through Hotspur's.  And I also treasure my videotape of FORTUNES
OF WAR, the BBC series with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh, in which
Stephens plays a delightfully dissolute poet sitting out World War II in
Egypt.

Peter Greenfield
U. Puget Sound

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M.S. Burton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Nov 1995 11:42:42 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Re: RIP Robert Stephens

> From:           Kate Mazzetti <
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> I regret that I did not hear about Robert Stephens' death before
> What was the cause? Can anyone give me more info?

A by-product from the years of carousing-- his kidneys and liver had
given up a year or so back, and he was slowly recovering from transplant
surgery.  I gather his just-published autobiography "Errant Knight" is a
disarming tell-all tome and that he hung on gamely 'til the release,
granting interviews (and charming the interviewers) from his hospital
room.

> From:           John Owen <
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> A strange legacy for The Royal Hunt of Sun's show-stopping Atahualpa to leave.

And oh, to have had that performance preserved on film instead of
Christopher Plummer's.... Another legacy, of course, are the acting
sons--Toby Stephens and Chris Larkin.

> I wish his Falstaff were available in its entirety -- it must have been
> excellent.

At the end of the documentary "A year at the RSC" there is the tiniest
clip of Falstaff's talk with Shallow, and it makes you want to see the
whole cycle. Was this 'Henry IV' taped for British television? any
chance of it ever showing up?

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David M Richman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Nov 1995 17:17:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0899 Re: RIP Robert Stephens
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0899 Re: RIP Robert Stephens

Let me add my praise and remembrance of Robert Stephens.  I too know him
best from recordings, and have long been captivated by that rasping,
gentle voice.  I liked his Edgar in the Caedmon "Lear."  The mad scenes
are terrifyingly energetic.  After Paul Scofield's pianisimo prayer for
the naked wretches, Stephens' fortisimo bellow "Fathom and half! Fathom
and half!" is unforgettable.

He is also a tortured sadist as Bosola in "The Duchess of Malfi."
Another unforgettable moment as he rasps/whines "I do haunt you still."
These records are worth hunting down.

He was an actor of note, and I shall miss hearing his voice.

David Richman
University of New Hampshire

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Clayton <TSC@UMNACVX.BITNET>
Date:           Wednesday, 15 Nov 1995 21:40:47 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        R.I.P. Sir Robert Stephens

Sir Robert Stephens died at a London Hospital on Sunday, the 12th.
Benedick Nightingale's detailed and moving obituary of the 13th was
printed in yesterday's (14th) *New York Times*. After a brilliant early
career in the 1960s partly at the then-new National Theatre under Sir
Laurence Olivier, "of whom he was widely regarded as the natural heir,"
he experienced personal problems that damaged his professional life in
the 1970s and nearly obliterated it in the 1980s. In the 1990s he
embarked upon a triumphant new career when the RSC called upon him to
play his since legendary Falstaff, which I saw on 14 May 1991 at the
Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where I saw his Lear
on 20 July 1993. I cannot recall a better per- formance of either role.
His Falstaff was larger than life, vulnerably grand, and hardly going
gentle into any good night. And his Lear was as Nightingale writes,
"less the ferocious, vindictive tyrant than a foolish, fond old man who
learned to look beyond his own self-pity and see the injustice and
suffering endured by others.  . . . Who will easily forget the great
animal yowl his Lear emitted over the body of his daughter Cordelia, or
the numbed desolation with which he mourned her death?" Certainly not I.
Requiescat in pace, indeed.

A great actor has died all too soon after coming finally and fully into
his own, but his spirit is very much alive in his son, Toby, who has
recently played a blazingly successful Coriolanus beginning in 1994 at
the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and transferring to the Barbican
this year. I have not yet seen Sir Robert's recently published
autobiography, *Knight Errant.*
 

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