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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: October ::
Re: Scenes
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0751.  Wednesday, 4 October 1995.
 
(1)     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Oct 1995 09:36:58 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0744  Re: Scenes;
 
(2)     From:   Thomas G. Bishop <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Oct 1995 12:14:28 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0737  Re: French/English Scenes
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Oct 1995 09:36:58 GMT
Subject: 6.0744  Re: Scenes;
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0744  Re: Scenes;
 
Following the recent discussion of 'scenes' I wonder if the book by Charles A
and Elaine S Hallett 'Analyzing Shakespeare's Action: Scene versus Sequence'
(Cambridge, 1991) might be useful? So too, Emrys Jones's 'Scenic Form in
Shakespeare' (Oxford, 1971) has many insightful things to offer.  However
scenes are classified, it's the consequence for the analysing and understanding
of action on stage that's important - and both these books, in their different
ways, have significantly modified my understanding of how the plays actually
work.
 
David Lindley
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas G. Bishop <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 3 Oct 1995 12:14:28 -0400
Subject: 6.0737  Re: French/English Scenes
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0737  Re: French/English Scenes
 
Dave Evett and Bill Godshalk (what is this, the Ohio push?) raise fascinating
questions about the segementation of theatrical action on page and stage and
its perception by readers and audiences. For my part, trained to look at
"English" (that is, let's face it, Shakespearean, since others e.g. Jonson,
often used the "French" that is classical) scripts, I find the blank space at
the end of a "scene" a useful visual analogue to the blank stage, which the
continental scene division method obscures, making the action jerkier in a way
I dislike. This is probably mere prejudice and my training to "see" the
blankness on the page "as" a blank stage, where those trained the other way
would see it differently. I am unaware of any distinction in the "French"
method between these modes of script signing, and assume there is some other
clockwork going on in readers heads which signals "Blank Stage". Maybe they are
better readers than me.
 
Bill Godshalk is, however, right to call the French method "literary" in at
least one sense I believe, given its firm connection with the tradition of
publishing classical plays so segmented (though whether that in turn derived
from MSS or from theater practice I do not know. I'd guess the former.) The
issue of the difference mainly arises in New Comedy, I would guess, since all
the tragedies I can remember are a continuous scene in the English sense, at
least the Chorus being present throughout after their first entrance. But
Plautus and Terence were the "first reads" anyway. The very fact that the
English method differs may telegraph an important point about the relative
independence of English theatrical traditions _from_ the literary as a genetic
matrix.
 
The phenomenology of the "scene break" itself  can be rather complicated.
Consider the "break" at Macbeth's lines "Hear it not Duncan...". In most
scripts this is chunked up as a new scene (I dont have my Folio to hand here),
yet on stage, the pause that follows is not an "end of scene" time for blowing
the nose or unwrapping a candy (crackle crackle) but represents the very real,
tense and silent moment in which Duncan is being killed. "Empty stage" here
means "scene horribly inaccessible -- imagine it yourselves" and the play will
continue to use that blankness relentlessly throughout -- all those
invisibilities here buckle.  On the other hand, a production of King Lear I
once saw staged the blinding scene in the hovel vacated only moments before by
Lear et al, with Gloster tied to the "Goneril" joint-stool, a very powerful
"jerking" use of our mistake about the meaning of "bare stage" at that point --
"you thought you were going to get a break didnt you, no chance folks".
 
For rehearsal convenience, therefore, by all means cut up WT 4.4. But the
complexities of ebb and flow, bareness and irruption, wont be fully solved by
either method, as Dave Evett noted, and though a director might choose to
"relocate" sections, it seems to me important that the "wide gap of time" that
is the scene be kept intact to counterweigh those first three acts.
 

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