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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: September ::
Re: Conversations (in medias res)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 736. Saturday, 30 September 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Snehal Shingavi <
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  ITY.EDU
        Date:   Thursday, 28 Sep 95
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
(2)     From:   Imtiaz Habib <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Sep 95 20:42:21 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
(3)     From:   Steve Urkowitz <SURCC@CUNYVM>
        Date:   Thursday, 28 Sep 95 23:02:20 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
(4)     From:   Ed Pechter <PECHTER@CONU2.BITNET>
        Date:   Friday, 29 Sep 1995 11:07:19 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
(5)     From:   Jean Peterson <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Sep 1995 12:33:30 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
(6)     From:   Anna Cole <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Sep 1995 11:58:12 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Snehal Shingavi <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Sep 95 15:06:42 CDT
Subject: 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
Oothello is a play about deception and secrecy.  A lot of the unknown/untold
action of the play helps the audience to understand exactly why relationships
break down ... theirs starts to break down along the same lines. The Anthony
Hopkins as Othello production of this is very interesting in that respect: the
way that it uses whispering and turning away and movement really makes you
reconsider why the end is the only possible ending/outcome for the play.  I
also think that it is *just* a structural device, so it doesn't sound like
actors enter stage having a conversation about nothing ... it makes things
follow/flow more smoothly.  Also, the play is about uncovering motivations: for
evil in Iago, for jeaousy in Othello, for loyalty in Desdemona.  Attemping to
think about what's missing helps you think about what isn't (missing).
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Imtiaz Habib <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 28 Sep 95 20:42:21 EDT
Subject: 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
Hamlet and Lear also have a lot of that verbal "medias res" effect. Macbeth, it
seems to me,is an exception, and so is Antony and Cleopatra to a large degree.
 
Actually, remember also the beginning of The Merchant of Venice and As You Like
It.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <SURCC@CUNYVM>
Date:           Thursday, 28 Sep 95 23:02:20 EDT
Subject: 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
Conversations on entering . . .
 
This is a leverage trick that Shakespeare uses from the earliest plays onward.
In effect, it forces the actors to be "in  character" or "in action" even
before they move into the playing space.  The dramaturgy sometimes seems to be
about hurling actors in through doors in as many different ways as can be
managed.
 
It will be fun to watch experiments about the effects of beginning to talk at
or just before passing through the doors on the Globe reconstruction.  Mark
Rylance, are you tuned in?
 
                Accellerating,
                              Steve Urkowitz
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pechter <PECHTER@CONU2.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 29 Sep 1995 11:07:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
Amy Hughes's suggestion is interesting.  There are other plays that begin or
begin scenes in the middle of things in ways that create a felt need to reach
back to something earlier.  Antony & Cleopatra's "Nay but," for instance, but
then you quickly find out what they're talking about.  Hamlet begins with
references to "this thing" that are tantalizing & anxiety producing.  The final
scene of the same play begins with Hamlet asking Horatio to "remember all the
circumstance," presumably of an earlier conversation--a matter not clarified,
if at all, till much later in the scene.
 
But maybe Othello's a special case.  There's an old SQ article that points out
that the question "what is the matter?" recurs like a litany in the play.  The
strategy Amy Hughes points to seem to have the effect of putting us in the
position of asking "what is the matter?"  Add the emphasis upon "foregone
conclusions," the idea that belief depends upon some pretextual matter prior to
conscious understanding:  This accident is very like my dream, belief of it
oppresses me already.
 
How to perform this--you tell us.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 29 Sep 1995 12:33:30 -0400
Subject: 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
>Something I am noticing about the play is the fact that a good number of the
>scenes begin in mid-conversation. I am curious about the implications of this
>decive. Is it one Shakespeare often uses?
>
>Unlike any other play (to my knowledge), OTHELLO, indeed, opens in
>mid-conversation.
 
Look at *Antony and Cleo*-- "Nay, but, this passion of our general's o'erflows
the measure"--like *Othello*, not only in mid-converse, but mid-argument!  Same
thing in *Two Gentlemen*--"Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus"--also a
continuation of an argument that began "offstage."  Not to mention the brawling
start of *Shrew*, with Sly & the Hostess going at eachother in vulgar slang in
continuation of a verbal battle (and more--"You will not pay for the glasses
you have burst?") we've not witnessed the beginning of...there are probably
other examples that don't come as immediately to mind. So, yes, it's a
frequently used device...
 
WHY is an interesting question. In *A&C*, you can make a case for the play
itself as an interrogation of boundaries, "o'erflowing" even its own starting
point, (and certainly *shrew* plays with fictions and borderlines in similar
ways).  Maybe too a dramatic usage of the literary concept of "in media
res"--starting in the middle of things because it's a more interesting and
exciting point to take the plunge.  And I wish I could remember which of my
wise Shakespeare profs. of the past told us to regard the opening exchange of
most Shakespeare plays as the "DNA particle" in which the "imprint" of the
whole can be found--a principle I've found to be pretty much accurate.
 
How this will translate into theatrical terms is still another question. Keep
us informed!
 
Jean Peterson
Bucknell University
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anna Cole <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Sep 1995 11:58:12 GMT
Subject: 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0735  Q: Conversation in *Oth.*
 
With reference to Amy Hughes' query regarding Shakespeare's predilection for
opening a scene ostensibly in the middle of a conversation,  surely there is no
better way to engage an audience immediately with the play's action?
 
                                            Anna Cole
 

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