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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: December ::
Re: Shakespeare and the Unities
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0897.  Sunday, 1 December 1996.

(1)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Wednesday,  27 Nov 1996 11:15 ET
        Subj:   SHK 7.0888  Q: Shakespeare and the Unities

(2)     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Nov 1996 14:46:47 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Italian Unities


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Wednesday,  27 Nov 1996 11:15 ET
Subject: Q: Shakespeare and the Unities
Comment:        SHK 7.0888  Q: Shakespeare and the Unities

Sidney does in fact complain of the failure of English drama to observe the
unities, since even _Gorboduc_, the best he knows, "is faulty both in place and
time, the two necessary companions of all corporal actions.  For where the
stage should always represent but one place, and the uttermost time presupposed
in it should be, both by Aristotle's precept gand common reason, but one day,
there is both many days and many places inartificially imagined." Such matters
were presumably discussed and even observed in and around the academic drama of
Oxford and Cambridge.  English theatrical practice, indeed, was far
different--"But if it be so in _Gorboduc_, how much more in all the rest, where
you shall have Asia of the one side, and Afric of the other, and so many
under-kingdoms that the player, when he comes in, much ever begin with telling
where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived?"  This sounds a lot like
_Tamburlane_, though Sidney's _Defense_ is usually thought to have been written
before Marlowe's epics took the stage.  Shakespeare, of course, observes the
unities pretty closely in _Err_, the play most closely based on classical
models, and in _Tem_, though both take advantage of the generalized Elizabethan
stage to blur distinctions of place; it's worth thinking about the ways in
which the formal constraints operate to enhance the probability of
improbability and the urgency of time, themes in both plays.  Otherwise, he and
his contemporaries--even Jonson, the most classical of them--seem disposed to
treat the strict unities as just one among many structural options.

Neo-classically,
Dave Evett

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Nov 1996 14:46:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Italian Unities

In response to the question about the so-called Unities, I can add that
Machiavelli -- no mean playwright himself -- did some wonderful lampooning of
this concept in his 'Mandragola', in the 1500's.

The wickedest take he has on it comes when the protagonist finally bags his
lady for a tryst, and in order to excuse the passage of an entire night before
the next scene resumes, ol' Mach has a guy come out and say that the Unities
are still preserved, since nobody will be getting much sleep under the
circumstances (least of all the hero).

I'm sure there are other satires of this concept, but this has to be my
favorite.

Andy White
Urbana, IL
 

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