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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Characters: Portia; Lady Macbeth
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0094.  Tuesday, 21 January 1997.

(1)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Monday, 20 Jan 1997 12:10:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0085  Re: Lady Macbeth

(2)     From:   Jenny Lowood <
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        Date:   Monday, 20 Jan 1997 13:52:22 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0085 Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar

(3)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Monday, 20 Jan 1997 15:35:20 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0085  Re: Portia

(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 20 Jan 1997 15:39:20 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0085  Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar

(5)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 20 Jan 1997 15:31:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0085  Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jan 1997 12:10:11 -0500
Subject: 8.0085  Re: Lady Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0085  Re: Lady Macbeth

No doubt our actress can show us a faked faint, but if she has any sense of
theater she'll just pass out as convincingly as possible and leave it at that.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jenny Lowood <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jan 1997 13:52:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0085 Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0085 Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar

L. Swilley writes that "There has been nothing except *talk* of Stoicism,
earlier in the written play, to warrant any other response."  I beg to differ.
Brutus' primary act of agreeing to conspire against Caesar despite his own
feelings, his love for the man, is an act of stoicism.  The fact that Brutus is
a stoic, in other words, explains his character and motivation in a very basic
way.

                      Jenny Lowood

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jan 1997 15:35:20 -0500
Subject: 8.0085  Re: Portia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0085  Re: Portia

Portia's knife will penetrate most gowns of any length or century.  If she
cannot be convinced to stab herself onstage, the torn fabric and spreading
stain will give her something to point to (if she *must* point) without
spoiling the decorum of her self-mutilation.

But I say decorum be damned:

   Think you I am no stronger than my sex
   Being so father'd and so husbanded?
      [ripping her skirt open she exposes her thigh and plunges her dagger
       into it.]
   Tell me your counsels, I will not disclose 'em.
   I have made strong proof of my constancy,
   Giving myself a voluntary wound
   Here in the thigh.  Can I bear that with patience
   And not my husband's secrets?

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jan 1997 15:39:20 -0500
Subject: 8.0085  Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0085  Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar

John Velz writes,

>If you garb Portia in a traditional mater familias's
>floor-length dress, you just can't stage the scene as written without getting
>unwanted laughter or gasps of disapproval from the audience. Our more decorous
>slight lifting of the long skirt to show the calf never elicited anything but
>sympathy and respect for Portia of a kind I think Shakespeare wanted his
>audience to feel.  Yet Shakespeare, a man of the theater, wrote the line with
>full awareness that his Roman women would be wearing floor lenth full-skirted
>dresses. Even if he dressed Portia as an Elizabethan matron, the same staging
>problem would obtain. One wonders how the Lord Chamberlain's Men handled this
>line and its staging problem.

One simple solution is to have her point to her inner thigh. It's not mandatory
that she lift her skirts.  (Okay, Terence . . . that he lift his skirts.)

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 20 Jan 1997 15:31:40 -0500
Subject: 8.0085  Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0085  Re: Characters: Lady Macbeth; Portia; Caesar

Terence Hawkes writes of Lady Macbeth:

" I am assured by experts that 'she' is in any case male."

I find this comment rather puzzling.  Does he mean that Lady is gendered male
in the play script? Does he mean that the Macbeths enjoy a homosexual union (in
their fictional world of Scotland)?  Or does he mean that Lady was probably
played by a male actor on the early seventeenth century stage?  My reading of
Stephen Orgel's <italic>Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in
Shakespeare's England</italic> influences my hesitant "probably played."  As
Orgel says, "the claim of an all-male public stage at the very least needs some
serious qualification" (10).

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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