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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Subtext
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0444.  Friday, 11 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Tiffany Rasovic <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Apr 1997 10:05:34 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0442  Qs: Subtext

[2]     From:   C. David Frankel <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Apr 1997 12:32:17 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0442  Qs: Subtext

[3]     From:   Eric Armstrong <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Apr 1997 14:02:13 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0442  Re: Subtext

[4]     From:   Moray McConnachie <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Apr 1997 00:34:39 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0442  Qs: Subtext

[5]     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Apr 1997 19:49:01 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0442  Subtext


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tiffany Rasovic <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Apr 1997 10:05:34 -0700
Subject: 8.0442  Qs: Subtext
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0442  Qs: Subtext

There is a book called Conformity and Conflict which contains an essay
called "Shakespeare in the Bush" by a Laura Bohanan.  While living in
Africa, she reads Hamlet and attempts to tell the story to the
tribe--the clash of cultural taboo/belief systems is hilarious and
illuminating, especially because it points out our own irrationality.
For example:  it is normal and desirable for the brother to marry his
deceased brother's wife;  they do not believe that ghosts can appear to
a person, and so on.

Yours TR

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C. David Frankel <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Apr 1997 12:32:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0442  Qs: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0442  Qs: Subtext

When Fiona Shaw, and others, claim that "There is no subtext" in
Shakespeare, I think what they are really saying is that the best way to
approach these plays is not as if you were in a 1950s Acting Class with
Lee Strasberg (and all the mental baggage that that image may cull up).
As Mike Field notes in his comment about Hamlet's question, characters
attempt to *do* things with language; they use language instrumentally.
And when they do so, the thing that they are attempting may not have
much to do with the the literal or surface meaning of the words.

cdf

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eric Armstrong <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Apr 1997 14:02:13 -0400
Subject: 8.0442  Re: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0442  Re: Subtext

Mike Fields asks of actors and directors "is there subtext in
Shakespeare" or something like it...

The long answer:

As an actor, I say yes, especially when you aren't the lead! Maybe I am
reading subtext wrong... but I think of it as any acting that I do where
I don't SAY what I am thinking or doing. Playing Antigonus in WT last
summer, I found that I had to have tons of subtext as I spoke my few and
sparse lines (except for my big speech before being gobbled up). React
react react (and almost no words).

That said, I think the "there is no subtext" in Shakespeare really
refers to the fact that actors find that they must act ON the language,
and not between the language (otherwise Hamlet would be 8 hours long,
not 4)... In other words, the line is "To be or not to be that is the
question" NOT "To be..... or not to be......That...... is the question".
Is there subtext?  Well, there are certainly many layers to what is
meant by those words...

Many times subtext means saying one thing while thinking another, and
subtext is the thinking. Hmmm... it seems to me that we must think more
than what we say if we are to allow for the many layers of the text to
be revealed in what we say. Those of the "you can only do one thing at a
time" school of acting might not approve here, but I must admit that I
don't have much patience for that kind of teaching so I will ignore it.
I've been chewing gum and walking for far too long to have that
argument.

"Madam, how like you this play" allows you to play with what you are
implying by each word of importance. If there were only one possible
meaning to the words "Madam", "like" and "play", English would have many
more words in it, and it would be so boring! But with an English that
requires us to imply and infer meaning from a number of possibilities,
we have the great pleasure of being able to fight for the meaning that
means most to us. (ah, I think I've just found the birth of criticism!)I
imagine that those who would argue that there is only one possible
meaning to that sentence (or any sentence) have never used an innuendo ,
exaggeration, hyperbole nor spoken sarcastically or facetiously...

The short answer: Madam, how like you THIS subtext?
        Madam, how LIKE you this subtext?
        Madam , HOW like you this subtext?
        Madam, how like you this SUBtext?

If you can say those as if they made sense, you can play it. If you want
it. But sometimes as cigar (or a sentence) is just a cigar... don't over
do
it .

Eric

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Moray McConnachie <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Apr 1997 00:34:39 +0100 (BST)
Subject: 8.0442  Qs: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0442  Qs: Subtext

Surely the "no subtext" point is that all the meaning a play-text can
generate is by definition part of the text, not of a mythical entity
which might be called the subtext. I too have heard this before, and it
seems to me rather uninteresting and something of a quibble. If one
perhaps talked about surface interpretation that might make things
easier.

Yours,
Moray McConnachie

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Apr 1997 19:49:01 +0100
Subject: 8.0442  Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0442  Subtext

I too have heard that there is no subtext in Shakespeare, everybody
always says what they mean, except sometimes there's that wink-nudge
sort of subtext that happens when someone who knows what we know is
talking to someone who doesn't know what we know, but that doesn't
count.

Also, characters in Shakespeare are not psychologically complicated,
they are more sensitive than we are to their emotional state, they
understand it, are unashamed of it, and can and will describe it
completely and articulately.  When they speak in soliloquy they always
tell the truth.
 

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