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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: September ::
Re: Ophelia; Videos; Vocabulary
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0958.  Thursday, 25 September 1997.

[1]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 13:02:20 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0901  Re: Ophelia and Clau

[2]     From:   Ed Pixley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 12:56:54 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0950  Re: BBC tapes are nice, how about

[3]     From:   Eric Armstrong <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 14:18:35 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0952  Re: Shakespeare's  Vocabulary


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 13:02:20 -0400
Subject: 8.0901  Re: Ophelia and Clau
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0901  Re: Ophelia and Clau

On the matter of Ophelia's songs.  From a naturalistic perspective it is
useful to recall a couple of features of early modern English life by
contrast with ours.  First, that people lived closer together,
physically and socially.  Houses tended to be clustered together; most
country folk lived in villages, or in large farmhouses housing not just
the farm family but their domestic servants and farm laborers, while
city houses opened onto crowded streets and shared walls with neighbors
on either side.  The exceptions were large mansions that housed, again,
not just the owner's family but servants and other dependents.
Aristocrats like Ophelia shared domestic space with the menials who
emptied the chamberpots and groomed the horses; a young girl might well
wander into the scullery or the stableyard at a time when somebody was
singing a bawdy song, or hear it at night from somebody out in the
street reeling home from the tavern.  the likelihood grows in a society
as devoted to singing as early modern English society appears to have
been.

But we might also look at it from dramatic perspective.  As our Welsh
Harrier never tires of reminding us, Ophelia is a complicated figure of
speech, not a person, and need not be accounted for by anything in
particular outside the text.  If that figure becomes more moving and
pertinent by singing lewd songs the songs need no other explanation.

Dave Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pixley <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 12:56:54 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0950  Re: BBC tapes are nice, how about
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0950  Re: BBC tapes are nice, how about

> Abigail Quart's plea for regional theater productions to become
> available to all interested, will probably remain unrealized for the
> foreseeable future.
>
> The reason I was given by theater professionals in Oregon, California,
> and Utah, is that they do not want their work seen that way.  While most
> regional theaters would love for PBS or CBS to properly tape and
> broadcast their productions - if it could be done in the Live From
> Lincoln Center style - that doesn't happen very often.  Many (most?)
> theaters tape their productions for archival purposes only.  This is
> usually done with one camera covering the entire stage.  It is not
> aesthetically pleasing.  Nothing comes over well.
>
> Theaters do not want tapes available to the public.  These tapes give a
> false impression of their work and would make them look bad, or at least
> worse.  Unless something unexpected changes, I suspect it will be a very
> long time before reputable theaters want their archival work available
> to the public.
>
> Best,
> Mike Jensen

Mike,  Your point makes sense as a general principle.  However, the
productions Abigail refers to, as well as the "King Lear" I ask for, and
the Guthrie "School for Scandal" (c. mid-70s) that I would also like to
see again and use in my classroom, were all broadcast on nationwide
television.  Despite Terence Hawkes' satisfaction at not being subjected
to them, I am still able to draw on the directing choices in all of
those productions for my teaching of Shakespeare, Sheridan, and Rostand
in the theatre.  I had no opportunity to see any of them in live
production (though the Lear was shot before a live audience at the
Delacort), and I cannot imagine any advantage to be gained from having
missed them on television.  Kathleen Widdoes' drenched (and later
"stuffed") Beatrice is the most memorable I have ever seen; James Earl
Jones' exit to prison handling his chains as reins and Raul Julia's rude
gesture on "Phht!" are as clear to me today as though I had seem them
last night; Lady Sneerwell's sudden loss of her wig when her plotting is
exposed is as vivid a tying together of word and action as the theatre
can provide.  Unfortunately, I believe the problem is legal.  Too many
contracts were involved in the original broadcast, and sorting out of
them for rebroadcast is almost impossible.  So for those who privately
taped those original broadcasts, and whose tapes have long since become
unusable, hope that our TV executives will renew their interest in
making new productions (as brilliant as those were) available to those
of us who do not have such ready access to the great theatre companies
of the world.

Ed Pixley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eric Armstrong <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 14:18:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0952  Re: Shakespeare's  Vocabulary
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0952  Re: Shakespeare's  Vocabulary

For an interesting take on Shakespeare's "mammoth" vocabulary compared
to our "wee" ones, read Stephen Pinker's exceptional _Language Instinct_
in which he shows how difficult it is a. to prove how big someone's
vocabulary is and b. how our personal vocabularies are really incredibly
huge because we have the ability to understand words developed out of
their component parts. He uses this 30,000 word vocabulary as a unit of
measurement ("8 Shakespeares"), much to my delight.

Eric Armstrong
 

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