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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: August ::
Re: Sea Travel; Barrymore
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0855.  Monday, 18 August 1997.

[1]     From:   Louis C Swilley <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Aug 1997 14:23:39 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0853 Re: Sea Travel

[2]     From:   John Owen <
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        Date:   Saturday, 16 Aug 1997 13:03:03 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0851 Re: Barrymore


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis C Swilley <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Aug 1997 14:23:39 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 8.0853 Re: Sea Travel
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0853 Re: Sea Travel

> L. Swilley's and C Edelman's responses to J. Mills' question about the
> sailing time from Rome to Alexandria seem unnecessarily dismissive of
> what is an interesting question. What would Shakespeare's audiences have
> perceived the appropriate sailing time to be? Does Shakespeare's
> handling of it serve to enhance a notion of fictionality or would his
> treatment have seemed realistic?
>
> Constance C. Relihan

Relihan's remonstrance of my and C. Edelman's "unnecessarily dismissive"
responses to J. Mill's question about the sailing time from Rome to
Alexandria might have been in order had the text of Antony & Cleopatra
specified a number of days or weeks for a crossing, but, as it appears,
it doesn't.  In III,vii, Antony observes, "Is it not strange, Canidius,/
That from Tarentum and Brundusium/ He could so quickly cut the Ionian
Sea,/ And take in Toryne?"  Later in the same scene, Canidius says,
"This speed of Caesar's/ Carries beyond belief." Moreover, there is no
reference anywhere else in the play to the number of months, weeks,
days, etc. required to accomplish anything.  I believe Shakespeare
frequently foreshortens time to make his points; see, for example,
Richard II, II,i, ll. 224ff, where we have news of Bolingbroke expected
momentarily to "touch our northern shores," although Richard has not yet
left for Ireland.

It may be generally interesting to know how long it took the ancients to
cross Mare Nostrum, and it may have great interest for the precise
historian, but it has nothing to tell the student of the play, Antony &
Cleopatra.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Owen <
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Date:           Saturday, 16 Aug 1997 13:03:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0851 Re: Barrymore
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0851 Re: Barrymore

>Booth too, by the way. And Gillette, Benson, Irving, Gielgud, Maurice Evans,
Forbes-Robertson, early Ashcroft. The point is not their
*conversational*
believability.<

No, but they must be recognizable human figures, to the point where the
audience can connect in some way with their performances. Unfortunately,
it seems that Barrymore was either unwilling or unable in his later
career to tone down his mannerisms for a radio audience. Thus, in the
famous Shakespearean battle of the airwaves, it is actually Burgess
Meredith who wins the points for his Hamlet. Though all the vocal
acrobatics are employed, unlike Barrymore Meredith actually seems to be
putting some effort into the interpretation. (In all fairness to JB, his
1928 recording of "O what a rogue and peasant slave..." is quite
electrifying. Nine years of alcoholism and disillusionment seem to have
really taken their toll.)

I think I understand Mr. Hill's point, but I am unwilling to give up
completely the idea of an eternal battle between realism and recitation.
I think of Hamlet's periwig-pated fellow, or poor Mr. Partridge in Tom
Jones, so disappointed in Garrick who acted just as anyone would who had
seen a ghost. And even Booth, in that one, priceless recording of "Most
potent, grave and reverend signiors....", though he is clearly
"performing", nevertheless shows a surprising simplicity and lack of
affectation. While early Ashrcroft-well, can I help thinking of the
crofter's wife in 39 Steps, a gentle, unaffected performance? Perhaps
what I am getting at is that we expect the performer to try to
communicate, to possess an awareness of the medium in use and the
composition of the audience and be willing to adapt to these changing
circumstances-not merely memorize some strange, symbolic language of
recitation and bark it out on cue.

John Owen
 

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