1998

Henry V's Answer to William

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1126  Thursday, 12 November 1998.

From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 14:16:23 -0500
Subject:        Re: Henry V's Answer to William

Mike Jensen writes,

> Thoughts of that reality mingled with lines from Shakespeare in my mind,
> most especially lines from the "little touch of Harry in the night"
> scenes in HENRY V .  What is the responsibility of the man in the
> trench?  What is the responsibility of the leaders who send them into
> battle?  What is the impact on those who survive, and who gets the
> credit or the blame?  The promise of honor may be a motivator, but where
> is honor when all those arms and legs chopped off in battle, etc.

I wonder if the members of the List are satisfied by Henry V's response
to William about the responsibility of leaders in HenV,IV.i.  I have my
thoughts, but I would be interested in what others think.

Re: Poland; Fortinbras; Maps; Ham. Qs

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1125  Thursday, 12 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Skip Nicholson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 11:23:02 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1123  Re: Poland

[2]     From:   Kristine Batey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 13:52:59 -0600
        Subj:   Re: Fortinbras

[3]     From:   Michael Ullyot <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thu, 12 Nov 1998 10:56:49 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1115 Re: Maps of Play Settings

[4]     From:   Ed Friedlander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 06:52:49
        Subj:   Katherine Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Nicholson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 11:23:02 -0800
Subject: 9.1123  Re: Poland
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1123  Re: Poland

> Andrew Walker writes:

> Then again, a third possibility presents itself; knowing much of his
> audience wouldn't care if he got his geography wrong, the playwright set
> up Norway on the same land-mass as Denmark.  A few hundred years
> before Gondwanaland, even ...

I've always been told that "in Hamlet's time" (!) Elsinore was in the
center of Denmark, meaning that a big hunk of what is now southern
Sweden was then Danish soil-and on the same land-mass as Norway. Have I
been most notoriously abused?

Cheers,
Skip Nicholson
South Pasadena (CA) HS

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristine Batey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 13:52:59 -0600
Subject:        Re: Fortinbras

Andy White wrote:

>This talk of maps reminds me, something I've puzzled over for some
>time.  When Claudius learns of Fortinbras' intent to march through
>Denmark on the way to Poland, he must know this is either a) a stupid
>stratagem, since sailing through the strait at Elsinore and into the
>Baltic would get him there in no time, or b) a military threat, thinly
>veiled as a request for permission to march through.
>
>This scenario  has led me in the past to stage Fortinbras' return to
>Elsinore as a full-out attack.  It may have been that, given the theory
>of humours, Shakespeare intended the arrival of a red-headed royal as a
>happy ending.  But this is a hostile element, taking over the castle.
>What gives?

I'd go with b). And I don't think I'd say Fortinbras' arrival was
intended as a "happy" ending. It's a resolution, certainly, and one
could say that it returns the world to equilibrium.

Hamlet is a tragedy in the classical sense: hero of high stature brought
down as a result of a fatal flaw, a personal act so heinous that he
cannot live. Arguably, it's Claudius who has the fatal flaw-I've
mentioned before on this list the idea that the play is standard tragedy
viewed from a skewed perspective, and the Claudius is actually the
tragic hero. Hamlet himself has neglected to take action to prevent the
ascension to the throne of a murderer and usurper.

In the 20th century, we're accustomed to seeing personal tragedy unfold
on the stage. Hamlet is a personal tragedy, but it's also tragedy in a
grand sense. In a world where the position of royalty is established by
God, the commission of, shall we say, high crimes and misdemeanors by
the sovereign imperils the entire nation's place in the order of the
universe. The sovereign isn't just the head of state, he is The State.
When the king violates the order God has ordained for the universe, the
entire State falls with him.

I've done my share of carping about the Branagh Hamlet, but I'd have to
say that it's the first version of the play I've seen that really
expresses how integral the Fortinbras subplot is the play as a whole.
I've heard it said that Fortinbras is included in the play only to
provide a device for getting all those bodies offstage at the end, there
being no curtains in theaters. Many productions seem to follow that
logic; many end the play with Horatio's "Good night, sweet prince" line.
That is indeed the end of the personal tragedy, but the bigger tragedy,
the disruption in the fabric of the universe, requires that the
sovereignty of the House of Hamlet be totally destroyed, and Denmark as
an entity with it. It's an important conceptual point that the
well-being of the state rests on the moral impeccability of its rulers,
not only in a practical sense but in a metaphysical one.

We're still wrestling with this idea, of course, particularly in the US
of late.

Kristine Batey
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Ullyot <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thu, 12 Nov 1998 10:56:49 +0000
Subject: 9.1115 Re: Maps of Play Settings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1115 Re: Maps of Play Settings

Kevin Donovan responds facetiously on the subject of maps of
Shakespeare's play settings:

>Be sure to include the seacoast of Bohemia, the topography of Illyria
>and Messaline, and the readiest shortcut from Norway through Denmark to
>Poland.

While Jarrett Walker continues in the same vein, before making this wry
observation:

> To demand a map is to lose track of Shakespeare's essence as a
>stage-artist, whose power to shift the scene in a moment freed him from
>tyrannies of time and distance.  His distortions and confusions, more
>than any "accurate" map, will lead your students to his real geography.

Time AND distance, indeed. Drafting a map of Shakespearean geography
seems to me as perilous as attempting a chronology of medieval history
based on the history plays: Shakespeare's imagination is resolutely
unconfined by the dictates of time and space. Even outside of the
histories: witness the words of the Chorus Time, midway through _The
Winter's Tale_:

        ...Impute it not a crime
     To me or my swift passage, that I slide
     O'er sixteen years and leave the growth untried
     Of that wide gap, since it is in my power
     To o'erthrow law and in one self-born hour
     To plant and o'erwhelm custom.

This might be read as Shakespeare's authorial voice protruding through
the surface of fiction, if one takes the playwright as an
overdetermining presence in his play, capable of manipulating time and
space to bend them to his will.

It seems, then, unproductive to plot Shakespeare's settings onto
existing topography, particularly in the interest of belittling his
sense of basic geography (seacoasts in Bohemia, and the like), when what
is really at work in plays like _The Winter's Tale_ are the forces of
tyranny and reconciliation, taking place against a physical backdrop
only incidental to their interplay-and that, even in the history plays,
time and space are secondary considerations.

But even that statement seems a belittling of their importance, since
even in plays seemingly grounded in the "real" world of known geography
and chronology (as is the case of the histories), Shakespeare telescopes
and rearranges events. What we need for this discussion is a study of
the topography of the history plays-does Shakespeare treat their
geography as malleable, as he does that of his more "fictional" plays?
What these inchoate ideas give rise to is really the larger question of
the extent to which Shakespeare's imagination is bounded by the dictates
of the known world-of chronology, of historical cause and effect, of the
relative spatial relations of locales within his plays.

Any thoughts?

Michael Ullyot

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Friedlander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 06:52:49 CST
Subject:        Katherine Hamlet

Trying to learn more about the background of "Hamlet".  Would appreciate
hearing from others on the list or personally to me at

   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I am told that a lady named Katherine Hamlet drowned accidentally

I am also told that a lady named Alice suicided in a well in Stratford.

Are these stories well-attested?

For a while I did the medical examiner's job in Kansas City.  Looking at
Ophelia's history and acute behavior, I would have signed her death out
as an accident. But in "Hamlet", Shakespeare seems to leave questions
deliberately unanswered ("Does the queen know...", etc.)

What documentation of the historic Amleth exists?  Anything older than
Saxo?

Thanks.

Re: Maps; Comedy; Poland; Shrews; Reviews

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1123  Wednesday, 11 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Chris J. Fassler <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 10:28:06 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Maps of Play Settings

[2]     From:   Ed Pixley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 14:53:16 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1101  Re: Puck and Comedy

[3]     From:   Andrew Walker White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 11:06:01 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Norway to Poland

[4]     From:   Robin Hamilton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 15:30:35 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1117  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

[5]     From:   Richard A Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 15:56:12 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Chron review of Burt and Bloom

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris J. Fassler <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 10:28:06 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Maps of Play Settings

Ray Lischner,

I, too, thought of the Asimov book for its maps--the rest is a sometimes
bizarre popularization.

Another book I find useful for Britain and France is Martin Gilbert's
_Atlas of British History_, 2nd ed. (Oxford UP, 1993).

Cordially,
Chris Fassler

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pixley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 14:53:16 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.1101  Re: Puck and Comedy
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1101  Re: Puck and Comedy

Thanks to both David and Skip for sharing the following tragic/comic
concepts. Both of them are extremely useful to me and, though this may
be exposing my ignorance, I don't recall ever seeing them expressed in
quite these ways before. David, if you have it handy, would you mind
sending me the Susan Snyder reference where she provides this
definition.  You may send it off-list.

Unexpected little gems like these help make this list fun to follow.

Ed Pixley
SUNY-Oneonta.

>  The
> operational definitions suggested by Susan Snyder two decades ago seem
> to be to have much more than merely Linnaean usefulness.  Comedies are
> plays in which in important ways causality is relaxed: people get second
> chances.  Tragedies are plays in which it operates with relentless
> rigor: second chances are denied or snatched away.

> Tragically-comically-historically,
> David Evett

> I was taught that comedies end in a marriage-or an imminent marriage-
> and so assure the continuation of the race. Tragedies end with the
> truncation of a family line (Hamlet, Juliet and her beau, Laertes,
> Ophelia, Cordelia and the rest are only children or die with their
> siblings; those already married die childless-Macbeth, Othello,
> Cleopatra...) and imply a lessening of humanity.

> Cheers,
> Skip Nicholson

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 11:06:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Norway to Poland

This talk of maps reminds me, something I've puzzled over for some
time.  When Claudius learns of Fortinbras' intent to march through
Denmark on the way to Poland, he must know this is either a) a stupid
stratagem, since sailing through the strait at Elsinore and into the
Baltic would get him there in no time, or b) a military threat, thinly
veiled as a request for permission to march through.

This scenario  has led me in the past to stage Fortinbras' return to
Elsinore as a full-out attack.  It may have been that, given the theory
of humours, Shakespeare intended the arrival of a red-headed royal as a
happy ending.  But this is a hostile element, taking over the castle.
What gives?

Then again, a third possibility presents itself; knowing much of his
audience wouldn't care if he got his geography wrong, the playwright set
up Norway on the same land-mass as Denmark.  A few hundred years before
Gondwanaland, even ...

Any theories out there?

Cheers,
Andy White
Arlington, VA

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 15:30:35 -0000
Subject: 9.1117  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1117  Re: Shrews Behaving Badly

Jean Peterson writes:

>to suggest that modeling your life after a
>Shakespearean character was a pretty bad idea to begin with. So I cited
>the Coriolanus line because it conceptualizes an ideal of
>"self-authorship", self-invention, a concept that has been crucial to my
>development as a thinking, rational, autonomous human being (and don't
>write in to tell me how he fails at it; I've read the play and I know
>how it ends).

I'm not sure that your final remark really gets you out of
de-contextualising the line, as it's not simply the ending which calls
it into question.

The final sentence of the speech (V,iii,34-37) reads:

                                                         I'll never
        Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand
        As if a man were author of himself
        And knew no other kin.

Crucially, Shakespeare links self-authorship with the rejection of
kinship-the speech is, after all, provoked by the powerful dramatic icon
of the appearance of Coriolanus' mother, wife, and child.  Removing the
context, both immediate and wider in the play, removes the way in which
Shakespeare is both exploring and challenging it.  I'd also disagree
with the implications of your "don't  write in to tell me how he fails
at it," since I'd see the tragedy of Coriolanus as not his failure to
live up to the statement, but into his falling-back into it at the end.
He dies on the walls of Corioli +rejecting+ the title "boy", which links
him to the rest of humanity.

It's also worth remembering that the first character to come out with
this particular kind of statement is Richard of Gloucester in _Henry VI_
(V, vii, 84):

        I had no father, I am like no father;
        I have no brother, I am like no brother;
        And this word, 'love', which greybeards call divine,
        Be resident in men like one another
        And not in me -- I am myself alone.

Between Richard of Gloucester and Coriolanus, Shakespeare spends quite a
lot of imaginative energy exploring the tension between the idea of the
individual as isolated self-creator, and the impact of such individuals
on wider society.

Also relevant is the context which the idea has at the time that
Shakespeare is writing.  It's being explored by other dramatists than
Shakespeare, and we could maybe see him bracketed by Marlowe, who at
least in _Tamburlaine_ 1 accepts the idea relatively unequivocally, and
Jonson on the other who in figures like Volpone and Epicure Mammon, not
surprisingly given Jonson's general stance, rejects it pretty
completely.

Beyond the dramatists, the poets are at it too-most obviously Donne in
_The First Anniversary_ where "evey man does think that he has got / To
be a phoenix" [probably misquoted-I didn't check the wording!].

Beyond that (and let's make this the furthest I carry it!) there is if
not the origin, at least the most radical expression of the concept in
Pico della Mirandola's _Oration on the Dignity of Man_, where God says
to Adam:

"We have made thee ... immortal ... so that with freedom of choice and
with honour, as though the maker and molder of thyself, thou mayest
fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer."

How radical this is around the time Shakespeare is writing can be seen
in the (as far as I know) only [unacknowledged] Anglicisation of this
passage from Pico, the English translation of Romei's _Courtier's
Academie_, where this particular extreme statement of human
self-creation and potentiality is silently dropped.

[To be honest, I'm don't know whether it vanishes when Romei translates
Pico's Latin into Italian, or when Romei's Italian is in turn translated
into English-maybe someone could help me out here?  And I hope the
point, for whatever it's worth, stands either way.]

I'm not making these points to suggest that Shakespeare necessarily knew
Pico's work (tho' there is a _Notes and Queries_ article from, I think,
the late forties, linking Hamlet's 'What a piece of work is man' to
Pico's _Heptaplus_), as to draw attention to the way in which
Coriolanus' words that Jean Patterson quotes-and like her, I find them
fascinating and powerful-touch on what was a live and sensitive issue in
the early seventeenth century.  An issue, moreover, which isn't dead
today, since for Marlowe, Shakespeare and Jonson, in this context, I'd
substitute Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Camus.

All this isn't, I hope, to put Shakespeare is some safe historical
ghetto where we can admire him for his quaint ideas.  Rather, I'd
suggest that whether or not we agree with his ideas, the sense that some
(at the very least) of these ideas were living issues for him as well as
ourselves gives his dramatic exploration of them an immediate
pertinency.

I should point out, in case I'm misunderstood, that this isn't directed
at either Dr. Patterson or Dr. Barton, both of whom, despite their
violent disagreements, treat Shakespeare with a seriousness that I like
to think I share.

>Sigh. It's true what the post-modernists have been saying all along:
>language IS an unreliable conductor of meaning.

I may be old-fashioned, but I'd still say that meaning can't exist
independently of language.  But then I'm an unreconstructed Saussurean,
and I'd date the rot in structuralism/post-structuralism/post-modernism
from the point when Barthes turned from _Elements of Semiology_ and
_Writing Degree Zero_ to the Death of the Author.  Interesting, isn't
it, how those two texts never seemed to get cited by the theorists?

Or is it that the French decided that history began in 1967, when
Derrida Revealed the True Gospel to the worshipping multitudes at Johns
Hopkins?
<sigh>

>I am still curious about why discussions of this play
>tend to invoke such fiercely personal defenses

Two possible reasons:  nobody gets excited over _Two Gents_ or _Comedy_
because neither are as 'engaging' as _The Shrew_; and people get more
+personally+ involved over _The Shrew_ than _Much Ado_ because _Much
Ado_, finally, is a better play, and provokes a cooler response.

Robin Hamilton

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard A Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 15:56:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Chron review of Burt and Bloom

The current issue of the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ (November 13)
has a short commentary comparing and contrasting my book, _Unspeakable
ShaXXspeares_, with Harold Bloom's _Shakespeare: The Invention of the
Human_.  It's in the column entitled "Hot Type" and is written by Scott
Heller.

A forthcoming review of my book in _The New York Press_ by William
Monahan also makes the comparison / contrast.

Best,
Richard

Shakespeare's Pacifism

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1124  Thursday, 12 November 1998.

From:           Steven Marx <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 10:42:29 -0800
Subject:        Shakespeare's Pacifism

There's a long article called "Shakespeare's Pacifism" in Renaissance
Quarterly  Spring 1992 that considers the topic in light of the
Renaissance debate between Erasmians and Machiavellians especially as
those views were expounded in Tudor and Stuart courts.  The article can
also be found on the web at

http://www.multimedia.calpoly.edu/libarts/smarx/Publications/pacifism.html

Steven Marx

Re: How to act as Romeo

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1122  Wednesday, 11 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 09:02:37 CST6CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[2]     From:   Andrew Walker White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 11:15:53 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[3]     From:   Mike Sirofchuck <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 07:48:40 -0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[4]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 23:05:27 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[5]     From:   Skip Nicholson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 23:01:56 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[6]     From:   Marilyn A. Bonomi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 11:03:30 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

[7]     From:   Cora Lee Wolfe <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 21:13:22 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 09:02:37 CST6CDT
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

I would encourage Leslie Kuo and his colleagues _not_ to modify
Shakespeare's language in their selection of scenes from _Romeo and
Juliet_. None of the language in this play is especially difficult; most
people are familiar with the story and have probably seen stage or film
productions. "Thou" and "you" had different connotations in Elizabethan
English (analogous to other languages with formal and familiar forms of
the second person), and even though those are lost in contemporary
English, it surely won't be confusing to retain them in the play. At
least a good part of the glory of Shakespeare's plays is the language;
modifying it in ways that you suggest does a disservice to both the
plays and to the audience.

Chris Gordon

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 11:15:53 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

Above all else, enjoy yourself.  That's the key, since this is a first
effort, in your teens.

By all means, think of your audience and make some changes in the
language, especially when you find your fellow cast members haven't a
clue what you're talking about.  You'll be doing this for your high
school, so any strategic replacement of words will help them to keep up
with the action.  Only be sure not to mess with the meter, and even in
prose passages try to preserve the rhythms of the original.

If you have time, look at facsimile editions of R&J.  The punctuation in
the Folio, for instance, may give you some good clues about where to
breathe, and which words might be most important.

As for books, check out anything by Lord Laurence Olivier and Sir John
Gielgud, who in their prime were the opposite ends of the pole, in terms
of interpretation.  Olivier saw Romeo as intensely physical, whereas
Gielgud favored the more pensive, poetic soul.  By sheer coincidence,
they tailored their Romeos to what they knew to be their strengths as
actors.  That's another clue for you:  see what kind of persona you can
project most successfully, and use that as a starting point.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Andy White

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Sirofchuck <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 07:48:40 -0900
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

>And another question, do we need to adjust some rarely used words in the
>original play into their modern counterparts.

Please, God, no, no, no!  Give your audience some credit

> but it will be easier both for the actors/actresses and the
>audience.

Heaven forbid anybody have to work at this - Fast food Shakespeare for
all!

Our high school drama class has performed several Shakespeare plays in
recent years without changing any language - the actors and audience
survived intact with only minor abrasions.

Mike Sirofchuck
Kodiak HS

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 23:05:27 -0500
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

>I am a college sophomore, who will act as Romeo this December. The drama
>we will put on will only include five scenes of the play: Romeo meets
>Juliet; balcony; wedding; kills Tybalt; dead. I am wondering if some of
>you can offer me some tips or suggestions that will improve our
>contemporary work, no matter the settings, the language tones, etc.
>
>And another question, do we need to adjust some rarely used words in the
>original play into their modern counterparts. For instance, thou to you;
>wouldst to would; overperch to fly over? I know it may sound a little
>bit awkward, but it will be easier both for the actors/actresses and the
>audience.

Dear Leslie--

First, best of luck in your production.

Second, I doubt that the particular adaptations you describe will make
much difference to comprehension, and in the case of "fly over" you'll
wreck the scansion of the line.   And scansion's a really important
issue in this particular play-remember, you're playing a guy who is so
romantic and so steeped in literature that he automatically falls into a
sonnet when he meets Juliet.   Yes, it's a bit artificial, but in
Romeo's case, that's the whole point.   I'd recommend wholesale cutting
sooner than rewrites.

Also, chances are your college audience has read the play or seen at
least one movie version of it before.  I wouldn't worry too much about
their not understanding these major scenes; especially not if you speak
the words clearly and understand what you yourself are doing  (whatever
character and action choices you may make).

Hope this helps--

Melissa D. Aaron
University of Michigan

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Nicholson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Nov 1998 23:01:56 -0800
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

Leslie Kuo,

> And another question, do we need to adjust some rarely used words in the
> original play into their modern counterparts. For instance, thou to you;
> wouldst to would; overperch to fly over? I know it may sound a little
> bit awkward, but it will be easier both for the actors/actresses and  the
> audience.

No. You can cut lines, move them, assign them to other speakers... but
you can't "write new Shakespeare."  If your actors need contemporary
language, why not put on a contemporary play instead of R&J?

Cheers,
Skip Nicholson
South Pasadena (CA) HS

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn A. Bonomi <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 11:03:30 -0500
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

Given the fact that you plan to present only the five scenes you've
listed, you've simplified the job enormously:  he's the ultimate
romantic hero, handsome, verbally gifted, talented with the sword,
devoted and dedicated to his love above all else, and finally... oops!
We've just run into the problem w/ your plan!  SUICIDAL.  But except for
one line in 2.6, there's no significant support for his suicidal
tendencies in the scenes you're proposing to present.

Best suggestion, if you want to establish some character substrate w/in
the constraints you've set up, is to do something really significant w/
the passage in 2.6 (sorry, doing this from memory... may not be
absolutely accurate)

R (to Friar):
Do thou but close our hands with holy words
Then love-devouring death do what he dare
It is enough I may but call her mine.

These lines support an interpretation of Romeo as much more in love w/
himself and his own romanticizing than w/ Juliet... and also illustrate
that Romeo, despite his efforts to "ope [Rosaline's] lap with
saint-seducing gold," is not a particularly testosterone-driven
adolescent.

So you may also want to do something w/ Romeo's response in 2.2 to
Juliet's "What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?" when he answers
NOT w/ some desire for a kiss (which at least Cyrano and Christian had
the sense to desire in THAT balcony scene!) but with a desire only for
the exchange of Juliet's "faithful vow for mine."

Language?  That's one I confess to being a total traditionalist on-but
insisting that doing it the way Shakespeare "wrote it" is so risky, b/c
of course we may never know precisely what he wrote.  And given the
truncation you've chosen, changing the pronouns and updating the
occasional obscure word won't do any more "sacrilege" to the text.

Just do me a favor, please: DON'T call it "William Shakespeare's _Romeo
and Juliet_" the way that egregious movie (More properly titled _West
Coast Story_) did!

Good luck-I hope your purpose is to make Shakespeare come alive for a
novice audience, not to make him "modern" for those deemed incapable of
achieving an appreciation of the Bard naked in his own bed!

Marilyn A. Bonomi

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cora Lee Wolfe <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 11 Nov 1998 21:13:22 -0700
Subject: 9.1116  How to act as Romeo
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1116  How to act as Romeo

> Leslie Kuo <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

> And another question, do we need to adjust some rarely used words in the
> original play into their modern counterparts. For instance, thou to you;
> wouldst to would; overperch to fly over? I know it may sound a little
> bit awkward, but it will be easier both for the actors/actresses and the
> audience.

In most cases, the way the line is delivered, as in the case above, will
make the meaning absolutely clear.  Don't sacrifice the poetry.  Almost
always its ambiguity is what makes it interesting.

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