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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: September ::
Re: Editorial/Interpretational Practices
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0855  Thursday, 17 September 1998.

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 09:53:51 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational Practices

[2]     From:   Penelope Rixon <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 19:03:09 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0852  Qs: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Practices

[3]     From:   Tiffany Rasovic <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 19:07:31 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0852  Qs: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Practices

[4]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 19:44:38 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0852 Q: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Practices


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 09:53:51 -0400
Subject:        Re: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational Practices

Justin Bacon writes

> I have recently been exposed to a minor overview of Tucker's theories
> (regarding how the First Folio text can be used by actors to suggest
> interpretation, inflection etc.). I am interested in hearing other's
> views on his theories.

You'll find discussion of Tucker's theories in the archives of SHAKSPER.

> For example, I was recently catching up on SHAKSPER mail after an
> absence of a few months and discovered the thread discussing the
> possibility of Ophelia's family being incestuous. Of course it makes for
> an interesting line of thought, but the play you end up with is wholly
> different from the one which Shakespeare wrote.

If you are in possession of the "play...which Shakespeare wrote" I urge
you to turn it over to proper authorities immediately. Everyone else is
struggling with texts at varying distances from the object of awe to
which you refer.

> Does it not make more sense that if we religiously follow a good text
> that we will come closer to Shakespeare's original work than through any
> other process we have available?

Do you think that "Shakespeare's original work" is the manuscript he
wrote, or the performance of it by the acting company? If an actor
suggested a change during rehearsal (pace Tucker) and Shakespeare took
it up, where does that alteration of the 'text' fit in your model?

> Of course the typesetters made mistakes
> and deviated in some ways, but *they* had something as close to
> Shakespeare's actual manuscript as conceivably possible-a luxury we do
> not have.

Sounds like you think the "actual manuscript" is the ideal you want
editors to recover. Good for you. Other people, many of them involved in
practical theatre, value the collaborative first performances over the
written word which preceded them. Editors might choose to strive towards
either goal, or some other goal. But I hope you can see that they can't
strive for both goals at once, and hence different editors have
different policies. There are other more complicated reasons why editors
don't agree on the "simple" text you seek, but preference for 'page' or
'stage' is one of the biggest reasons for the failure to `KISS' which
you have observed.

Gabriel Egan

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Penelope Rixon <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 19:03:09 -0000
Subject: 9.0852  Qs: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0852  Qs: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Practices

Justin:

What you are saying both about text and production sounds attractive on
the surface, but the minute any of your propositions is explored in
detail, all sorts of problems arise.  Firstly, if you have ever written
for a company of performers, even at the most basic amateur level, you
realise how unreliable your written text might be.  Quite often your
written version is simply a rough draft, and once you get down to
performance you make all sorts of changes in response to what happens in
rehearsal.  Today if you are going to publish your work you record those
changes, but if you are solely interested in performance and don't care
about the printed version, you might not bother to do so.  What is more,
if you are writing for a company you work with regularly, you leave even
more to be decided in performance because you know that together with
the actors you will work out a viable version, and once again, if all
you care about is what happens on the stage, someone printing your
script later might have something that bears very little relation to the
art work you created.  Isn't it possible that Shakespeare was in that
kind of position?

I know what you mean about directors, and after having sat through three
turgid hours of some egomaniac's distorted view of Hamlet, it's tempting
to say 'Let's get back to simple Shakespeare'.  Unfortunately there's no
such thing,  There are good, bad, and indifferent interpretations of his
plays, but the idea that somewhere out there is the definitive text or
performance is fiction.  I think that 'concept' productions are what you
call ones that don't work.  The ones that do are simply brilliant, like
Brooke's Dream and Deborah Warner's Titus. Hope to hear your responses:
this is a debate I've had with many students over the years, and one
that needs to be aired every now and then.

Penny

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tiffany Rasovic <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 19:07:31 -0400
Subject: 9.0852  Qs: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0852  Qs: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Practices

Dear Justin,

"There are more things in heaven and earth.../ Than are dreamt of in
your philosophy."

After four centuries, even the Bard himself would be happy to see the
many profitable uses of his works. Art and scholarship, and maybe life
in general, are only worthwhile if one takes risks.  Shakespeare's plays
are "risky" when compared to most plays written by the other dramatists
in the Elizabethan/Jacobian era in England.  Of course, when one takes
risks many people will be put off, and many times the artist or thinker
will indeed be a bit "out of his (or her) depths."  (I know I have done
it many times!) Yet, it is better to go for broke than to adhere to mere
"common sense." (Whatever that is :)...)  As a beginning scholar of
folly and fools in the plays, I like to think that Shakespeare had a
great admiration for alternative ways of seeing, being and creating.

Thanks for getting my dander up.

Sincerely,
TR

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 19:44:38 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0852 Q: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0852 Q: Tucker and Editorial/Interpretational
Practices

Justin Bacon raises very interesting questions and I don't pretend to
have all the answers but here is one suggestion. Often, editors and
directors (and actors and readers) don't simply follow the text and
apply Occam's Razor because the texts are, at this point, simply the
tinnest tip of the iceberg. Shakespeare has become immeasurably larger
than a collection of plays; how the plays are read, performed and
interpreted ties into issues of cultural literacy and values. Witness
the fuss that was kicked up over Lurhmann's Romeo and Juliet. Did anyone
outside of academia even notice the even more radical version of
Marlowe's Edward II, back in 1992?

Because Shakespeare is deeply embedded in all levels of our culture,
because he is recognizable to practically anyone, it is necessary that
the plays (and the author) be malleable and available for reinvention.
That way, the plays will always be up-to-date, or, in other words,
timeless (Shakespeare's characters thought/felt just the way we do).

This is partly possible because the plays themselves are not fixed, but
other, less flexible texts (such as Dickens) are also pressed into
service. Texts, like myths, change as the society needs them to change.
So I guess that means we are a society that needs an incestuous Ophelia.

Annalisa Castaldo
Temple University
 

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