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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Gertrude
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2130  Friday, 3 December 1999.

From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Thursday, 02 Dec 1999 15:53:47 -0500
Subject: 10.2115 Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2115 Re: Gertrude

I didn't mean to say that Gertrude's speech was literally part of the
testimony before the Coroner, of course-that's not a scene Shakespeare
wrote.  But it is easy to imagine her, or somebody prepared by her,
making just such a speech to the ends and effects I proposed, and making
such a speech in the slot in the plot where this one occurs-that is,
between Ophelia's death and her burial.  The audience then functions in
some sense as the coroner or judge-a kind of Court of Appeals that
judges the onstage judges as well as the figures in the case.  In this
connection it is interesting to think about the representation of
juridical proceedings on the stage, Shakespearean and otherwise.
Sometimes there is an on-stage audience-judge and/or jury-whose
questions and decisions we can assess, maybe agree with, maybe not.
Sometimes these are formal, like Shylock's appearance before the Duke,
with a lawyer and everything.  But (as in life) lots of these episodes
in Shakespeare are in the root sense of the term casual: something
unforeseen happens and there has to be a kind of trial to figure out
what's to be done about it, like the ad hoc trial of Othello before the
Senate.  Lear is especially rich-Lear himself carries out summary
judgments on Cordelia, Kent, Goneril, and Regan, and produces a
parodically formal spur-of-the-moment trial of the older sisters in the
hut on the heath, the Fool carries out a protracted interrogation of a
Lear who is in a way his prisoner, Gloucester tries and sentences Edgar
with Edmund as both witness and prosecutor, Cornwall tries and sentences
Kent and Gloucester, and is in some odd way tried and executed by his
servant, Lear tries to try himself but is restrained from doing so by
Cordelia, Albany tries and judges Goneril, Edmund undergoes trial by
combat and then tries to save his soul if not his life by confessing his
crimes.  And as I am hardly the first to say, we look on like gods.  A
fruitful concept.

David Evett
 

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