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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: TN
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2237  Friday, 17 December 1999.

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Dec 1999 11:32:04 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2234 Re: TN

[2]     From:   Pervez Rizvi <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Dec 1999 08:58:09 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.2234 Re: TN


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Dec 1999 11:32:04 -0500
Subject: 10.2234 Re: TN
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2234 Re: TN

One of Balanchine's early ballets (I think "Serenade") consists of
several movements, with different numbers of dancers-based on whoever
showed up for rehearsal when the choreography was created. Perhaps Feste
didn't turn up when the gulling scenes were being rehearsed, and lines
were simply assigned to someone who WAS there that day, re-named Fabian.
It's also possible that the original Feste said more than was set down
for him, and was punished by a reduction in his role. (In our
post-Freudian age, I am cautious about references to "cutting parts.")

Changing voices must have been an occupational hazard for a company
employing boy actors, so I are dubious about re-dating Othello for this
reason. If most, but not all, boy actors had a background as choirboys,
Shakespeare might have assumed that the actor playing Viola would be
able to sing, and found out he couldn't, then had to back-pedal. Perhaps
the kid did the Early Modern equivalent of whining that the Crafts
Services table didn't have the right kind of bottled water, and was told
"We made you, and we can break you." Or, on the other hand, a lead actor
might have felt threatened by a young upstart crow, making it politic to
reduce Viola/Cesario's stage time and assign the song to someone else.

I find that TN works MUCH better in an unlocalized staging than one with
detailed realistic scenery; if everybody is just "somewhere" then it's
less worrisome why Feste is one household rather than the other.

There are no small pipes, only small actors,
Dana (Shilling)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pervez Rizvi <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 17 Dec 1999 08:58:09 -0000
Subject: 10.2234 Re: TN
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.2234 Re: TN

In response to John Briggs:

>None of this explains how the Willow Song disappeared from the Othello Q
>text, if it derives from Shakespeare's foul papers ...

We need to be very careful when talking of 'foul papers'. Paul Werstine
("Narratives about Shakespeare Printed Texts", Shakespeare Quarterly,
some quarter in 1990) has written enough to suggest that the category is
not rigourously defined.

When people say that a text derives from 'foul papers', they usually
mean that it is untidy. In this context, 'untidy' means that there is
confusion about the names of characters, or who is on stage at any time,
or who speaks what lines, or false starts, or mislineation because of
insertions and crossings-out, or a combination of these and similar
things. That much is fine, but then they sometimes make the leap into
thinking that if one text is tidier than another, it must represent the
play in a later state. If only life were that simple.

To take this particular example, if/when Shakespeare revised Othello, he
must have either written his changes on to an existing manuscript of the
play, or created a new manuscript. In both cases, the resulting
manuscript would have been liable to display the features usually
attributed to 'foul papers'. Independently of this, if a manuscript
containing the original version had been copied by a scribe who took
care to tidy it up, and then printed, it would be tempting, though
wrong, to regard the resulting book as the revised version simply
because it is tidier.

That, I think, is what has actually happened with Othello. Shameless
self-publicity time: you can retrieve my article 'Evidence of Revision
in Othello', published in Notes and Queries last year, from SHAKSPER:
send an email to 
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  with a blank subject line,
and the text GET REVISED OTHELLO. You will see from it that I argue,
notwithstanding the evidence of Q's being printed from 'foul papers',
that it is the later version.
 

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