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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Unwitnessed Events
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1236  Tuesday, 6 July 1999.

[1]     From:   Charles Costello <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Jul 1999 09:31:28 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1231 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[2]     From:   Susan C Oldrieve <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Jul 1999 12:55:56 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Unwitnessed Events

[3]     From:   Peter T. Hadorn <
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        Date:   Monday, 05 Jul 1999 13:01:07 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.1214 Unwitnessed Events

[4]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Jul 99 23:53:36 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1231 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[5]     From:   Pervez Rizvi <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Jul 1999 06:17:30 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1219: Unwitnessed events

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Costello <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Jul 1999 09:31:28 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1231 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1231 Re: Unwitnessed Events

An interesting (non-military) twist occurs in Richard 3, the general
form of which only I can recall, without a text at hand.  Richard hears
a report of the citizens' non-response to an attempted rousing in his
favour at the Guildhall.  The report is all we have as well, the scene
being unstaged.  But then the drama enacts the citizens before Richard's
house as he appears above with the priests.  Reported non-response,
staged witness: some theatrical manipulation appears to be going here.

Chuck Costello
Graduate Centre for Study of Drama
University of Toronto

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan C Oldrieve <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Jul 1999 12:55:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Unwitnessed Events

See also The Winter's Tale V.ii.  The audience does not see, but, along
with Autolycus, hears about the revelation of Perdita's identity and the
reconciliation of Florizel, Polixenes, and Leontes.

This choice makes some theatrical sense as a way to privilege Paulina's
revelation of Hermione's statue; what seems to me to be strange about
this "unwitnessed event" is that we hear about the revelation of
Perdita's identity in the company of Autolycus, the most marginalized
person in the play.  The scene ends with the reaction of the newly
gentrified clown and shepherd, also marginalized characters.

I wonder what the effect upon the audience is of this burying of the
play's climax in the margins of the playworld, and how it works
thematically in the play.

I've never seen a production of The Winter's Tale.  I'd be interested in
hearing how others reacted to this moment in the play. When I reread the
play recently, my reader's reaction was to be very disappointed not to
have "seen" the revelation of Perdita's identity myself, and a bit
impatient with having to listen to the "vain bibble babble" of the
low-lifes.

My disappointment was then somewhat mitigated by the coming to life of
Hermione's statue, but I still would have like to have seen both scenes.

So why are the revelation scenes set up this way in this play?

Susan Oldrieve
Baldwin-Wallace College

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter T. Hadorn <
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Date:           Monday, 05 Jul 1999 13:01:07 -0500
Subject: 10.1214 Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.1214 Unwitnessed Events

Michael Ullyot's question about unwitnessed events is one that I have
always found interesting as well.  Regarding "Antony and Cleopatra" I
have always wondered whether the prevalence of messengers scooting all
around the Mediterranean, as well as their reliability and lack thereof,
is meant to be suggestive of the letters of St. Paul.  Particularly
since the play is very much about the passing of an old order (i.e., a
pagan, classical world) soon to be replaced by a Christian one.

Other important unwitnessed events: the murder of Duncan, the
"unfaithfulness" of Hero in "Much Ado," the marriage of Kate and
Petruccio, and Ophelia's death

Michael Ullyot
University of Cambridge

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Jul 99 23:53:36 EDT
Subject: 10.1231 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1231 Re: Unwitnessed Events

Reporting rather than staging events is economical with both money and
time.

Macbeth and Banquo fought two separate battles at the start of the
play.  Instead of expending time and money staging them Shakespeare
offers a powerful description of Macbeth's heroism which is probably
more effective.

Similarly in "Julius Caesar", Casca's jaundiced description of the
offering of the crown is arguably more effective than staging the event.

John Ramsay
Welland Ontario
Canada

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pervez Rizvi <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Jul 1999 06:17:30 +0100
Subject: 10.1219: Unwitnessed events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1219: Unwitnessed events

Michael Ullyot writes:

>......and the sense that certain
>things, like Horace advises, out to be narrated rather than depicted.
>I'd be most interested to hear more comments on these descriptions.

You might also want to think about the reasons why a playwright decides
to narrate rather than depict. One reason may of course be practical
constraints, e.g. the lack of extras or props to perform a battle scene,
or the inability to do justice on stage to an event as grand as the
Field of the Cloth of Gold. Another may be artistic preference or
insight: the TNK example already noted is a good one: by putting Emilia
on stage while the battle takes place off-stage, Shakespeare (or
Fletcher) forces the audience to see (or rather, not-see) things from
her view and reinforces the point that, as Palamon and Arcite are clones
of each other, it doesn't matter much who wins.

But a third reason may be the playwright's sheer unwillingness to write
a particular scene. Presumably the very surprising decision not to show
Perdita's reunion with Leontes was made because Shakespeare had already
written a similar scene in Pericles and was unwilling to try and top it.
He could hardly avoid writing the Leonotes/Hermione reunion scene but
even there he skimped a bit: Perdita is not given a single line. At
least Marina gets to speak at her reunion with her mum (admittedly it's
only the trite "my heart leaps to be gone into my mother's bosom" but
I've always assumed that the reporter just made that up because he'd
forgotten the original).

Finally, Michael offered to share his conclusions off-list. I think most
of us would be interested to read them on-list.
 

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