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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Unwitnessed Events
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1214  Thursday, 1 July 1999.

From:           Michael Ullyot <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Jun 1999 08:17:28 +0100
Subject:        Unwitnessed Events

I wonder if any list readers can be of help to my current research: I am
investigating Shakespeare's descriptions of what I call "unwitnessed"
events, particularly in the history plays. These include events both
offstage (unseen by the audience) and onstage (unseen by offstage
characters), both of which generate a sense of the onstage action
comprising only a segment of the play's total action. This is especially
prevalent in battle scenes, with messengers arriving to describe
unwitnessed events to both onstage characters and the theatre audience.
My research focuses on King John, Edward III and Cymbeline, with Troilus
and 2 Henry 4 entering as incidental examples and analogies. Without
delving too far into mere parallelism, I submit for your consideration 2
questions:

(1) What other plays include battles or other scenes of considerable
confusion that require a messenger's presence to make sense of the total
action? (eg. the sea-battle in Anthony & Cleopatra)

(2) What is the significance of the messenger to the history play? Can
we see this character as the chronicler of history? **Importatly: is
there any criticism that characterises them thus?

Many thanks to those able to make suggestions. I will be glad to share
my findings off-list.

Michael Ullyot
University of Cambridge
 

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