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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Unwitnessed Events
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1250  Tuesday, 13 July 1999.

[1]     From:   C. David Frankel <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jul 1999 13:34:17 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.1244 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[2]     From:   Michael Ullyot <
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        Date:   Monday, 05 Jul 1999 21:59:55 +0100
        Subj:   Unwitnessed events


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C. David Frankel <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jul 1999 13:34:17 -0400
Subject: 10.1244 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.1244 Re: Unwitnessed Events

 Richard Regan, in discussing Unwitnessed Events, states that:

> The crowd scene in Caesar is filtered through
> Casca's narration, stressing the conspirators' manipulation of Brutus:
> we cannot see Caesar's actions.

As Casca is not a conspirator (he hasn't yet been recruited to the
freedom fighters) when he reports what happened, and Cassius cannot know
what has happened until Casca reports it, I don't see how this scene
stresses the "conspirators' manipulation of Brutus."  It does, perhaps,
allow Cassius to further gauge Brutus's disposition by observing his
responses to Casca's report.

cdf

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Ullyot <
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Date:           Monday, 05 Jul 1999 21:59:55 +0100
Subject:        Unwitnessed events

My thanks to those who provided the latest profuse strains in response
to my questions and speculations about unwitnessed events in various
plays.

Susan Oldrieve: From what I can recall of the productions I've seen of
The Winter's Tale, 5.2 is presented rather straightforwardly as a few
characters discussing what has transpired in the reunion of Leontes and
Perdita (et al), and readying us for the scenes to come. The 1998 RSC
production followed that pattern, though if memory serves they may have
cut a few of the lines. The scene is obviously a vital piece of
stage-business, if the reunion is not to be presented. The question for
us (or for me) is why the playwright chose not to do so. Do Greene's
Pandosto or the other sources offer any insight?

Bruce Young contrasts this with the final scene of Cymbeline and reminds
us that dramatic economy prevents the staging of lengthy reunions and
explanations at the end of a comedy (or romance, in this case), since
this would be redundant for audiences who've sat there with ironic
knowledge of the truth throughout the play. Leontes' invitation for
further discussions offstage at the end of the play is a convention we
see in All's Well and Cymbeline, to name perhaps the best examples. This
is the interesting part: is it only in comedy (and romance) that we find
this need to unravel the tangled web of identities and deception,
usually offstage? Histories end with resolutions for new unity under a
better regime, and tragedies with a desire to forget the past and move
forward, but in comedies we find the desire to review and fully examine
the events of the play so that everyone's historical understanding will
be complete. Can we, in this tendency, distinguish (and this is a far
more general question) between romance and comedy?

That Bruce mentioned Cymbeline is too tempting an offer to resist: this
seems to me a wonderfully unusual play, unique in Shakespeare by virtue
of its historical subject and romance genre. Among the quasi-histories
it is generically unique (Macbeth and Lear being tragedies). So, what is
Shakespeare doing writing this play in 1609, 10 years after his last
history play (before the aberrant Henry 8 in 1613)? The theory that the
romances represent a "working-out" or revisiting of situations and
questions from his earlier plays might be brought to bear: is Cymbeline
a response of some sort to issues from the two tetralogies and King
John? It certainly reflects their tendency to begin and end stories from
history where the playwright finds them most suitable to his purposes,
and revises their various descriptions of offstage events. I ask all of
this because I am just now preparing to work on Cymbeline, and have a
great number of questions to work through.

I should, finally, like to hear more about Peter Hadorn's theory of a
connection between the messengers in Antony & Cleopatra and the epistles
of St Paul.

Michael Ullyot
Clare College
Cambridge
 

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