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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Unwitnessed Events
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1265  Wednesday, 14 July 1999.

[1]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999 11:37:02 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[2]     From:   Peter T. Hadorn <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999 10:32:50 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[3]     From:   Chris Ferns <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999 13:16:16 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1214 Unwitnessed Events

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999 14:24:37 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999 11:37:02 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events

In connection with Michael Ullyot's intriguing remark on the tendency of
romances and comedies to recapitulate events and of tragedies and
histories to get on with it, that most comic of tragedies, Romeo and
Juliet, rings a bell.  Three times in that play (Benvolio twice and
Friar Lawrence once) bloody events are recounted for auditors absent
from the scene.  In this instance, however, the scenes have been
witnessed by the audience-an interesting twist.

While we're listing reported actions we should add the accounts of
Macbeth's splended deeds by the sergeant and Ross, and of Antony's
flight from Actium.  This last suggests that anybody interested in
analyzing these might want to put those occurring in real time in a
separate category.

Dave Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter T. Hadorn <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999 10:32:50 -0500
Subject: 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events

Michael Ullyot writes:

"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."

Well, I would hardly call it a theory.  More like musings.  What I
originally wrote was this:

"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."

I'm afraid I don't have much to add to this.  But I will amplify I bit.
Both Antony and Cleopatra represent an older, more idealistic,
pagan/classical world.  Both of them are often described as being
god-like, particularly Cleopatra.  Their world is in decline and being
replaced by something new.  If we're optimistic, we know that the birth
of Christianity is only a few years away.  If we're pessimistic, this
new world is represented by the callous and calculating Caesar.  Their
passing, I believe, is noted?/celebrated?/mourned? by the mysterious
music the soldiers hear in 4.3.    The fact that it is supernatural
suggests to me that this is the heavens way of noting the passing of a
TYPE of pre-Christian gods.  Is the music a good sign or a bad?  The
soldiers can't decide.  I think it is either depending upon your view
point.

Now what about all those messengers?  It's merely a hunch.  Shakespeare
makes much of those messengers announcing the news from various parts of
the Mediterranean.  They are pervasive.  St. Paul, too, is a messenger
from various parts of the Mediterranean.  Are the messengers reliable?
At first they are, but as Cleopatra increasingly becomes upset with the
messengers, they begin to tell her and others, what they want to hear
(my favorite example: Mardian announcing to Antony the "death" of
Cleopatra).  Is Shakespeare questioning the reliability of  St. Paul?  I
don't know.  But I think he is exploring the idea of people in history
who are larger than life and who exert an influence that is
incalculable.

I have no idea if my "theory" is original.  I haven't worked with the
literature on "A&C" enough to know if I'm on to something or if I'm
weaving webs out of nothing.  But if you all think my idea is brilliant,
consider this copyrighted.  If not, then just hit the delete key and
kindly move on to Hardy's next digest.  ; - ).

Peter Hadorn
University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Ferns <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999 13:16:16 -0400
Subject: 10.1214 Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1214 Unwitnessed Events

Of all the unwitnessed events in Shakespeare's histories, surely the
most spectacularly unwitnessed must be Mortimer's fight with Glendower
in 1.3 of " Henry IV part one", which is reported by Hotspur in
considerable detail, even though he wasn't present to witness it, since
at the time he was busy killing Scots at Holmedon.  The report is
promptly contradicted by Henry, who asserts that the fight never took
place at all - despite the fact that he wasn't there either. What this
introduces is something that becomes increasingly clear as the play goes
on: namely, that what counts as historical "fact" is largely determined
by the size of the army you have to impose your version. Thus, when
Worcester in 5.1 gives an account of the events leading up to Henry's
becoming King which corresponds closely to the same events as portrayed
in "Richard II", it is nevertheless dismissed by Henry with the lines:
"And never yet did insurrection want/Such water-colours to impaint his
cause" - lines whose astonishing hypocrisy is surpassed only by his
later remark, once the rebels have been defeated: "Thus ever did
rebellion find rebuke" (5.5.1)

Chris Ferns
Department of English
Mount Saint Vincent University

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999 14:24:37 -0400
Subject: 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1250 Re: Unwitnessed Events

Michael Ulyot wrote:

>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?

Consider Friar Lawrence's rather tedious recapitulation at the end of
R&J.
 

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