Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Unwitnessed Events
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1289  Thursday, 22 July 1999.

[1]     From:   Bruce Young <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 16 Jul 1999 13:12:21 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[2]     From:   Gerda Grice <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 16 Jul 1999 22:34:56 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[3]     From:   Michael Ullyot <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Jul 1999 10:33:58 +0100
        Subj:   Descriptions in The Winter's Tale

[4]     From:   John Savage <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Jul 1999 13:40:36 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 10.1276 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[5]     From:   David Evett <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 20 Jul 1999 11:10:32 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 16 Jul 1999 13:12:21 +0000
Subject: 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events

Michael Yawney writes,

>I am surprised that in the discussion of The Winter's Tale no one has
>mentioned the possibility that Hermione and Perdita were played by the
>same actor, . . . This doubling is often seen in production. Of course
>this necessitates either cutting Hermione's lines to Perdita or using a
>double (perhaps veiled) to play the silent Perdita. . .
>If this was Shakespeare's intent, it would also explain why Perdita
>never speaks in the final scene-an oddity only matched by Isabella's
>silence in response to the Duke.

But Perdita speaks earlier in the scene, more than once.  If the scene
is played as written, the same actor can't play both parts, unless some
kind of switch is made mid-scene.  I would think such a switch would be
awkward, unnecessary, and not worth the trouble.

I've heard of the parts being doubled, but I'm not sure whether I've
seen it done.  I saw a production in London 2 1/2 years ago with all the
parts played by 5 actors.  Perdita may have been doubled with either
Paulina or Hermione (Paulina, I think)--another move that required heavy
cutting or changing of lines in the final scene.  If I'm remembering
correctly, the last scene was rewritten to have Perdita in on the secret
and be the one who presents the statue.  (So there's no surprise for
her-and perhaps no mother's blessing.) It was a good production, but I
prefer the last scene as Shakespeare wrote it.

Bruce Young

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gerda Grice <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 16 Jul 1999 22:34:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events

The scene of Hermione's "resurrection" in The Winter's Tale is
breathtakingly magical and touching in the theatre, even in indifferent
productions.  Why would Shakespeare have wanted to dilute its effect by
making it compete with a Leontes-Perdita recognition scene?

Gerda Grice,
Ryerson Polytechnic University
Toronto, Canada

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Ullyot <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Jul 1999 10:33:58 +0100
Subject:        Descriptions in The Winter's Tale

Michael Yawney suggests that Perdita and Hermione could be doubled
characters, but it's the final scene that creates a few problems with
this theory. Are we really to believe that any stage company (Jacobean
or otherwise) would go to the trouble to have a veiled Perdita? Yes, the
implications of one actor representing the reconciliations of both
mother and child with Leontes are interesting, but then this scene is
never staged, so the visual impact and entire point would be, well,
somewhat lacking.

The theory is an interesting one but I would certainly need to see some
evidence of it in contemporary practice before I would be inclined to
believe that Shakespeare wrote 5.2 with this possibility in mind. It
seems more likely that he was, at this stage in his career, suspicious
of the power of descriptions to capture a complete event, and looking
for an opportunity to prepare us for Hermoine's reanimation by having
the Third Gentleman say things like:

I have never heard of such another encounter, which lames report to
follow it, and undoes description to do it. (5.2.57)

Conversely, when Hermine descends from the pedestal, Paulina affirms the
ability of this staged representation to overcome any suspicions we
might have were it merely reported:

                That she is living,
Were it but told you, should be hooted at
Like an old tale: (5.3.115)

I should add that this theory borrows from Anne Barton's essay "Enter
Mariners Wet: Realism in Shakespeare's Late Plays."

If Michael Yawney does have more evidence of this doubling-practice, it
would be interesting to see. But as speculation, it is an unconvincing
reason for 5.2 being described rather than seen.

Michael Ullyot
Clare College
Cambridge

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Savage <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 20 Jul 1999 13:40:36 -0400
Subject: Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        SHK 10.1276 Re: Unwitnessed Events

Clifford Stetner wrote:

>My reading of the bear (for reasons too numerous to enumerate here
>(again: paper at website)) is that he is a representative of State
>terror.

What's your guess as to what the bear was in Shakespeare's day?  There
were obviously quite a few bears around, what with bear-baiting arenas
near his theatre, but wouldn't it be difficult, if not impossible, to
get a bear to act on split-second cue, not to mention the danger of
dealing with a live, truculent bear?  Is it not more likely that, even
as today, the bear was a guy in a bear suit?

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 20 Jul 1999 11:10:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1284 Re: Unwitnessed Events

Ching-Hsi Perng finds Benvolio's report of the fatal fighting in Rom 3.1
"particularly distorted" because "[h]e puts the blame on Tybalt when the
audience has witnessed that it was Mercutio who started it all.
Benvolio's motivation for this perjury is clear, of course.  He said at
the end of the speech: 'This is the truth, or let Benvolio die'
(3.1.174:  Bevington edition).  And, sure enough, Shakespeare executed
him right then and there: Benvolio is not to be heard any more in the
play-not even in the final scene when almost everybody who is yet alive
is present.  A piece of poetic justice indeed."

Benvolio's account is hardly "perjury"-even if he were under oath, which
he is not.  (We Americans are very sensitive to the legal niceties of
this term these days.)  Mercutio has certainly challenged Tybalt, twice
(Arden 3.1.39-40, 74-81), on no more material ground than that Tybalt's
style offends him.  On both occasions Tybalt immediately accepts the
challenge, without hesitation or demur./  But Mercutio's line
immediately preceding the fight itself, "Come sir, your passado" (84),
strongly implies that Tybalt literally initiates the combat by making
the first thrust.  The remainder of Benvolio's narrative is accurate
(though calling the fatal thrust under Romeo's arme "envious" [170] is
probably objectionable).

In any case, we need, I think, to remember that the whole play is a kind
of trial, with the audience as witness, judge, and jury.  Benvolio the
character and the audience as witnesses have seen Tybalt as instigator
of violence throughout, beginning with his violent rejection of
Benvolio's peace overtures in the first combat (1.1.63-69), continuing
through his readiness to attack Romeo at the Capulet ball ("This by his
voice should be a Montague. / Fetch me my rapier, boy" [1.5.53-54]}, and
climaxing with his return to the stage after Mercutio's death, evidently
to carry out his deflected intention of finding and killing Romeo
(3.1.123-33).  In that context, when the Prince asks, "Benvolio, who
began this bloody fray," and Benvolio replies, "Tybalt," the answer is
not unreasonable.

As for Benvolio's disappearance from the text, it makes more sense to
suppose that one actor was doubling Benvolio and Paris, though
Benvolio's absence from the final scene when the structure of the
earlier scenes of violence would lead us to expect him to be there has
the effect of leaving Verona peopled almost entirely by the old-except
for Paris' page (still a child, presumably) no young men or women to
continue the life of the city.

Judiciously,
Dave Evett
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.