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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Unwitnessed Events
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1299  Friday, 23 July 1999.

[1]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Jul 1999 11:39:00 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[2]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 Jul 1999 16:02:37 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1284 Benvolio as witness (Unwitnessed Events)

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 Jul 1999 02:26:13 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Jul 1999 11:39:00 -0400
Subject: 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events

>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.

Judi Dench played both parts not so very long ago, in a production that
was widely admired.

Surely someone on the list saw it and can report?

Geralyn Horton, Playwright
Newton, Mass. 02460
http://www.tiac.net/users/ghorton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 Jul 1999 16:02:37 -0400
Subject: 10.1284 Benvolio as witness (was Unwitnessed Events)
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1284 Benvolio as witness (was Unwitnessed Events)

Ching-Hsi Perng wrote last week (I"m WAY behind in reading email!):

<<Speaking of the interesting twist in Benvolio's reports, I find his
second report particularly distorted.  He puts the blame on Tybal when
the audience has witnessed that it was Mercutio who started it all.>>

I would suggest that the question of who began the contretemps that
ended in two deaths is not so clear-cut.  Who arrived LOOKING for Romeo
for the express purpose of a duel?  Tybalt, who had already "sent a
letter to his [Romeo's] father's house>" (2.4).  He demands to know
where Romeo is, and despite taunts from Mercutio will not stop insisting
that he wants Romeo.  When Romeo arrives, Tybalt offers the worst kind
of insult-to the nobility of Romeo's family: calling him a "villain."
He also twice calls him "boy," another demeaning term.  He demands that
Romeo "turn and draw." Only when Romeo refuses and bows the knee to
Tybalt, submitting to the insult, does Mercutio tell Tybalt to draw...
"Wilt thou pluck your sword out of its pilcher by the ears?  Make haste,
lest mine be about your ears ere it be out."  (all citations from
memory... apologies for any minor inaccuracies)  An argument can be made
for Tybalt bearing a large part of the responsibility.

Naturally, Mercutio contributed as well!

Now, as to the rest of Benvolio's reportage--

It's absolutely accurate.  Romeo indeed "spoke him fair, bid him bethink
how nice the quarrel was, and urged withal your [Escalus'] your high
displeasure.  All this with knees humbly bowed"

And Tybalt did indeed have an "unruly spleen" that left him "deaf to
peace" and made him instead "tilt with piercing steel at bold Mercutio's
breast" who of course replied in kind.

Romeo did indeed cry "hold, friends; friends, part!"  and then rush in
so that Mercutio was "hurt under [his] arm."

Another debatable point is the "envious thrust from Tybalt."  Was it
Tybalt taking unfair advantage of an opening (a natural perspective for
Benvolio to take) or was he simply in the midst of a thrust when Romeo
grabs Mercutio's arm or in some other way interposes HIS arm between the
fighters?  I have my students stage this part of 3.1 in as many
variations as they can think of, and then form their own conclusions
based on the different literal views they get of the scene.

Finally, Tybalt does flee, but then return, while Romeo has "but newly
entertained revenge."

I think it's a remarkably accurate reportage, given the natural bias of
the reporter.  This reporter's role is one that Benvolio carries
throughout the play.  Perhaps his absence in 5.3 is due to the fact that
for the first time he HAS nothing to report?

Just my two coppers....

Marilyn Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Friday, 23 Jul 1999 02:26:13 -0400
Subject: 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events

John Savage wrote:

>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?

According to Riverside, Mucedorus (based on Sidney's Arcadia), possibly
the most popular of all Elizabethan plays, which was staged by the
King's Men in 1610 (possibly at the Globe), involved a "live bear."  I,
too, would like to see the evidence, but assuming Riverside is reliable,
I would guess that the live animal was such a hit with the audience in
1610 that Shakespeare wrote him into the Winter's Tale.  Apparently even
the poor beasts destined for the slaughter could be trained at least to
run across the stage on some cue (perhaps led by a long chain from the
other side?).

In part this would be an intertextual nod toward the popular Mucedorus.
Like the telly tubbies, the King's Men seem to have found the value of
repetition of familiar images and conventions in fascinating their
audience.  But I think that Shakespeare was trying to capture the shock
value of the sudden brief appearance of a wild animal (familiar to them
in the context of the savagery and bloody violence of the bear-batings)
to emphasize his rhetorical and allegorical themes.

In discussing their options in escaping the horrific tortures to be
applied to them by the State just described by Autolycus, the Clown
says: "though authority be a stubborn bear, he is often led by the nose
with gold."  My guess is that the bear (like Auto lycus the wolf and
Leon tes the lion) is a symbol.  As in Mucedorus (and Arcadia) he is a
symbol of authority.  By bringing the lumbering, slobbering, savage
beast in near contact with the audience, Shakespeare is giving flesh and
blood to the symbol of State terrorism.

Clifford Stetner
www.columbia.edu/~fs10/cds.htm
 

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