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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Unwitnessed Events
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1317  Monday, 26 July 1999.

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Jul 1999 12:23:35 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1299 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[2]     From:   Ching-Hsi Perng <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Jul 1999 11:40:22 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1299 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[3]     From:   Michael Yawney <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 Jul 1999 00:06:37 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Jul 1999 12:23:35 +1000
Subject: 10.1299 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1299 Re: Unwitnessed Events

A totally off-the-cuff thought about bears, in response to John Savage
and Clifford Stetner:

>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?

And Clifford Stetner wrote:

>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.

And I wrote:

Two standing bears were prominent in the heraldic imagery of the Earls
of Warwick.  You see the bears in various places around Warwickshire,
including the 15th c. carvings in the quire of Trinity Church in
Stratford.  Might Shakespeare have been alluding to his home-county
nobility?  I'm not sure whether such an allusion would be interpreted by
an audience as praise or derogation...it might depend on how the
bear-living or otherwise- deported himself on stage.

Just a thought.

Karen Peterson-Kranz
University of Guam

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ching-Hsi Perng <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Jul 1999 11:40:22 +0800
Subject: 10.1299 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1299 Re: 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!

There's no denying that Tybalt has come out to seek Romeo, but how about
Mercutio's earlier taunting and provocation:

Tybalt: Gentlemen, good e'en.  A word with one of you.
Mercutio: And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something:
make it a rd and a blow.

All this even before Tybalt has asked for the whereabouts of Romeo.  And
while we may wonders how Tybalt would have reacted to Romeo's humble
plea for peace.  What we WITNESS is this:

Mercutio: O calm, dishonorable, vile submission!
        Alla stoccaado carries it away.
        Tybalt, you ratcatcher, will you walk?
Tybalt: What wouldst thou have with me?
Mercutio: Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives . . .
Will you
pluck your sword out of
        hispilcher by the ears? Make haste lest mine be about your ears
ere it
be out.
Tybalt: I am for you.

Clearly Tybalt is forced into the fray.  (Cf.  Raymond V. Utterback,
"The Death of Mercutio," Shakespeare Quarterly 24: 105-16.)  Mercutio
has contributed rather too much.  But that's not the point here: the
point is that Benvolio has suppressed ALL this.

> 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.

No, Tybalt was not given a chance to react to Romeo's second plea for
peace, and he did NOT start the fight.

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

Under the circumstances, Tybalt could have been hurt under Romeo's arm,
could he not?

> 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)

This "natural perspective" has led Benvolio to present falsehood as
truth.

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

When Tybalt returns, this is what we hear:

Romeo: Now, Tybalt, take the "villain" back again
        That thou gav'st me, for Mercutio's soul
        Is but a little waly above our heads,
        Staying for thine to keep him company.
        Either thou, or I, or both must go with him.
Tybalt: Thou, wretched boy, that didst consort him here,
        Shall with him hence.

By now Romeo was determined to kill Tybalt.  Apparently an apology is no
longer enought to assuage Romeo's wrath (not, of course, that Tybalt is
the sort that would be compelled to eat his words): he demands that
Tybalt both take the insult back and fith with him until at least one of
them is dead.

> I think it's a remarkably accurate reportage, given the natural bias of
> the reporter.

Mercutio provoked Tybalt; Tybalt killed Mercutio in self-defence; Romeo,
guided by "fire-ey'd fury" to avenge his friend, challenged Tybalt and
slew him.  That is basically how the crucial brawl went.  Benvolio's
report says: the unappeasable Tybalt, not Mercutio, started the furious
fray; Tybalt killed Mercutio; Tybalt came back, and "to 't [he and
Romeo] go like lightning"; Romeo avenged Mercutio by slaying Tybalt.
Remarkably accurate?

Brian Gibbons (Arden Edition) notes that Benvolio "suppresses the fact
that Mercutio provoked Tybalt" (166).  Joseph A. Porter also takes
notice of fact that the "chronic reporter" "recounts these events with
some elaborations and discrepancies" (_Shakepeare's Mercutio: His
History and Drama_, 113).

Benvolio appears to be an accurate reporter because the audience/reader
is won over by his "good will" and, more importantly, because his
tactics works-in his report he emphasizes the kinship between the Prince
and Mercutio.   Most importantly, he is helped by Tybalt, who early on
has established himself as the villain in the love story.   But
Shakespeare, by justaposing the acted-out scene and the report, shows
how unreliable reports can be.

Best,
Ching-Hsi Perng

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Yawney <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 Jul 1999 00:06:37 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1289 Re: Unwitnessed Events

Michael Ullyot asks for evidence of a Perdita/Hermione doubling. It have
seen it written about years ago, both persuasively and unpersuasively.
Of course, no one has evidence. This theory is merely speculation that I
imagine resulted from how common that doubling has become since Judi
Dench did it in the 60s or early 70s. But as has been pointed out, this
does create problems with the script as we have received it.

The issue of casting/doubling has gotten some attention, but no piece I
have seen on this has been entirely convincing. Also, none of the
castles in the air of phantom stage texts differing from printed texts
make less sense (in my opinion) with Shakespeare than they do with
Jonson and Webster.

I would be curious if any scholar who has wrestled with performance text
vs. printed text, or with the make-up of the acting company, or other
stage practice issues  has any particular insight into the peculiarities
throughout Winter's Tale. The visual, sensual experience of this play
seems to be even more important to interpreting Winter Tale than it does
to other Shakespearean dramas.
 

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