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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Assorted Responses
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1327  Tuesday, 27 July 1999.

[1]     From:   Peter Berek <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Jul 1999 16:40:13 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1316 Re: Shakespeare vs. Shakespeare...

[2]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Jul 1999 20:17:56 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1317 Re: Unwitnessed Events

[3]     From:   Grant Moss <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Jul 1999 15:46:59 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1312 Re: Elizabeth I

[4]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Tue, 27 Jul 1999 17:58:52 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1319 Re: Hamlets

[5]     From:   Judith Craig <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Jul 1999 18:27:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Caliban and Ariel


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Berek <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jul 1999 16:40:13 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 10.1316 Re: Shakespeare vs. Shakespeare...
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1316 Re: Shakespeare vs. Shakespeare...

In response to Michael Yawney:  I suspect he means "Williamstown," not
"Williamsburg," as the site of the the recent Taming of the Shrew
directed by Rees.  And the first production I know of which had Sly
appear as a drunk in the midst of the arriving audience was directed by
Michael Bogdanov for the RSC in 1978.  Jonathan Pryce played Petruchio
and arrived onstage on a motorcycle.

                                        Peter Berek

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jul 1999 20:17:56 -0400
Subject: 10.1317 Re: Unwitnessed Events
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1317 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.

There is a certain amount of evidence that bears, like lions, are royal
symbols and also connected with lechery and violence-but of course even
a symbols has to be staged somehow.  Couple of interesting facts to
"bear" in mind-

In 1608/09, three white bears were brought back from a voyage from
around the polar regions.  In 1609 (November, I believe) one white bear
escaped from Paris Garden and mauled a child; in 1610, Henslowe and
Alleyn were paid for the upkeep of two white bears and a young lion.

The bear in Mucedorus is white (Mouse: "I see her wite head and her wite
belly. . he bad me not to be caught with a white bear")  and that
appears in the 1598 quarto; but possibly the 1610 revival, which
includes an expanded scene for the bear, was partially inspired by the
topical appeal of  white bears.  Yet you will notice that if these
really are polar bears, they are especially unpredictable and
dangerous.  Yes, all Shakespeare's bear has to do is run across the
stage; but in Mucedorus the bear has to remain perfectly still while the
Clown, Mouse, does an "accidental" back-flip over him (ask any acrobat
the potential dangers of movement in that kind of trick) and the two
white bears in Oberon-same year-have to pull a chariot slowly, and that
chariot containing the Prince of Wales.

There have been a lot of interesting speculations on this point over the
years-Michael Hattaway, George Reynolds, WS. Lawrence and Paul Monkemyer
have all written about it.  I lean , for all the reasons I cited above,
to a bear suit; and further speculate that the bear in Winter's Tale is
in there partly because someone-probably Inigo Jones-designed a smashing
bear suit or two for Oberon and it was a shame to let them go to waste.

Melissa Aaron
University of Michigan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Grant Moss <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jul 1999 15:46:59 -0400
Subject: 10.1312 Re: Elizabeth I
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1312 Re: Elizabeth I

Re the question of biographies of Elizabeth I, Hardy mentioned Maria
Perry's *Elizabeth I, The Word of a Prince: A Life from Contemporary
Documents* but raised questions about its availability.  When I checked
this morning, the book was available from Amazon.com, and presumably
other online sources as well.

You might also want to peruse Anne Somerset's *Elizabeth I*, Wallace
MacCaffrey's *Elizabeth I*, and J.E. Neale's *Queen Elizabeth I*.  The
last was once considered the standard bio, but is very old-fashioned by
today's standards; it's still in print, though (Academy Chicago Press),
and is an interesting read.

Grant Moss
Department of English
University of North Carolina

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Tue, 27 Jul 1999 17:58:52 +1000
Subject: 10.1319 Re: Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1319 Re: Hamlets

Dana wrote:

>I think that the players in the Mel Gibson version where esp squalid.
>In fact, the director cut out the test to which Hamlet puts the players
>to allow us to see them more alone the lines of 'gypsies' than
>accomplished thespians.  This in my opinion makes even more ironic the
>speech where Polonius declares the players to be the greatest in the
>world.

I just wanted to thank Dana for pointing this out.  Tomorrow I embark on
showing the Zeffirelli/Mel Gibson version to one of my classes, followed
by the 1996 Branagh version, with the idea of getting the students to
think about why certain scenes and/or sections of text were cut from the
former...and why other scenes were considerably expanded (visually, at
least) in the latter.  You've given me a great example to (hopefully)
get them talking, and maybe even (gasp!) thinking.

Yours in the tropics,
Karen Peterson-Kranz
University of Guam

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Craig <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jul 1999 18:27:00 -0500
Subject:        Re: Caliban and Ariel

If you read the play symbolically as many older critics used to do
(Ariel some kind of icon for the spiritual part of the soul [his name
means "mountain of God" or "hero" in Hebrew] and Caliban an icon for the
appetitive part) then the disappearing banquet makes a lot of sense.
Food and sex themes are linked throughout the play, and in the
disappearing banquet scene Ariel, "like a harpy, claps his wings upon
the table" (stage direction 3.3), causing the banquet to disappear
before the usurpers, Sebastian and Antonio.  Harpies, of course, in The
Aeneid, drive Aeneas' crew for the Strophades by destroying their feast
and are described as "flying things/,With young girls' faces, but foul
ooze below,/Talons for hands, pale famished nightmare mouths"
(Fitzgerald translation).   As an emblem of perverse sexuality, they
cause a feast of metaphorical and lust-filled sexuality to vanish.
Prospero balances the masque of the disappearing banquet with the
marriage masque of Ceres in 4.1.  Caliban, of course, interrupts this
masque and destroys it for the young lovers, foreshadowing trials to
come.

The sexually disappointed goddesses, Juno (jealous of Zeus' sexual
exploits) and Ceres (continually searching for a daughter abducted to
Hades) preside over this masque and foreshadow the trials Miranda will
face if Ferdinand rapes her (a precaution Prospero guards against in
making him carry logs and continually beating Caliban, the appetitive
icon).   If Ferdinand becomes power-hungry and betrays her (a problem
she deals with in the chess scene 5.1), then the marriage would likely
fail. We are left with Prospero's problem-a single father with a
daughter, using the glistering magic robes given to him by Ariel
(symbolizing his magic powers as a playwright, I think) in the final
masque of the play (4.1) to deceive the usurpers, Stephano, Caliban and
Trinculo.

I could go on, but I am not involved in theatrical productions or acting
and don't know how exactly to convey this on the stage.  There must be a
way, though, because it is so clearly worked out in the symbolism and
the different levels of reality given in the play.

Cheers,
Judy Craig
 

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