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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Re: Act and Scene Divisions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0480  Friday, 10 March 2000.

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Mar 2000 22:36:21 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions

[2]     From:   Michael Ullyot <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Mar 2000 11:25:19 -0500
        Subj:   Act divisions & Gorboduc

[3]     From:   John Jowett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 2000 17:24:44 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions

[4]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Mar 2000 21:36:34 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 Mar 2000 22:36:21 -0500
Subject: 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions

I wish you had made your thesis plain to begin with and avoided some
confusion.  I still can't tell, however, if five act divisions are any
more pertinent to it than four.  As to the latter, my information about
Kyd's Spanish Tragedy is only based on Outlines of Tudor and Stuart
Plays by Karl Holzknecht who says on page 67 that: "SP differs from most
Elizabethan plays in having only four acts; but so originally had one or
two of Seneca's."

Whether these divisions were "applied" by Kyd, he doesn't say, but I am
also a bit confused about what such application would entail in a stage
production.  In what form do they "arrive" after 1609?  I'm afraid the
possibility will always exist that a boy dressed like a girl came out
with a sign saying "here beginneth act three," and we would probably
never know.

Clifford

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Ullyot <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Mar 2000 11:25:19 -0500
Subject:        Act divisions & Gorboduc

Dear John Briggs,

The Scolar Press facsimile of Gorboduc (1968) shows me that Q2 of
Gorboduc (printed 1570) was printed with five acts. It also quotes the
TP of Q1 (1565), as follows:

The Tragedie of Gorboduc, whereof three Actes were wrytten by Thomas
Nortone, and the two last by Thomas Sackuyle. [and so on]

This underappreciated play, then, may have influenced both the content
and form of later dramas. But I hesitate to suggest that it was the
first five-act play in the English language. Can anyone corroborate
this?

Michael Ullyot

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Jowett <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 2000 17:24:44 GMT
Subject: 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions

Reviewing recent discussion, John Briggs writes that 'The arrival of act
divisions around 1609 (possibly associated with indoor theatres and the
performance of music during the act breaks) is intriguing...'.  Such an
arrival indeed seems to be the case with Shakespeare and the King's
Men.  However, it shouldn't be forgotten that the plays of Lyly,
Marston, Middleton, Chapman, and others had been performed with act
breaks in indoor theatres, including the Blackfriars, well before this
date.

I would agree with the suggestion made by John and others that a
dramatist writing for the open-air theatre might think in terms of five
act structure without marking it in the manuscript or expecting it to be
observed on the stage.

On the topic of act division I would commend Gary Taylor's essay 'The
Structure of Performance', in our collaborative book 'Shakespeare
Reshaped, 1606-1623' (1993).

John Jowett,
The Shakespeare Institute,

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Sutton <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Mar 2000 21:36:34 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0473 Re: Act and Scene Divisions

Baldwin's five act structure and the petty school ideas should be
required reading when studying Shakespeare. I still don't understand why
scholars focus only on intellectual ideas when discussing Shakespeare.
Why for example is Blackfriars never looked at as a storage space or
rehearsal place before it opened as a theatre? Because there are no
records of it?

John Briggs says he is of course aware of the classical five act
structure. Why wouldn't Shakespeare be? Why would it then be a
confection of later editors?

Why don't Shakespeare scholars actually admit that they sometimes just
don't know and never will unless they find 'proof'. Why is there not a
concentrated effort on searching for that proof? Is it all just a
mentational 'wank'?

People had to get on and off stage in a comely way then as now.
Otherwise the observers would condemn their theatrical behaviour. The
institution of print and consequently of act and scene divisions is as
we have it: the same as orthography and grammar.

Yours frustratedly and intuitively,
William S.
 

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