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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: December ::
Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespear
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2343  Friday, 15 December 2000

[1]     From:   Michele Bolay <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:36:42 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Dec 2000 08:32:40 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[3]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:43:57 -0600
        Subj:   Fine-tuning plays

[4]     From:   Philip Tomposki <
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        Date:   Friday, 15 Dec 2000 09:48:22 EST
        Subj:   RE: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michele Bolay <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:36:42 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

>What never fails to comfort me in the validity of that sometimes
>regrettable decision are the memories of those times when Shakespeare,
>through the music of his writing, using me as an instrument, transported
>me in the company of my fellows to a common revelation we never
>understood before, and the hope of returning to that place again and
>again.

Thank you for one of the most heartfelt and eloquent expressions of what
it is to perform a great work. All of the toil is more than worth a few
moments of sheer bliss. :-)

>Writer-director-actor-managers like Shakespeare had an immediate and
>most informative response from an audience who guide them.  Shakespeare
>was first and foremost an actor.

And, from what I have read (I also am no scholar), a businessman.

>Did Shakespeare re-write to please as much of his audience as possible?
>Daa!

I can't help thinking that if he were writing today it would be
screenplays or television (albeit *very good* television)! ;-)

>There is no question both scholar's as well as performers contribute to
>each other and thus to our audience's appreciation of Shakespeare's
>genius, as long as we all remember," The play is the thing."

Was it Harold Bloom who thought that there was no way that Shakespeare's
plays could be performed "perfectly" as WS intended, that there could be
no definitive portrayals of his characters? And therefore that
performance was useless and scholarly study the only valid way to
"understand" Shakespeare?  Sorry for the broad paraphrasing, but I read
that opinion too long ago to remember its source!

Michele Bolay

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Dec 2000 08:32:40 GMT
Subject: 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2331 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

>What most scholars fail to realize is that the plays were
>composed with actors during rehearsals.  Having worked many
>times with authors present
>at rehearsals on original works I have found that the actor, the
>director, the producer, and most of all the audience during try-
>outs and
>previews exert a very strong influence over the way a scene is finally rendered.

Undoubtedly this is so - except, if Tiffany Stern is right, in her
recent book, Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan, the nature of
'rehearsal' was very different in the Shakespearean theatre.  She
suggests that there were only one or two 'full' rehearsals before a
performance, and that actors simply learnt their own parts on their own
with only cues to guide them.  The co-operative and experimental nature
of modern rehearsal was, according to her, simply unknown.

Incidentally, I've always thought this 'stage versus page' controversy
tends to be rather unproductive.  At least from 1623 Shakespeare was and
is available as 'literature' as well as a 'script for performance' - and
for two centuries the gap between the two was, for most of the plays,
extreme.  (W.B. Worthen's Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance
has many interesting things to say on the issue.)

David Lindley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Thursday, 14 Dec 2000 17:43:57 -0600
Subject:        Fine-tuning plays

"Having worked many times with authors present at rehearsals on original
works I have found that the actor, the director, the producer, and most
of all the audience during try-outs and previews exert a very strong
influence over the way a scene is finally rendered."  J. Kenneth
Campbell.

An impressive instance of Campbell's thinking about the creative process
is to be found in <R. and G. are Dead> which I saw in Washington D.C. in
1967 in the version seen in tryouts in North America..  Three weeks
later it opened on Broadway cut by 1/3 (!!)  The uncut script was at one
time available in paperback.  Don't know if it still is.

Cheers
John

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Tomposki <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Dec 2000 09:48:22 EST
Subject:        RE: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

I'm inclined to agree with Paul Doniger that Shakespeare is more of a
dramatic artist (albeit a highly literary one).  After all, he was an
actor as well as a playwright, and his plays were written to provide
material for the Lord Chamberlain's/King's Men.

This brings up an interesting question.  How much of the problematic
elements of the plays is a result of this dramatic vs literary
approach?  As any actor knows, you do not communicate by your lines
alone.  Shakespeare, writing with specific actors in mind, would have
tailored his dialog to the strengths and weaknesses of those actors.
How Burbage or Kempe or Armin would approach a role must have had some
bearing on the writing of the role.  Not only in terms of how the lines
were written, but on what lines were left out.  If Shakespeare knew an
actor could communicate an idea better by gesture or expression than by
words, he likely would be inclined to omit dialog that might just get in
the way.  Gestures, expressions, pauses and other dramatic devices may
explain what sometimes seems missing on the page.

Philip Tomposki
 

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