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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: Doubled Roles
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1677  Monday, 4 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Erika Lin <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Sep 2000 16:16:34 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles

[2]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Sep 2000 15:51:51 -0700
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 01 Sep 2000 19:03:55 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Doubling

[4]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 03 Sep 2000 15:49:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles

[5]     From:   Richard Regan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 3 Sep 2000 21:44:54 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Erika Lin <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Sep 2000 16:16:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles

>The recent thread about Cymbeline has led me to muse that
>Posthumus-Cloten also makes a good fit.  Any thoughts?

Stephen Booth writes about this in Appendix 2, "Speculations on Doubling
in Shakespeare's Plays" in _King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, and
Tragedy (New Haven: Yale UP, 1983).  An earlier version of this essay
appeared as "Doubling in Shakespeare's Plays" in Ed. Philip C. McGuire
and David A. Samuelson, _Shakespeare: The Theatrical Dimension_ (New
York: AMS, 1979): 103-31.

Erika Lin

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Sep 2000 15:51:51 -0700
Subject: 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles
Comment:        Fw: SHK 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles

Doubling was standard procedure in the Elizabethan theatre. Most
scholars assume the typical acting company averaged about a dozen
players (I think the range is something like 9 minimum - 16 maximum, but
don't quote me!), making doubling necessary; it also explains why some
characters appear suddenly in the fourth act, say, or disappear after
the second.

What we don't know is who doubled what in Shakespeare's plays (though we
have cast lists for some of Jonson, and Beaumont and Fletcher). There
are several sources to look at. The classic, Baldwin's _The Organization
and Personnel of the Shakespearean Company_ is old and probably outdated
(1927), but also mostly conjectural; it's still an important starting
point, however. I know of two articles from _SQ_ that are good
resources: Alan C.  Dessen, "Conceptual Casting in the Age of
Shakespeare" (Vol 43.1; Spring '92;pages 67-70) and Ralph Berry,
"Hamlet's Doubles" (Vol 37.2; Summer, '86; pages 204-212). Berry
mentions a book by Sprague and Trewin, which I have not seen, called
_The Doubling of Parts in Shakespeare's Plays_ (1966). I'm not sure if
this includes contemporary Elizabethan doubling, or just past practices.

I'm looking for more information on this, myself, so if you have any
insights or resources, please let me know.

Thanks,
Paul E. Doniger
The Gilbert School

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 01 Sep 2000 19:03:55 -0400
Subject:        Re: Doubling

David Yawney expresses a healthy skepticism anent my point about
doubling:

"The metaphoric use of doubling is a modern convention and I would
proceed with caution in making assumptions."

I tend to agree for the most part, but I don't know if "metaphoric"
doubling isn't perhaps a modern reinvention.

In any event, my speculations do not arise from thematic or metadramatic
considerations.  They begin with considerations of economy:

(1) It is highly improbable that a company of players had sufficient
members to allow each part to be played by a separate actor.  Just look
at the lengths of many of the Dramatis Personae.

(2) It would be especially uneconomical for an actor with the skill to
carry a significant feature role to be offstage for much of the play.
Where such a character appears at the beginning of a play and then
disappears until the end, while another character of the same sex and
age occupies the stage in the middle and is disposed of before the first
character reappears, it is reasonable to suspect doubling.  Each of the
pairs on my list meets this criterion (except that Mamillius does not,
of course, reappear).  If a "metaphorical" or ironic point can also be
made as a result of the doubling, that is extra credit; although I would
not put it past Shakespeare to have such a thing in mind a priori.

(3) WS wrote with his inventory of players very much in mind. We even
have some texts in which the actors' names are speech prefixes.  It
seems likely that some of these roles were crafted to make the most of
the available resources.  I think that John Meagher started to make a
point in this direction in his preliminary book on Shakespeare's
dramaturgy, but I don't think he developed it fully.  Obviously, I
haven't gotten any further either.

Following my reasoning, it seems probable that the actor who played
Laertes had some other role in the middle of the play -- Rosencrantz,
Guildenstern First Player (?) -- but, as there is no thematic link, we
can't guess which it was.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 03 Sep 2000 15:49:12 -0400
Subject: 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles

>David Bradley in his 'From text to performance in the
>Elizabethan theatre'  (Cambridge, 1992) suggested as one of his 'working
>principles' in thinking of casting, 'that speaking actors were not
>normally cast for two alternating roles in the same play' (p. 42). . . .
>Does anyone have evidence that Bradley is wrong?

asks David Lindley.

Well, no, I don't think we can prove Bradley wrong, and I admire his
interesting study. But it is a twentieth-century reconstruction of
16th-17th century theatrical practice.  As far as we know, Shakespeare
did not write with the laws of reentry and doubling/dodging on the table
as he composed. The law of reentry (as far as I know) was first stated
in the twentieth century. "Dodging" means "returning an actor to his
original role after he has doubled in another" (Bradley 36). We cannot
prove that dodging was not used on the Renaissance English stage.
Bradley himself (114) notes violations of the law of reentry.

For at least the last thirty years, we have known about the parallels
between Posthumous and Cloten -- and their possible interpretations.
(See Murray Schwartz, in Psychoanalysis and Literary Process 219-283.)
I see no proof that the two characters were not dodged (or doubled, if
you will) on the early 17th century stage.  Indeed, Imogen's mistaking
Cloten's body for Posthumous's body would make sense if both characters
were played by the same actor. (Of course, there are other
possibilities.)

P.S. David Bradley apparently did not read final proof of "From text to
performance," and Cambridge UP (apparently) didn't either.  See page
256, note 21, where (Bradley tells me) several sentences have dropped
out of his text -- and have created a scholarly muddle!

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Regan <
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Date:           Sunday, 3 Sep 2000 21:44:54 EDT
Subject: 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1671 Re: Doubled Roles

John Dexter directed a Twelfth Night on videotape with Joan Plowright as
Viola/Cesario. Act V was shot with doubles playing whichever twin had
her/his back to the camera. The production is notable for Ralph
Richardson's Toby and Alec Guiness' Malvolio.

Richard Regan
Fairfield University
 

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