2001

Hamlet Q1 and Q2

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0006  Tuesday, 2 January 2001

From:           Edna Z. Boris <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 30 Dec 2000 05:22:03 -0500
Subject:        Hamlet Q1 and Q2

Does anyone have information on when, where, and how the Q1 and Q2
versions of Hamlet became known?

Edna Boris

The Hamlet Quartos

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0005  Tuesday, 2 January 2001

From:           Paul E. Doniger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 29 Dec 2000 19:36:19 -0800
Subject:        The Hamlet Quartos

Philip Tomposki writes, regarding _Hamlet_:

> It is interesting that the 'Bad' Quarto is considerably smaller the
> 'Good', about 2200 lines vs. 3800.  Since it is assumed that the 'Bad'
> Quarto came from the publicly performed version, memorized by a hired
> actor, this may be an indication of a work much shorter in performance
> that in written form.  Of course, it could also be a result of a faulty
> memory on the actors part, but it seems Elizabethan actors had quite
> prodigious memories.  Or it could be the printer simply cut what he saw
> as an overly lengthy play.  Perhaps one of our scholars on our list can
> provide a more informed judgement.

and

>It seems a reasonable assumption that Shakespeare originally wrote for the
> stage, and latter
> edited or revised his work for posterity.  While I believe he intended
> them to be performed in the playhouse, I don't think he would begrudge
> anyone from appreciating them in the comfort of their living room.

I would never argue against the last point; after all, who has the right
to speak for Shakespeare. I would, however, sugest that two points need
to be looked at more closely:

1. It doesn't seem too unreasonable to assume that the actor who may be
responsible for the 'Bad' Quarto was faulty in his memory. It is
entirely possible that this version of the play may have been the
so-called _Ur-Hamlet_ of several years earlier. The First ('Bad') Quarto
was published in 1603, at least two years after the Lord Chamberlain's
Men production of the later _Hamlet_ play (1601) and at least a decade
after the _Ur-Hamlet_ (if it ever existed, and whoever the real author
was). In addition, the actor who supposedly wrote it from memory played
very minor parts (if memory serves, I think it was Marcellus, Reynaldo,
and perhaps a third role), leaving him open to not knowing the lines of
the main characters all that well in the first place ("O what a
dung-hill idiot slave am I," is a classic example). It's also possible
that Shakespeare did considerable revision for the stage after this
unknown actor left his company.

2. Most scholars generally accept the notion that the Second Quarto was
published (1604) especially (and perhaps ONLY) to correct the errors of
the First ('Bad' and unauthorized) Quarto, most likely because it was
affecting revenues for The Lord Chamberlain's Men. It is even suggested
that this publication was an action which was reluctantly performed.

Is there any evidence from anywhere that suggests that Shakespeare
actually DID have any interest in seeing his plays published?  I know of
none, but would be curious (and surprised) to see it.

Paul E. Doniger

Re: Acting

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0003  Tuesday, 2 January 2001

From:           Paul E. Doniger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 29 Dec 2000 19:04:47 -0800
Subject:        Re: Acting

I'd like to echo and expand on some of  Mike Jensen's suggestion "that
we raise the level of discourse" regarding acting (Shakespearean or
otherwise).

Among Mike's comments were the following:

> I suggested that writing something like
>
> > She either miscasts (Alan Cumming), chooses classically-inexperienced
> > players who can barely speak, let alone fill, their roles (Jessica
Lange,
> > Harry Lennix), or leaves capable performers to their own stale devices
> > (Anthony Hopkins with his familiar repertoire of murmurs, shouts and
snarls).
>
> was basically name calling.  To say that someone is lousy or miscast
> does not give list members anything to address.  We can say, "I thought
> the actors were good," but that is as meaningless as the comments quoted
> above.

I emphatically agree. It is very easy for us to generalize that an actor
is good or bad in a role or a given performance, but it is extremely
difficult to specify what we mean in any way that people can easily
agree upon. Mike also states that:

> Acting is not like a costume or a set. ... Acting breaks down into parts like
> characterization, speaking the lines with conviction, and how actors
> play a scene together.  A performance can change from scene to scene, or
> even moment to moment.

 There are even many more areas into which acting breaks down, such as
dramatic action (i.e., the 'through line' of a performance from the
first moment to the last), rhythm, awareness of the medium (proscenium
stage, arena stage, TV, film), and so on. Perhaps, for us, the most
important might be the actor's or actress's awareness of the mind of the
playwright (e.g., Shakespeare's mind). This last 'part' into which
acting breaks down is admirably, though briefly, mentioned in
Boleslavsky's fine book, _Acting: The First Six Lessons_ (NY: Theatre
Arts Books).

Unless we understand these things and have the vocabulary, the time, and
the willingness to discuss them, I would suggest, along with Mike, that
we avoid being too hasty in our praises and condemnations. I, for one,
have some agreements and disagreements with, for example, the
characterizing of Jessica Lang's performance in _Titus_ as bad or
"inexperienced." She is an eminently experienced and, I believe, fine
actress. Did she have weaknesses as Tamora? Certainly, but who doesn't?
The role is not one of Shakespeare's most rounded women, but Ms. Lang
did manage to bring a great deal of sympathy for the character in the
opening scenes (no doubt due to her years of experience working with the
camera -- much as she did in adding grace and depth to that awful film
about Rob Roy ... but, of course, that is only my opinion!).

I also agree with Mike that:

>It would be helpful when discussing a performance to say enough
>so we can all discuss the same thing.  How did
> Hopkins "repertoire of murmurs, shouts and snarls" help or hurt a
> PARTICULAR scene?  How did that undermine the film at THAT point?  Then
> anyone interested on our list can review that scene to see if we agree,
> or if we want to make the case for Hopkins effectiveness is that scene.

It seems to me that if we are to discuss something so elusive as acting,
or worse, discuss a single performance, we must get as specific and
detailed as possible. The work that an actor does, often in the privacy
of his or her own mind and heart, is difficult for the audience to
infer. All we have is our reactions to the "final product."

Paul E. Doniger

Re: Branagh Love's Labour's Lost

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0004  Tuesday, 2 January 2001

From:           W. L. Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 29 Dec 2000 15:17:43 -0500
Subject: 11.2380 Re: Branagh Love's Labour's Lost
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2380 Re: Branagh Love's Labour's Lost

Re: Branagh Love's Labour's Lost, Dana Shilling writes:

>I thought it was a complete failure as
>a version of LLL, but as a movie I found it entertaining and, in the
>end, moving (although they did have some pretty emotive subjects to draw
>on).

I do not understand this comment.

I also found the movie entertaining and moving. And that's why I think
the movie is an unqualified success (NOT a complete failure) as an
interpretation of Shakespeare's script.  I further believe that to fully
understand the movie, the viewer must be familiar with that script.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0002  Tuesday, 2 January 2001

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 29 Dec 2000 13:17:49 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Literary Versus Theatrical Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Monica Chesnoiu <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 30 Dec 2000 05:39:29 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 11.2382 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 31 Dec 2000 09:18:34 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2377 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 31 Dec 2000 16:07:10 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2382 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 29 Dec 2000 13:17:49 -0500
Subject:        Re: Literary Versus Theatrical Shakespeare

As usual, Mike Jensen asks an intelligent question: he wonders why we so
often see a war of words between those who champion reading Shakespeare
and those who insist that he wrote FOR the stage.  Why can't these two
factions get along, as, for example, the feminists and the Marxists more
or less do?

I think the answer is that, historically, the literature crowd and the
theater crowd each believes that the other is fundamentally wrong about
how to interpret Shakespeare.  A few years ago, for example, there was
an SAA seminar during which the new historicists called stage history
"naive realism," and the stage history crowd responded that new
historicists reduced Shakespeare's plays to comic books all conveying
the same adolescent message: power is everything!

More generally, close reading of Shakespeare often seems at odds with
theatrical techniques of interpretation. As a result, performance
critics often think that close readers are building castles in the air,
and close readers think that performance critics simply miss the
subtlety of the text.

Ideally, of course, close reading and performance should reinforce each
other, but in real life they often don't.  The best example of this is
the theory of "Performability" put forth by certain Restoration scholars
that sought to declare as illegitimate all close readings of Restoration
plays that could not be grasped by an average member of the audience
reacting to the broad outlines of the action and the plot of the play in
question.

That approach seems indicative of "common sense" to some, of
"anti-intellectualism" to others.  And on and on it goes.  For my part,
I think that Shakespeare was BOTH a poet and a playwright AT THE SAME
TIME.  So I think that both approaches are valid, and I suspect that
when they seem to clash, the critic has discovered an important
interpretive crux that needs to be further examined by ALL techniques at
his or her disposal.

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Monica Chesnoiu <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 30 Dec 2000 05:39:29 -0600
Subject: 11.2382 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 11.2382 Re: Literary vs. Theatrical Shakespeare

Mike Jensen cautioned against "finding Shakespeare's opinions in the
opinions of his characters." Never did I presume such a thing and I
didn't overlook the comic effect. When I quoted Fluellen I said: "I
don't know about Shakespeare, but Fluellen was certainly a man of
words..." My point was to raise the question of early modern use of the
word "literature."

I placed a search on the Early Modern English Dictionary Database
http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/english/emed/patterweb.html and this is
what it shows:

"literature"
(1) Th. Thomas (Th. Thomas 1587)
Grammer, learning, writing, cunning, literature.
(2) Coote (Coote 1596)
literature learning.
(3) Florio (Florio 1598)
Letteratura, literature, learning, know


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