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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: December ::
Re: Subtext
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2742  Wednesday, 5 December 2001

[1]     From:   Jane Drake Brody <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 11:00:16 EST
        Subj:   Subtext

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 10:36:59 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2732 Re: Subtext

[3]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 16:42:28 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2732 Re: Subtext

[4]     From:   Stephen Dobbin <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 17:01:06 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Subtext

[5]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 17:47:25 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2732 Re: Subtext

[6]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 13:58:14 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2732 Re: Subtext


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jane Drake Brody <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 11:00:16 EST
Subject:        Subtext

In response to the letters concerning my original paragraphs on subtext.
. .

Martin Stewart writes,

>This may make sense in psychological terms, but it scarcely makes sense in
>dramatico-critical terms.

My discussion of subtext was begun as a result of Sam Small's idea that
"the play is not about what the play is about," And so, I am speaking in
psychological terms rather than dramatico-critical terms.  I am merely
talking of the ways in which actors must bring the whole thing to life.

>It is there in the text.

Of course it is!  I am not suggesting that subtext is manufactured out
of thin air.  However, the playwright, has two hours in which to suggest
a world.  I believe that he/she gives the actor/reader potent images and
clues which when investigated yield far more than the numerical sum of
the words employed.

Brian Willis comments,

>In plays with devious schemers (i.e. Richard III and Iago), the subtext
>of their words are quite clear because Shakespeare, and the character,
>tell us through direct address what their subtext is. Richard III: "I am
>determined to play a villain". Iago: "I hate the Moor". These comments
>color their words and actions throughout the play so that we know (wink,
>wink, nod, nod) that the character means and intends something entirely
>opposite to what he is saying and doing onstage.

I would say that the subtext involved in much direct address is "to
enlist the audience" or "to get the audience on my side."  I mean to say
that what makes Iago speak is his desire to have the audience with him.
That for me is the "relational" aspect of subtext.  Of course, he means
what he says, but the force which incites the speech has to do with his
relationship with the person to whom he is speaking.

Theatrically yours,
Jane Drake Brody

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 10:36:59 -0600
Subject: 12.2732 Re: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2732 Re: Subtext

My problem with the phrase

> "if a scene is about what the scene is about you
> are in deep trouble"

is that it's pseudo-clever. The presumed cleverness lies in the
repetition of the phrase "scene is about," making it an apparent
tautology (as GE notes) but allowing a different rendering by insiders:

> It means . . . that if a scene's subtext is what the
> scene's *text* or action is about then we have
> a boring scene.

To me, the phrase conjures up a picture of those overpaid hacks who
crank out potboilers based on the latest gimmick, and the translation
does nothing to dispel this view. It reminds me of the adage attributed
to Donald Trump, "It's not whether you win or lose, but whether you
win." He, too, thought he'd said something clever.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 16:42:28 -0000
Subject: 12.2732 Re: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2732 Re: Subtext

Martin Steward writes,

Egan's point was that, if the English Civil War was between two
families, then fathers and sons would not have found themselves on
opposing sides.

I think Mr. Steward has been infected by Mr. Egan's pedantry.  By the
word "family" I did not necessarily mean blood relations but cohesive,
philosophical groups.  The "Catholic Family" for instance.  Charles I
was married to a Spanish Catholic.  Catholics in general supported the
Royalist position.. It is felt by some that Shakespeare himself had a
certain sympathy for the contemporary Royalist view.  And it is true
that members of related families did find themselves on opposing sides
just like the American Civil War.  The whole point of R&J is that
stupid, crass people believe that supporting a particular political or
philosophic credo is more important than love.

Gabriel Egan writes,

*"Don't use a semi-colon when you want a colon." That's an old literary
adage.  ** "Uncle", surely.

Mr. Egan seems determined to show himself as a tiresome old teacher with
no clear argument left in his bones except the correction of grammar.

He wearily goes on:

Are you sure you want to pursue this claim that the binarism of Romeo
and Juliet works for the English Civil War?

Yes, I do, Mr. Egan.  R&J is a very violent play.  It is Titus
Andronicus without two young lovers.  It doesn't matter what opposing
groups you name be they Capulet/Montague, Left/Right, American/Taliban,
Jew/Arab, Labour/Conservative, Catholic/Protestant - the ending is
always the same.  The destruction of love.

SAM SMALL

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Dobbin <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 17:01:06 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        Subtext

Martin Steward's academic vocabulary is falling behind the times.

I am reliably informed that the correct adjectivisation of Derrida is
'Derrivative', with two r's.

Similarly useful is the verb 'Barthadized' which means, roughly, "I've
never read Barthes but that's not going to stop me citing him."

The adjective 'Foulcaulting' as in "Foulcaulting specious nonsense",
should also trip off the tongue of anyone with serious academic
pretensions.

Stephen.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 17:47:25 -0000
Subject: 12.2732 Re: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2732 Re: Subtext

I had written,

'In the case of Shakespeare, with his sources, [ I ] suppose the dictum
needs qualification, but still, we need to remember "il n'y a rien pas
hors du texte"'.

Sean Lawrence replied,

'I realize that this is Derridean, but I'm wondering if we should really
consider it deconstructionalist or structuralist?'

I don't think so, if by "structuralist" we mean Saussurean, which
doctrine holds that there is indeed something outside the text - the
putative science of semiology, which he "imagines" - I can't think of a
better way of putting it - in General Linguistics...

Sean adds,

'By the way, you're quite right in pointing out the sources, but surely
every text has some, and there's also the insoluble question of what
resides in the interstices of the text.'

Indeed - I only said that the Derridean maxim "needs qualification",
because there are clearly other texts outside the Shakespearean text,
not that it was inapplicable. In this instance I myself was being a
structuralist rather than a post-structuralist. In the end, I suppose
that one could argue that all the assumptions made by the correspondent
writing on the subtext of "Get thee to a nunnery" are part of the text
of the world which is one of the many texts that lie behind
"Shakespeare". But let's not disappear up our bums - I was just
concerned that we should read the plays, rather than trick ourselves
into thinking we are Hamlet (although I have a hunch that that
particular play is somehow designed to make us do this, in our
individual ways....)

Objectively & correlatively,
martin

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001 13:58:14 EST
Subject: 12.2732 Re: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2732 Re: Subtext

Isn't the concept, or at least the term, "subtext" an invention of the
20th century?

Does anyone know the date of the first use of this as an acting term?

Billy Houck

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