2001

Re: Subtext

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2715  Monday, 3 December 2001

[1]     From:   Sam Small <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 18:54:24 -0000
        Subj:   Subtext

[2]     From:   John Ciccarelli <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 16:24:13 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Subtext

[3]     From:   Kelley Costigan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 01 Dec 2001 17:24:42 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2710 Subtext

[4]     From:   Brian Willis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 1 Dec 2001 12:03:44 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2710 Subtext


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 18:54:24 -0000
Subject:        Subtext

Gabriel Egan writes, "If my lunch is my lunch, am I in trouble too?"

If Gabriel Egan desisted from his oft-exercised snobbish aggression he
may learn something.  The adage to which I referred has been in the
screenwriting fraternity for at least 70 years.  Perhaps Mr. Egan should
catch up.  It means, if further explanation is necessary to the rest of
the list members, that if a scene's subtext is what the scene's *text*
or action is about then we have a boring scene.  The scene will be one
dimensional; without depth; expositional to the neglect of all else.  If
we take as an example the famous first 40 lines of Richard III, actors
and directors must decide what it is *also* about.  We know that he is
"determined to be a villain".  But what else does he *not* say?  That
his parents didn't love him enough?  That his brother and family used
him as a "packhorse" (he says it later).  That he is depressed about
being sexually unattractive?  That he feels quite alone?  That he missed
his childhood?  There are many others too.  To play the speech as a
piece of devilish tomfoolery is simply not playing Shakespeare at all -
just repeating words.

Gabriel Egan writes, "Alas, I forgot. Which families, Sam? Luckily,
father and son never found
themselves on different sides, I suppose."

This may be a piece of Gabriel Egan humour but its meaning completely
escapes me.  I have absolutely no idea what he is talking about.  But to
answer a question, which I refuse to believe he doesn't know the answer
to, the English Civil War was fought between two families; Roundheads
against Cavaliers; the Protestants against the Catholics; the
Progressives against the Traditionalists; the Parliamentarians against
the Royalists. OK?  And yes father against son, daughter against mother,
cousin against nephew and all, and all.

SAM SMALL

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ciccarelli <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 16:24:13 -0500
Subject:        Re: Subtext

Jane,

I would agree that a play is not just words and the relational or
conflict element between characters and their situations needs to be
taken into account when digesting any story.  This takes on a special
dimension when dealing with plays.  The same scene can produce opposing
points of view about what's being acted or read.  An actor playing
Hamlet may have a certain take, say on how Hamlet feels during the
nunnery scene.  However, his director, an audience member or someone
reading the scene can all have differing views on the action.

An example of this that I've often found interesting was the emotional
state of Macbeth in Act V, leading up to and including the 'Tomorrow'
speech.  I've read several critiques on this scene that state Macbeth
delivers the speech with a detached indifference, without any true
emotion.  The line "I have supped full of horrors...cannot once start
me", meaning nothing can phase him at all that he's seen, seems to the
set viewpoint that he no longer feels anything.

Having played the role though, this approach to Act V for me doesn't
make any sense.  Macbeth is focused on the imminent attack of his
castle, however, he stops at several points during the act and laments
on his ruined life "My way of life is fallen...",  inquires of his
wife's health and curing her state of mind, wonders about his own state
of mind, etc.  From these conversations that he has with himself and
others, he continually questions his personal situation but then tries
to get his mind back to the battle.  As an actor, I would have to ask if
he is so removed emotionally and is just worried about the attack, why
does he constantly stop war preparations with these asides?  There has
to be something else there that an actor must play.  The "I have supped"
line to me appears more like he is lying himself to forget what's really
on his mind and to psyche himself up for the siege.  Its only upon
hearing of his wife's death that all the pretense is stripped away and
he deals with his pain and states life as being futile.

However, the "I have supped" line is looked upon by some as if he is
stating a literal truth.  His wife's death comes and he delivers a
detached speech rather one coming from deep pain and loss.  So you can
come away from the same act with two different interpretations.  This is
perhaps one of the more important components that keeps Shakespeare
fresh and vital is that the works can spark a variety of interpretations
and proves that subtext is often very subjective.

John

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kelley Costigan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 01 Dec 2001 17:24:42 +0000
Subject: 12.2710 Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2710 Subtext

As a professional actor who has spent a great deal of time working on
the plays of Shakespeare, I'd like to point out that you cannot apply
'modern' theatrical and acting theory to these plays.

When Shakespeare wrote them, there were no 'acting schools' as such, but
there was coaching and a kind of teaching in the way there were
apprentices to other professions.  The plays as written contain clues
which help the actor tell the story, find a characterisation, and
develop relationships between these characters.  What you refer to as
'subtext' is no more than the underlying drive of a particular line.  A
character has a thought, he gives it breath and that breath is words
which are supplied by the playwright.  In the modern theatre as taught
by a large majority of schools, there is a tendency to give these words
colours or  'play them' with certain meanings which do not necessarily
gel with what the words themselves mean.

Shakespeare gives you all sorts of hints how to say the lines -
aspiration, alliteration, punctuation (although some editors with cringe
when I write this), and so on.  Characters call each other by their
names (far more than people do in normal conversation) in order to get
through to the audience their identities and relationships.  'Get thee
to a nunnery' means far more than Jane Drake Brody posits.  Not only
does it mean the literal 'go and join a convent', a nunnery was also a
bawdy house which meaning plays upon the themes he is discussing about
the faithlessness of women and 'breeding of sinners'.

I'm sorry if this is rather rambling or even confusing (if anyone wants
to ask me more, I'd be happy to try to clarify), but I don't think that
Jane Drake Brody is oversimplifying when she says that the characters
'mean something'.

Kelley Costigan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 1 Dec 2001 12:03:44 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2710 Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2710 Subtext

I think that the issue of subtext is crucial to many issues that have
been popping up here lately. Subtext can be a broad topic. Technically,
subtext is a theatrical issue, although the most skilled writers make
the subtext of a character clear.

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.

However, when an actor prepares for a role, subtext becomes a much more
personal, sometimes hidden thing.  In this context, an actor writes
their own subtext in their head. Whenever an actor does not have a line,
he or she is thinking and responding to other actors onstage. That
extra-textual responding is subtext.  This subtext is informed by the
choices that a director and the actor have made concerning
interpretation of a role.

Where "Get thee to a nunnery" may mean anger and dismissal for most
Hamlets, a great example of a different choice is Simon Russell Beale's
recent Hamlet. In John Caird's deeply religious interpretation, his
nunnery line was a pleading with Ophelia as well as a dismissal. This
particular subtext, as Benedict Nightingale pointed out in his review,
was Hamlet's attempt to save Ophelia from the vices of Denmark. To
protect her from the corruption that their "fathers" offstage are
subjecting them to.  Quite a remarkable and legitimate choice for
subtext.

Subtext however can also be absolutely unindicated in the text of the
play. Hence, the discussion about Goneril's suicide. If the actor and
the director make the choice, Edmund could indicate through delivery of
his lines and his behavior onstage that perhaps it is not suicide but a
murder. Subtext is critical to an actor's performance. The most deeply
intelligent interpretations have omnipresent subtext. It is a broad
concept which can be influenced by many factors: the author's skillfully
written implication of motivation, a director's choice, an actor's
choice, and even an audience's reception (correctly or incorrectly
perceived) of what is occurring in the minds of the characters onstage
before them.

Brian Willis

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Shakespeare in Stratford (UK) 2002 Course

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2714  Monday, 3 December 2001

From:           Joanne Walen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 12:46:39 EST
Subject:        Shakespeare in Stratford (UK) 2002 Course

For the last six years I have conducted this course, in which several
SHAKSPER members have participated. I am passing the course on to
Carolyn Henly, and those of you interested should contact her
(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for this year's information. The preliminary
announcement is included here.

Joanne Walen

Shakespeare:  Text and Theatre; A Course in Stratford-Upon-Avon,
England, 16-23 June 2002

Plans are currently underway for the 2002 week-long program at the
Shakespeare Centre in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  The course includes
attendance at several Shakespearean plays augmented by pre-performance
lectures and post-performance discussions presented by resident
experts.  (Past speakers have included:  Professor Miriam Gilbert, from
the University of Iowa and author of the newly-released Shakespeare in
Performance at Stratford:  The Merchant of Venice, and Dr. Robert
Smallwood, outgoing director of the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford.)
Our study of text and performance will be further enhanced by leading
RSC actors who will appear in the class as guest speakers and talk about
their roles in the plays we see.

The preliminary estimated cost of $795 includes the cost for the course,
all theatre tickets, housing (in local guesthouses) for the duration of
the program, all breakfasts, and one or two dinners, as well as any
transportation necessary for travel if the schedule includes attendance
at RSC or Globe performances in London.   Final actual cost will depend
on the rate of exchange and the total number of participants.  (There is
a minimum of 15 required for the course to make, but the way the program
is budgeted, the more people who enroll, the lower the per-capita cost.)

The course is tentatively scheduled to run from Sunday, June 16th
through Saturday, June 23rd.  These dates will change only if, when the
RSC releases its 2002 schedule, that week turns out to be a "dark" week
in Stratford (a week in which there are no shows due to changeover of
productions).

I am in the process of establishing a relationship with a US university
so that teachers and others will be able to take the course for graduate
credit.  Details forthcoming as arrangements are finalized.

NO ONE WILL BE REQUIRED TO COMMIT TO ENROLLING OR TO MAKING ANY PAYMENT
UNTIL FINAL DATE, COST, AND THEATRE SCHEDULE ARE PUBLISHED.

If you think you might be interested in taking part in this exciting
venture, or if you would like further information, please contact
Carolyn Henly at

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

or at her work number:

804-743-3683

I will keep you posted as the course takes shape and you can make a
final decision about attending when details are finalized!

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Webpage <http://ws.bowiestate.edu>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Re: Succession

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2711  Monday, 3 December 2001

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 16:43:43 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

[2]     From:   Virginia Byrne <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 11:54:54 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2690 Succession

[3]     From:   Graham Hall <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 18:14:26 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

[4]     From:   Brian Willis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 12:44:49 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2690 Succession

[5]     From:   Judy Lewis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 3 Dec 2001 13:47:14 +1200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 16:43:43 -0000
Subject: 12.2698 Re: Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

I was somewhat surprised to read the rather Romantic characterizations
of pre-Conquest, "Germanic" systems of proto-democratic "election", and
all the guff about them being preserved in modern "acclamation
ceremonies". Dear oh dear. This was all invented out of thin air by
troublemaking 17th-century common lawyers intent on refiguring Magna
Carta as some kind of bill of rights for the well-to-do professional
bourgeoisie, and is at least 120 years out of date. A better idea of all
this can be gleaned from two classic books - The Divine Right of Kings
by Figgis and The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law by Pocock -
supplemented by a good text book such as A History of Medieval Political
Philosophy 300-1450 by Canning. By the way, the Alfred the Great case is
not such a good one to pick out as an illustration of some kind of
eminently sensible and settled Anglo-Saxon political system - the break
in traditional primogeniture resulted in protracted internecine war, and
allowed the Danes whose descendants would turn up again in Hamlet to
sneak into Yorkshire. Still, I suppose Alfred made up for it in the end,
which just goes to show that the law is an ass when it comes to picking
Kings and Queens.

On Denmark and its "elective" monarchy - another misnomer, surely... -
this is not Shakespeare giving us a lesson in Danish culture, but
drawing our attention to the fact that very soon Englishmen might have
to sort out some kind of election themselves, as Elizabeth had no
progeny of either or any sex. And this, of course, was just another
chapter in the awkward book of Tudor reproductive inadequacy... out of
which WS made a pretty penny... As it turned out, there was an
"election", but the choice was based on sound genealogical criteria.

martin

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Virginia Byrne <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 11:54:54 EST
Subject: 12.2690 Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2690 Succession

It is my understanding (and if wrong would also like a clarification)
that primogeniture is a fairly 'new' law (or was since it is no longer
applicable effective the current William's coronation)...and that
kingship i.e. in Macbeth, was based on recommendation of the current
crown (Duncan recommended Malcolm) and then election by the thanes
(hence Macbeth won the throne as a war hero after Malcolm's flight and
suspect).Was this also possibly the case in Denmark?

Curious,
Virginia Byrne

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 18:14:26 +0000
Subject: 12.2698 Re: Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

> [...]It is my understanding that, traditionally, the king in Denmark was
>elected by the nobles. They did not follow primogeniture like the rest of
>Europe[...].

Not an absolute mechanism in the rest of Europe but often subject to era
and state. Hence, for example, the dramatic Macbeth having some
ambiguity in the circumstances and the real Macbeth even more so.
Shakespeare, with an eye to Jimmy Six, managed his usual obsidian
coverage of the subject then got round it by the use of smoke and
mirrors.

Best wishes,
Graham Hall

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 12:44:49 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2690 Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2690 Succession

> As I understand it, the principle of succession is
> How is it then, that upon Hamlet's (father) death,
> Claudius, and not the
> prince, becomes king? Is it by virtue of his
> marrying Gertrude? Isn't he
> king before his marriage?

Denmark is an elected monarchy. Hence, Hamlet's dying voice lights upon
Fortinbras. Also, it could explain the curious line when Hamlet
complains that he lacks "advancement".

It also enlightens Claudius's incriminating remark in I. ii. lines
14-16:

Nor have we herein barred
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
With this affair along, For all, our thanks.

I can see how it is confusing. But I believe that this line is
Shakespeare's way of informing his audience that Denmark is a slightly
different monarchy than their own England.

Brian Willis

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judy Lewis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 3 Dec 2001 13:47:14 +1200
Subject: 12.2698 Re: Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

>Richard III had the children killed out
>of pure paranoia - they were no real threat.

>SAM SMALL

>> If
>> the latter, then this is why Richard III needs to eliminate not only
>> Clarence (George) but also the sons of Edward IV.

I know the thread is about Hamlet but I can't let this go by.  Too many
inaccurate history books and Shakespeare, notwithstanding, Richard III
did not kill his nephews.  This has been proven satisfactorily, "beyond
reasonable doubt", many times.

Nor did he kill Clarence.  King Edward IV had Clarence murdered and
almost certainly the princes were killed at the instigation of the Duke
of Buckingham.

Judy Lewis

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Re: Ghost Dad-French

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2713  Monday, 3 December 2001

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 12:16:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2705 Re: Ghost Dad-French

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 17:32:29 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2705 Re: Ghost Dad-French


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 12:16:19 -0500
Subject: 12.2705 Re: Ghost Dad-French
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2705 Re: Ghost Dad-French

Graham Hall asked,

>There is even a bit of Country and Western. All this made
>the phrase "...are you packing..."(3.5.82{Arden})leap out. I recall this
>as an obligatory interrogation by the Sheriff of the Gunslinger in
>countless Westerns. My wife insists that I am confused by the context in
>which I have just heard it and that the phrase was obligatory in
>Gangster movies.  Make your play, pardners! Who's right?

She is, Pilgrim. Cowboys wear their guns right where you can see them,
gangsters carry concealed (except for tommy guns, of course).

Dana Shilling

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 17:32:29 -0000
Subject: 12.2705 Re: Ghost Dad-French
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2705 Re: Ghost Dad-French

"Packing" in the broad sense of "carrying in any manner" got into print
around 1800, according to OED2. Most of the quotations seem to point to
an American origin, and as they move into the 1880s they are linked with
gold prospecting and the wild west. One speaks of "packing a star",
which obviously would have no place in the Gangster movie context. The
Cymbeleine reference is interesting, isn't it? There does not seem to be
a weapon involved though, and "packing" in this instance is apparently
just "scheming" or "acting suspiciously".

m.

"When a man with a poniard meets a man with a halberd, the man with the
poniard is a dead man" - Clintus ad Orientem, "Pugnus Nummi" (c.1460).
Presumably because he is not "packing" enough "heat".
_______________________________________________________________
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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
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The "Comedy" of Lousy Acting

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2712  Monday, 3 December 2001

From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 17:01:56 -0000
Subject: "Comedy" of Lousy Acting
Comment:        SHK12.2699 The "Comedy" of Lousy Acting

Yes, OK, Shakespeare's not that funny (although Falstaff can still raise
a laugh, surely...?). But what about Jonson? I defy anyone not to fall
about at the sight of Zeal-of-the-land Busy sniffing the air like a
hound, leading his charges through Bartholomew Fair with their eyes
closed to protect themselves form the sinful sights it offers. And much
of the humour in The Alchemist derives from the spectacularly brilliant
plot rather than difficult puns or topical references. I saw a very good
production at the National in London about 5 years ago, starring Simon
Callow. Everyone cried tears of laughter, bloody great belly laughs, not
those annoying clever-dick chuckles at obscure (but old) Jacobean jokes.
Best of all, I sat two rows behind a group of schoolchildren who
enjopyed the play immensely: as the climactic scene played, and everyone
was wondering what had happened to Dapper (he disappears into the
outhouse to get a charm from "the Queen of Fairy" way back in Act I
someplace...) one of the kids could not hold back an anxious whisper,
"He's in the toilet!"

What more apt critical judgement of Jonsonian comedy could there be?
He's in the toilet, indeed...

m

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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The S H A K S P E R Webpage <http://ws.bowiestate.edu>

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