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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Actors' Additions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2422  Wednesday, 24 October 2001

[1]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Oct 2001 12:20:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2412 Re: Actors' Additions

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Oct 2001 14:47:27 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2412 Re: Actors' Additions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Oct 2001 12:20:21 -0400
Subject: 12.2412 Re: Actors' Additions
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2412 Re: Actors' Additions

Marcus Dahl's analysis of the ways a character's speeches may be less
than authorial shows how much uncertainty is inherent in "naive readings
of character speeches", to use his phrase.  But it is important to
remember that these levels of uncertainty apply, with only a little
variation, to the Congressional Record, especially those "speeches"
which are largely written and submitted by special interest groups for
whom the congressman is very much their "actor".  They also apply, going
in the other chronological direction, to everything we have of the Greek
and Latin classics, the bible, Beowulf, and most of the major documents
of both western and eastern culture.

And still we can study the meanings of all these other documents as they
have come down to us willy-nilly, and do so to our great profit, without
regard to the biographies and personalities of such like as the supposed
"priestly" hand in the bible, Homer (if he ever existed), Plato (if his
teachings are accurately preserved), their scriveners and translators,
and on and on.

A great problem with Shakespeare is that he lived at the dawn of an age
when detailed biographical information would routinely be available.
For him, it comes to us often in a random, hagiographic or even
folkloric way, and not with the factual reliability that we expect for
more recent authors.  It is understandably tempting for us to import
into what we have of Shakespeare's writings such knowledge about their
production as suits the theoretical concepts of our day, but all it
leads to is, as Dahl's discussion makes clear, is a clever Anatomy of
Ignorance.  Let us hold on to our wonder and not seek to dispel it with
facts we simply do not have.

I submit that the conservative better approach is to treat Shakespeare
and his works as the literature of a pre-biographical age, to take his
surviving works "naively" in the form they have come to us and make what
we can of them (which is a very great deal), to accept all newly
uncovered hard information about their creation and transmission, and to
abandon, renounce, and abjure all abstract and speculative vaporings for
or against hypothetical sources of contamination by equally hypothetical
actors, committees, or second, third, and fourth hands, all of which we
would do well to relegate to the same remote shelf where we keep
Oxfordian and other authorship studies.

Tony Burton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Oct 2001 14:47:27 -0400
Subject: 12.2412 Re: Actors' Additions
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2412 Re: Actors' Additions

Regarding Marcus Dahl's comments on revision, I would certainly have to
agree.  We have three texts of Hamlet, two texts of King Lear, Troilus
and Cressida, and Othello.  We can argue about what these texts mean,
but we can't deny that they exist.  Can we?

But why would anyone add extra-metrical, meaningless phrases to a
script? What would be the point? And do we have an evidence at this was
ever done?

Yours, Bill Godshalk

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