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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Doubling in Macbeth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2446  Thursday, 25 October 2001

[1]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Oct 2001 20:32:34 -0400
        Subj:   Doubling or re-inventing characters?

[2]     From:   Nancy Charlton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Oct 2001 06:36:37 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2413 Re: Doubling in Macbeth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Oct 2001 20:32:34 -0400
Subject:        Doubling or re-inventing characters?

Hugh Davis mentions that

> Orson Welles film version had Seyton as 3rd Murderer.
>
> Polanski's film version had Ross as 3rd Murderer.
>
> A Stratford Ontario production about 15 years ago had 3rd Witch as 3rd
> Murderer. She pulled Fleance out of the way of the attack, wrapped her
> cloak around him and they disappeared, thanks to the stage lighting.

I have seen and participated in a number of similar doublings, but
there's an issue not being addressed here. When we talk about doubling,
do we mean one actor playing two parts or one character being
incorporated into another? In other words, IS the 3rd Murderer actually
Seyton (or Ross), or is one actor playing both roles as different
characters?

I think it's perfectly simple (as it apparently was for the
Elizabethans) to have an actor disappear backstage to change costume,
make-up, etc., and re-enter in a new guise. This common practice is not
the same thing as making a statement about, say, the CHARACTER of Ross
(is Ross a mercenary? a killer? a sycophant?) by expanding his part with
another characters lines and actions. In the latter instance, I have
seen some very odd choices: e.g., Macbeth as the 3rd Murderer;
Bollingbroke as the Groom. I've also seen, instead, some interesting
doubling where the actor was clearly two different characters: e.g., a
balding actor as Julius Caesar dons a wig and youthful makeup to
transform himself into Octavius.

What are your thoughts, experiences, or observations?

Paul E. Doniger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nancy Charlton <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 25 Oct 2001 06:36:37 +0000
Subject: 12.2413 Re: Doubling in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2413 Re: Doubling in Macbeth

Seija Sinikki <
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 > wrote on Monday:

>William A. Ringler has an interesting essay, "The Number of Actors in
>Shakespeare's Early Plays," . . . thinks that Shakespeare carefully
>crafted his plays for the Chamberlain's company which had 16 actors, and
>that he kept, with a few minor exceptions, the original pattern of
>writing plays for 16 actors to the end of his career.
>
>I, too, have wanted to know whether doubling is still practised. I think
>that the doubling of the roles of Cressida and Helen, for instance,
>would evoke interesting associations and perhaps even give new insights
>into the play. I would suggest that Shakespeare had this doubling in
>mind when writing the play, for Pandarus is continuously associating the
>two women. I would also double Cordelia and the Fool. Any response from
>the professionals?

Well, these days I'm not much of a professional anything, most
especially not an actor, but I feel qualified to second this idea as far
as T&C goes.  The doubling of actors obviously has implications beyond
pure practicality.

As to doubling Cordelia and the Fool, Tygres Heart here in Portland OR
did just that in their splendid production last spring. This
Cordelia/Fool, Laura Kaye Smith, made clear the parallels between the
two characters.  Cordelia tries to talk sense to her father, but it's
straight argument. The Fool does the same, but with wit and
circumlocution. Laura, whose figure was that of a teenage Olympic
gymnast, performed with a lot of tumbling and at one point jumped onto
Lear's back, A photo of which was on the cover of the program and in all
the publicity (it may be on their web site, www.tygresheart.org ). She
was small enough and lithe enough, and Gray Eubank as Lear was strong
enough and big enough for this to work convincingly. This was especially
fortunate when Lear must carry her body onto the stage.  I saw a
production where she was carried in on a litter, and it seemed watered
down. No, I think it is essential that Lear carry her--just as it is
essential for Macbeth's head to be brought in on a pike, and for Tempest
to be set on an island.

Nancy Charlton

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