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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Doubling in Macbeth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2456  Friday, 26 October 2001

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Oct 2001 13:47:09 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2446 Re: Doubling in Macbeth

[2]     From:   Michael Edgar <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 10:43:43 +1000
        Subj:   Doubling in Macbeth

[3]     From:   Hugh Davis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Oct 2001 22:25:41 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2446 Re: Doubling in Macbeth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Oct 2001 13:47:09 -0400
Subject: 12.2446 Re: Doubling in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2446 Re: Doubling in Macbeth

> As to doubling Cordelia and the Fool, Tygres Heart here in Portland OR
> did just that in their splendid production last spring.

It also provides a delicious ambiguity to "and my poor fool is hanged."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Edgar <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 10:43:43 +1000
Subject:        Doubling in Macbeth

Around about 1990 I directed a student production of 'Macbeth' to tour
schools in Tasmania. We had a cast of eight, including myself, doubling
Duncan and Macduff. No prompt book or video record remains and I can't
remember the exact casting but the witches did cover a lot of the parts
e.g Murderers, Porter, Seyton and a composite 'nobleman of Scotland'
figure.  This resulted in a rather skewed version in which the powers of
darkness had a little too much influence on events and Macbeth's
free-will was rather undervalued but it was fun to do. We also converted
some of the more expositionary sections of the play e.g 2.4 'Ross and
Old man' and 5.2 'The English power is near' into full-cast choruses.

The discussion on this topic has made me think that there are at least
three possible (and probably overlapping) categories of doubling;

1) Discreet or Functional. Much used I seem to remember in the fifties.
One actor plays for instance, Barnardo and Osric, and costume, make-up
and acting are employed to make the two characters as different as
possible.  Ideally the audience is not even supposed to notice the
device but, in fact, the smugger observers have consulted their programs
and are evaluating the effectiveness of the actor's doubling
performance.

2) Significant. You cast one actor to play, say, Fortinbras, Laertes and
Horatio to make some point about each of them being a foil to Hamlet. I
have done that, with the aid of video elements. I think it ended up
looking a bit silly. There are more successful examples. Jonathan Pryce,
as Hamlet, ventriloquising the ghost must have been a particularly
striking instance.  30 Sportive. Doubling that draws attention to itself
and to the theatrical fun of using the actor as a transformable sign.

I've always assumed, unthinkingly, that doubling in renaissance theatre
would have been of the first type. Is there any evidence to the
contrary?

Michael Edgar
President,
Australian and New Zealand Shakespeare Association

A PS blurb. Doubling in some recent productions will be considered in a
number of papers at the forthcoming ANZSA conference.
http://www.cdesign.com.au/anzsa2002/

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Davis <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Oct 2001 22:25:41 -0400
Subject: 12.2446 Re: Doubling in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2446 Re: Doubling in Macbeth

>Paul E. Doniger wrote: 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 did not actually mention this; instead, I wrote an earlier post asking
if members could recall doubling of the witches and the murderers.
Obviously, this would mean actors doubling, but I think the director in
me would like to see the characters themselves double (the witches are
the murderers in that sense).

Hugh Davis

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