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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Authorial Intention
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0317  Tuesday, 5 February 2002

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 10:14:08 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[2]     From:   William Proctor Williams <
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        Date:   Monday, 04 Feb 2002 10:26:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[3]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 17:50:12 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[4]     From:   Christine Gordon <
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        Date:   Monday, 04 Feb 2002 13:41:26 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[5]     From:   M. Yawney <
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        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 14:46:57 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[6]     From:   Patricia Cooke <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Feb 2002 19:52:33 +1300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Monday, 4 Feb 2002 10:14:08 EST
Subject: 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

Most people of sense have been saying and writing this for many years.
To those with an ear, it would seem evident that blocking is often
created by Shakespeare's dialogue. Examples abound of course in the
later plays but are also to be found in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona"
and "Romeo and Juliet".

It should also be said that writers who choose the theatre as their
medium do so with a special awareness of spatial needs.

Harry Hill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <
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Date:           Monday, 04 Feb 2002 10:26:08 -0500
Subject: 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

The point Brandon Toropov is raising is about a thing that I have tried
to name, though it appears it has not caught on.  It is the "dialogic
stage direction."  Dessen and Thomson think the matter is too tricky to
define and exclude them from their excellent _Dictionary of Stage
Directions_.  Whether or not you agree with them on this matter (I do
not), this attempt by the author, or someone, to direct from beyond the
tomb needs a name and I tried to give it one in my review of their book
in _Notes & Queries_ 47 (2000), 503-04.

The examples they cite are certainly "far trickier" than ordinary stage
directions, but many, perhaps most, other dialogic stage directions are
not.  Toropov cites some and I cite some others.  Perhaps the discussion
of these things would be easier if we had a name for them, and that is
what I propose.  What's in a name?  Perhaps a little clarity in
discussion.

As to Toropov's three questions at the end of his message I would give a
qualified "yes" to #1 but find #2 and #3 a little "trickier" to answer.

William Proctor Williams

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Monday, 4 Feb 2002 17:50:12 -0000
Subject: 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

Forcing stage action which agrees with dialogue does not seem
particularly strange or remarkable to me. Surely it happens all the
time, and not just in Shakespeare (late or early). Isn't that why there
are so many square-bracketed editorial stage directions in editions of
early modern plays, designed for readers rather than actors?

To take an example from the play I just happened to be reading this
afternoon - Robert Davenport's "King John and Matilda" (1628; ed. Joyce
O.  Davis 1980). Brand has killed Young Bruce's Mother and Brother in a
previous scene; and in this scene he has just killed Bruce's Sister, the
eponymous Matilda; Bruce is pretending to be an agent of the King in
order to ascertain that it was this man who committed these crimes:

Young Bruce: Wer't thou the happy instrument
To cut these houses down? didst thou do that?
Brand: It would deserve (well priz'd) another Purse sir.
Young Bruce: Gold must not part us, didst thou do't?
GIVES HIM MORE GOLD
Brand. Both that and this, by this hand sir.
Young Bruce: Sonne of the Devill have I found thee?
Brand: Sure he knows me.
Young Bruce: Fool, dost thou draw a sword;
What a loud lye thou dost give heaven, to think
A sword can shield the guilty...
(V.ii.153-162)

The stage direction GIVES HIM MORE GOLD is in the text of the 1655
Quarto.  It needs to be there, because the dialogue alone does not
absolutely make it clear that Bruce gives Brand extra gold for his
confession. However, the dialogue makes it perfectly clear that Brand
must draw his sword in anticipation of an attack after "Sonne of the
Devill have I found thee?" - hence, Davenport, and his posthumous
printer, did not feel the need to waste ink and energy on a superfluous
stage direction. Were I editing the play, I would quietly put [DRAWS] in
after "Sure he knows me" (Joyce Davis didn't bother, by the way).

Surely that's all there is to it (999 time out of 1000 anyway...)?

martin

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Gordon <
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Date:           Monday, 04 Feb 2002 13:41:26 -0600
Subject: 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

Brandon Toropov has raised the interesting question of stage directions
within the text; as a working dramaturg, I have found this to be true of
all the Shakespeare plays on which I have worked, and I have worked more
on early plays than later ones. I think the structure of Elizabethan
theater probably made this type of writing essential. Given the limited
rehearsal time, and the fact that actors had access to only their own
"sides," the playwright may have tried to include as much useful
"direction" as he could, given his own sense of how the play
could/should/might be staged. We always attend to these directions
within the text, even when we ultimately may choose to disregard them.
I'll let others address the question of whether such directions may be
more common in the later plays. My guess is that they're not, but I have
no data on which to base it.

Kit Gordon

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M. Yawney <
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Date:           Monday, 4 Feb 2002 14:46:57 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

> > A few things to say about this thread:
> >
> > (1) Beware Stage Directions as indicators of
> > authorial presence / not.
>
> But this is precisely my point!
>
> I'm not talking about stage directions like "exeunt
> pursued by a bear,"
> but about ACTOR-SPOKEN LINES designed not only to
> move the plot forward
> and keep the audience's interest, but also to give
> the ensemble a clear
> idea of how the scene in question should (must!) be
> staged.

For what it is worth, this technique is still used.  Suzan-Lori Parks,
one of the finest contemporary playwrights, has said that she does not
like to include a lot of stage directions because it tends to limit
productions choices, but she prefers the kind of dialogue-embedded stage
directions you refer too. She notes that this technique goes back to the
Greeks.

To me the obvious advantage is that needed stage action happens, but the
choice of the action's timing is left to the individual actor or
director.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Patricia Cooke <
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Date:           Tuesday, 05 Feb 2002 19:52:33 +1300
Subject: 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

Surely Brandon Toporov's point about stage directions is very fully
covered in Ann Pasternak Slater's Shakespeare the Director, Harvester
Press 1982, or Barnes & Noble in USA.  It's out of print but Amazon got
me a copy recently.

Pat Cooke

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