2002

Re: "Reading" the Plays

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0321  Tuesday, 5 February 2002

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 04 Feb 2002 15:20:40 -0500
        Subj:   "Reading" the Plays

[2]     From:   Geralyn Horton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 04 Feb 2002 11:40:42 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0307 Re: "Reading" the Plays

[3]     From:   Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 12:38:21 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0307 "Reading" the Plays

[4]     From:   Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 04 Feb 2002 19:28:28 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0307 Re: "Reading" the Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 04 Feb 2002 15:20:40 -0500
Subject:        "Reading" the Plays

Paul Doniger writes,

"It would seem logical that by the time Jonson, Hemings, and the others
put together the First Folio, the idea of reading the plays must already
have been in the air (1623). A folio would be far too cumbersome as a
script."

Precisely, as the Intro by Heminges and Condell makes clear. The earlier
quartos were surely read! No one bought them to put on amateur plays.
The notion that "reading" the plays is somehow a later "invention" is
really a form of special pleading put forth by critics who want to
privilege an exclusively dramatic approach that, while helpful, is by no
means the only or, sometimes, the best way to get at the plays.

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 04 Feb 2002 11:40:42 -0500
Subject: 13.0307 Re: "Reading" the Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0307 Re: "Reading" the Plays

> I think there have been a few discussions here about reading the plays,
> and problems that might be incurred when you read versus see them.  I,
> however, was wondering when the idea of reading play was introduced.

I don't think this question can be answered.  There are some scholars
who maintain that written language was always read aloud until quite
recently, and that reading a manuscript was more like sight singing than
like the silent mental process we are accustomed to.  I just read
(silently) a review of a book that claims that the ancient Greek
dramatists should be referred to as "composers" rather than play makers,
because the creation and reception of the plays was primarily musical.
We can "read" the lyrics, in part, but can't re-construct the melodies
and rhythms and dance movements that were the play maker's primary means
of conveying meaning.

When you look at a set of words to a song, do you sing it, aloud or
silently? Or read it like a laundry list?  Musical literacy was more
common than the ability to read writing in Shakespeare's time, as
difficult as that is for me-- and probably for most people, and
especially the bookworms who become academics-- to imagine: a shepherd
might lean a new tune from notes, but new lyrics only "by ear".

If the literate carried "tables" to the theatre to transcribe the choice
bits, I'd suppose that people with good memories-- and illiteracy
encourages people to develop quick and accurate memories-- might come
away from a second or third performance with passages by heart with
which to regale their family and friends.  (I base my belief that the
Cycle plays were influential long after the annual performances were
suppressed on a notion that the hundreds of people who had learned them
by heart would perform excerpts privately given the least encouragement,
and that there would be plenty of entertainment-hungry friends and
neighbors to encourage the recitations.)

Whether plays were written to be "seen" or "heard" is another open
question: that is, is drama like dance, which evolved for thousands of
years without a system of notation, or more like ... ?

Geralyn Horton
http://www.stagepage.org
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Feb 2002 12:38:21 -0800
Subject: 13.0307 "Reading" the Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0307 "Reading" the Plays

On this thread, but somewhat tangential, I ran across an Atlantic web
column that mentioned one of the biggest problems in reading
Shakespeare:  being seen.  While discussing the Franzen/Oprah to-do, the
column compared Oprah's Book Club and the Readers' Subscription as
originated by Trilling, Barzun, and Auden in the 50s:

"This sort of culture-status anxiety is not new. Indeed, these examples
call to mind a riff from Trilling that is included in _A Company of
Readers_, in his 1961 essay on the 'The Arden Shakespeare.' It is
socially acceptable, Trilling says, to have read Shakespeare, or even to
teach Shakespeare, but to admit to actually be reading Shakespeare is an
act of cultural arrogance.  Culture-status anxiety, in other words, is
not limited to fear of falling too low, but it also includes fear of
appearing to aspire too high. And it's evidently okay to be elitist, as
long as you're not self-consciously so."

--from Scott Stossel, "Elitism for Everyone," Atlantic Unbound, November
29, 2001, http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/polipro/pp2001-11-29.htm

Certainly Shakespeare is invulnerable as everyone's cultural hero (for
example, he came in second to Churchill in a recent BBC public poll
(http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/article/0,,9003-2002005251,00.html).  Yet
I do believe Trilling was right that actually reading Shakespeare in
public would be widely perceived as pretentious, whereas it seems to be
OK to go to a performance.

In other words, perhaps the act of reading *something that you don't
have to read* is what is actually pretentious.  At least in our
generally anti-intellectual America.

Then again, recall this 1996 movie tie-in:  _William Shakespeare's Romeo
& Juliet : The Contemporary Film, the Classic Play_ (Laureleaf, 1996),
showing the stars of the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes,
nuzzling on the cover.  That's America all over.

Al Magary

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 04 Feb 2002 19:28:28 -0500
Subject: 13.0307 Re: "Reading" the Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0307 Re: "Reading" the Plays

I think the question of reading the plays should be divided into two
separate questions: One, when did the idea arise that people who weren't
artistically involved in the creation of plays might have an interest in
reading plays? and Two, when did someone decide that plays could become
a publishable commodity? The answer to the first question may go back at
least to Aristotle, when plays were a type of poetry. I think Dr. Jung
probably seeks an answer to the second question--an answer which I don't
have--but which I would look to the earliest extant printings of plays.
Is Harbage the place to look for these? It would be interesting to know
which were the first 5-10 plays printed in English.

Jack Heller

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The British Shakespeare Association

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0320  Tuesday, 5 February 2002

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 18:04:10 -0000
        Subj:   British Shakespeare Association / Undergraduate Conference
Proposal

[2]     From:   Takashi Kozuka <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 22:14:42 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   The BSA Conference (an unofficial report)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Feb 2002 18:04:10 -0000
Subject:        British Shakespeare Association / Undergraduate Conference
Proposal

I have just come back from the Inaugural Conference of the British
Shakespeare Association.  I had a very enjoyable time listening to the
many valuable lectures and enjoyed joining in (in a very minor way) with
the discussions of what the British Shakespeare Association should be,
and how it should operate.  I would like to say a very big "Thank You"
to Peter Holland, the Shakespeare Institute and everybody else involved
in making this event happen.  Hopefully great things will come of it.

The organisers of the Conference hoped that the dialogue started there
would continue, in particular on the Discussion Board at the British
Shakespeare Association website (http://www.britishshakespeare.ws) and I
would like to suggest that every interested party visit that page and
consider adding their suggestions.

I would also like to draw attention to my own suggestion, on this
website, proposing consideration of a British Undergraduate Shakespeare
Conference to match the American equivalents advertised on this list.
If anybody on this list is a British Undergraduate, or works with
British Undergraduates, or is from another part of the world and feels
that they might be able to offer advice or support for this idea, then I
would be very interested to hear from them.  Please E-Mail me directly,
or add your comments to the BSA Discussion board.

My posting on the website runs as follows:

I noticed at the Conference that people largely wanted the BSA to help
them - teachers suggested sessions for teachers, postgraduates suggested
sessions for postgraduates and so on. It should come as no surprise then
that as an Undergraduate I would be interested to see the BSA working
with Undergraduates.

I would like to suggest the idea of an Undergraduate Shakespeare
Conference, perhaps along the lines of the Postgraduate Conference that
is held annually at the Shakespeare Institute. I have seen, via
SHAKSPER, that such events happen regularly at some US Universities and
it seems a pity that the UK does not offer the same opportunity for
Undergraduates to participate in Conferences at their own academic
level. Ideally I would be interested in a Conference that offered a
combination of papers presented by the Undergraduates themselves, a few
keynote speeches by academics or theatre people on interesting or
popular subjects ("Shakespeare and Film", "Shakespeare and the
Internet", "Sexuality in Shakespeare"?), and hopefully also the chance
to see and discuss a full-scale production of one of the plays.

I realise that the BSA will probably have too much to do to organise and
run such a Conference itself, but I would be very grateful if the BSA
helped to initiate discussion and offer advice on the subject. If I can
prove that there is enough interest in a proposed Undergraduate
Shakespeare Conference then I might be able to persuade my own
University (Kent) or another University to support the idea, and would
be willing to try to organise the project myself as far as possible with
support from the BSA and Lecturers at any institution that might
consider the idea. The idea of a Conference "For Undergraduates,
organised by Undergraduates" seems very attractive to me, but I do not
know whether such an idea might appeal to others around the country.

I would be very interested to hear directly from any current
Undergraduate or person involved with Undergraduates (such as lecturers
or University staff) that might be interested in such an idea. If we can
gather as many interested parties together as possible then we might be
able to turn the idea into a reality.

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

Thomas Larque.

"Shakespeare and His Critics"
http://shakespearean.org.uk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Takashi Kozuka <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Feb 2002 22:14:42 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        The BSA Conference (an unofficial report)

I would like to congratulate Peter Holland, John Joughin (both of whom
are on this listserv) and others on the success of the inaugural
conference of the British Shakespeare Association held this past
weekend.

One of the most exciting outcomes of the conference was that it was
agreed to invite Shakespeare lovers from diverse backgrounds --
academics, theatre goers, teachers, students, etc. -- to join the BSA. A
"temporary" steering committee was established with approximately 15
members representing academics, actors/actresses, teachers and
postgraduate students, theatre-goers/lovers and some other institutions.

Since I'm not on the steering committee, this is an "unofficial" report,
and I shouldn't say much else now. But SHAKSPEReans can visit (and add
to your favourites) the BSA's website, which has been up and running:
http://www.britishshakespeare.ws

It was also great to meet some SHAKSPEReans including Terry Hawkes (who
asked me if I would post a report about the conference) and John
Drakakis.

Long live Shakespeare! (Yeah, he has been!)

Best wishes,
Takashi Kozuka

_______________________________________________________________
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://www.shaksper.net>

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: Authorial Intention

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0318  Tuesday, 5 February 2002

From:           Geralyn Horton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 04 Feb 2002 11:16:00 -0500
Subject: 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

> From:           Brandon Toropov <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

>this passage "forced" an intended
>"stage direction" on the company by means of a spoken line.)
>
> BANQUO: You seem to understand me,
> By each at once her choppy finger laying
> Upon her skinny lips. (MACBETH, I, ii, 43-45)
>
>1) Do people agree that this strategy is likely to have been used by
>Shakespeare to ensure that scenes were blocked *as he intended*

Quite possibly.  But it might have another function, too: making sure
that this image was in the mind's eye of the audience members, even if
it didn't enter their field of vision.  First, one hears better than one
sees in "classic' theatre.  No spotlights, obstructed sightlines.  A
finger on the lips is a small gesture.  And which characters are facing
front, where their gestures have the best chance of being seen? Macbeth
is presumably upstage center.

Geralyn Horton
http://www.stagepage.org
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

_______________________________________________________________
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://www.shaksper.net>

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: Shakespeare from the bottom up

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0319  Tuesday, 5 February 2002

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 10:26:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0306 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up

[2]     From:   Billy Houck  <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 15:21:48 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0306 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Feb 2002 10:26:19 -0500
Subject: 13.0306 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0306 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up

And let's not forget the frighteningly prescient "I buried Paul" in "To
Be or Not To Be."

Dana Shilling

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck
 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Feb 2002 15:21:48 EST
Subject: 13.0306 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0306 Re: Shakespeare from the bottom up

I have also had students who had success memorizing lines when they
turned the book upside down. Making it a little harder to read forces
concentration.

Billy Houck,
Casting Romeo & Juliet this week

_______________________________________________________________
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The S H A K S P E R Webpage <http://www.shaksper.net>

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: Authorial Intention

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0317  Tuesday, 5 February 2002

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 10:14:08 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[2]     From:   William Proctor Williams <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 04 Feb 2002 10:26:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[3]     From:   Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 17:50:12 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[4]     From:   Christine Gordon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 04 Feb 2002 13:41:26 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[5]     From:   M. Yawney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Feb 2002 14:46:57 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention

[6]     From:   Patricia Cooke <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Feb 2002 19:52:33 +1300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0305 Re: Authorial Intention


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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

_______________________________________________________________
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://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
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