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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Re: Shakespeare's Performance World
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2051  Thursday, 10 October 2002

[1]     From:   D. Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Oct 2002 13:24:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2041 Re: Her C's . . . (now Shakespeare's Performance
World)

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Oct 2002 11:42:29 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2041 Re: Her C's . . . (now Shakespeare's Performance
World)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D. Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Oct 2002 13:24:54 -0500
Subject: 13.2041 Re: Her C's . . . (now Shakespeare's
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2041 Re: Her C's . . . (now Shakespeare's
Performance World)

Well, I suppose getting misunderstood is inevitable in such a
circumstance, but I will make one further effort.

1) This business is not part of some Grand Theory of mine, but a matter
of expedience.

2) Viola is absolutely indistinguishable from Sebastian. (Evidence
supplied by Antonio, Feste, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Olivia and Orsino.)

3) Viola is described as having the attributes of early adolescence, or
even late boyhood. (Evidence supplied by Orsino, Olivia, Malvolio and
Feste.).

4) If you make the twins look older, you cause more and more difficulty.
Viola, if older, should have breasts and hips. Sebastian should have
height, shoulders, facial hair and a deeper voice. Lacking them, they
will appear younger. It is immaterial what their actual age is; as
described they appear to be about 14. (And puh-leeze don't anyone
lecture me about how many individuals there are who don't fit the norm.
I know it very well. But the degree to which you lack these normative
qualities will make you appear younger.)

5) I don't find the Portia instance significant since she's not trying
to emulate her twin brother. As Balthasar she could wear a fake beard,
or a least a mustache, and speak with a deeper voice.

6) Subject to correction, I've always assumed that Rosalind as Ganymede
is pretending to be a youth of about the same age as Cesario. The way
she is described and acts in III, ii, suggests the pert (or impudent)
boy. Orlando calls her a "pretty youth," and she herself says that she
would, "being but a moonish youth, grieve, be effeminate, changeable,
longing, and liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant,
full of tears, full of smiles; for every passion something and for no
passion anything, as boys and women are for the most part cattle of this
colour." She could, as with Viola, be played by a woman of any age --
provided she can look like cattle of that color.

7) Phebe's situation is the same as Olivia's, and no more plausible, but
no less comic. She's is a coarser character, and her infatuation seems
to me based more on lust (but that may be some latent snobbery on my
part). Rosalind's promise is meaningless, since she knows Phebe will be
uninterested once she knows that R is female.

8) To be sure, a young woman could be pretend to be older (19 was the
suggestion) by speaking lower (as I suggest for Portia), but Viola
doesn't. They could be any damn thing at all provided they don't look
tall, broad-shouldered, deep-voiced, or hairy. In short, provided they
look about 14..

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Oct 2002 11:42:29 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.2041 Re: Her C's . . . (now Shakespeare's
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2041 Re: Her C's . . . (now Shakespeare's
Performance World)

I think that debating the ages of these characters is somewhat
irrelevant. When Shakespeare wanted us to know their age, he tells us in
the text. Besides, what does it matter if Viola is 13 or 18? The
costumes and theatrical devices (cosmetics, wigs, and good-old
underrated acting skill) would convey all that we as an audience needed
to know. Viola is a girl young enough to pass as a boy - Cesario.
Besides, the idea of Viola and Sebastian being identical twins itself is
a ludicrous impossibility.

Not every actor who plays a role needs to be the age of their part. How
many 80 year-old Lears (or 30 year-old Hamlets even) have you seen? More
often than not the ages are off. And besides, within the history plays
themselves, actors often move through 50 years of age or more in the
span of two hours' traffic on the stage. We don't know exactly how old
Viola is and it doesn't matter.

Brian Willis

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