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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: Passion in Pieces
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1934  Friday, 20 September 2002

[1]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Sep 2002 15:23:16 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces

[2]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Sep 2002 14:45:59 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces

[3]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Sep 2002 11:03:30 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Sep 2002 15:23:16 +0100
Subject: 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces

Peter Groves wrote,

>(the 1609 edition
>was pirated, and all subsequent editions have been edited).

A textual scholar would suggest that this is a scribal or compositorial
misreading of "printed" (which makes better sense in context).  But
perhaps pirates do turn up in the most unlikely places.

John Briggs

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Sep 2002 14:45:59 +0000
Subject: 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces

Again, my post was mysteriously truncated.  I'm sending it again because
I think the importance of metre is too often underrated by modern
directors, actors, editors, critics ...

>>From:           Sam Small <
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>
>>The soundtrack proved more problematical.  I had had several positive
>>ideas about how the reading should sound.  The image I had was of the
>>ghost of the Bard leaning in a dark corner of the room watching the same
>>relationship unfold before his eyes that he suffered all those years
>>ago.  I tried reading the thing myself with that in mind and people
>>seemed to like it. I kept my southern English vowel sounds but was very
>>particular about sounding every consonant.  I paid little heed to the
>>meter - but a lot to the punctuation.
>
>Your project sounds very interesting, but your approach to reading the
>Sonnets is the wrong way round: the metre (or rather his artful use of
>it from line to line) is Shakespeare's (it's his way of "pointing" a
>reading) but the punctuation isn't, or not necessarily (the 1609 edition
>was pirated, and all subsequent editions have been edited).

On the other hand, if you really think his metre requires "a slavish
adherence to five iambs per line" your best bet is probably to ignore
it.  I have a recording by a British actor (Jack something) that I can't
listen to, precisely because he shares your misunderstanding of metre.
If you want to hear an intelligent reading of the sonnets, listen to the
CD that came with Helen Vendler's recent book (<The Art of Shakespeare's
Sonnets>). And read a *decent* book on metre to find out what you're
missing -- Timothy Steels's <All the Fun's in How you Say a Thing>
(Athens: Ohio UP, 1999) is excellent, or if you want the theory
<shameless plug>try my <Strange Music: The Metre of the English Heroic
Line>, (Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria, 1998) available from
Amazon for (I think) US$16 or free from your local university
library</shameless plug>.

Peter Groves

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Sutton <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Sep 2002 11:03:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1927 Re: Passion in Pieces

Dear All,

The sonnet punctuation of 1609 is then the closest we have to the
*original*. The metre is, as Peter Groves writes, the more important
factor in finding their idiosyncratic shapes.

However Sam's intuitive approach, stressing the consonants, plus
retaining his own vowels will bring him close to the metre regardless.
When each phoneme has its full (or muted, or elided) quality in the
sounding of a sonnet the metre falls into place.  Heightening will occur
surprisingly and naturally.

When I learn them I disregard meaning and allow the manner of
pronunciation to suggest the mood. Lots of sibilance can be said
confidentially sotto-voce, or dripping with venom. The point is, I trust
Shakespeare's thinking, and apply the rule that miscomprehension is my
deficiency. The understanding will come when it comes.

Thought and breath are the inspiration that created their contents first
hand; to whom-ever or why-ever they were written. Therefore the closer i
keep to the sounds of Shakespeare the closer I am to the *original*
voice.

Because there is no doubt in my mind he wrote them and spoke them. All
with the knowledge their existence was threatened by the very act of
writing them. His references to his writing and reproduction through
painting or mirror makes that abundantly clear. More strong in fact than
the story and the characters combined.

Shakespeare precedes literary criticism and worked within, and
deliberately without, his understanding of literary theory. We all can
study contemporary Elizabethan documents on orthography and punctuation
and metrics. There are many, which suggests a hot topic of discussion on
the points therein. After all nothing new has happened to the basics of
writing, except more theories.

Of course where does that leave translations or editor's suggestions or
interfering with punctuation?  I don't know why Shakespeare works so
well in other languages. Personally I love the fresh-minting of the
words and the opportunity to use contemporary slang and vituperatives.
The mind that writ them seems so close to the surface in these poems.
That's why I keep coming back and I suppose it's the same for Sam. And
all the other lunatics out there who've tackled these Sonnets and the
emotions they evoke: from the most subtle to the most blatant. Wanting
to know the man who did write them is a natural consequence of learning
them.  Thankfully he wrote plays as well.

Enough babble.

Yours,
William Sutton.


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