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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: Passion in Pieces
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1945  Tuesay, 24 September 2002

[1]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Sep 2002 15:02:57 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Sep 2002 11:26:42 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces

[3]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Saturday, 21 Sep 2002 03:16:39 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Sep 2002 15:02:57 +0000
Subject: 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces

>>(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

Somehow I doubt that even "a textual scholar" would be quite that
slow-witted.

Peter Groves

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Sep 2002 11:26:42 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces

The question of how to follow and deliver lines is an important one.
Recently, I have been polishing up The Bastard for a performance of King
John in two weeks. I have memorized my lines and recently I have been
getting very comfortable with speaking them trippingly on the tongue.

When I first begin to perform the lines early in the rehearsal process,
I find it enormously difficult to perform such lines with any real sense
of purpose or intent. Often, I can read the lines at a decent clip but I
always feel as if I am presenting them as one dimensional. For example,
a speech such as the Bastard gives to Louis in V. ii. or to both kings
in II. i. before Angiers are usually played more declamatory early in
the rehearsal process.

As time goes on, and the lines become much more familiar, the words
themselves and their placement seem to lead me on. I do pay attention to
such things as meter and punctuation but very little. I usually find
that the lines themselves lead me into the natural rhythm of their
delivery. When I actually sit down and scan them out (usually because a
line has been giving me trouble), I find that in most instances I have
been delivering them correctly. When I find a non-iambic foot, it is
time to think about such matters as meter and scansion. In a few
instances, this deliberate scansion of the offending line will lead to
conclusions about what is going on.

But there have been very few times when I have found such exercises to
be an extremely useful exercise. I have never found punctuation to be an
effective tool for delivery. Frankly, most times the punctuation is
never an effective replacement for complete immersion and understanding
of what the character (or in the Sonnets, the speaker) is trying to
convey or even to conceal. The meaning is everything for me. And if I
don't know what I am saying, neither will the audience. This goes for
any acting in any language or any style. If one performs Tennessee
Williams, Arthur Miller, or Tom Stoppard and one does not understand
what the functions of certain lines are, then the lines are wasted,
thrown away.

Once I know what is being said, the pronunciation and enunciation come
in during the polishing process.  At this point, two weeks before
performance, the speeches that I am more comfortable with (effectively
Acts I-III and the final scene) are performed with great care to hitting
consonants, especially when alliteration is concerned. One of my
favorites:

                           Not a word of his
   But buffets better than a fist of France.

The B appears three times immediately followed by F twice. "Buh" sounds
followed by forceful "fuh" sounds.  It sounds like someone buffeting
someone - exactly the meaning of the line. The Bastard mimics his
characterization of the citizen of Angiers's words by some consonant
buffeting of his own. The effect (in my mind and hopefully for the
audience) is dryly humorous and witty.

One instance where I found punctuation to be utterly useless: in the
first scene, the Bastard is confronted by his mother. One edition
punctuates it so:

   Madam, I was not old Sir Robert's son.
   Sir Robert might have eat his part in me
   Upon Good Friday and ne'er broke his fast.
   Sir Robert could do well - marry, to confess -
   Could he get me. Sir Robert could not do it;
   We know his handiwork.

The hyphenization of the fourth line is one way to do it. Commas, in my
mind, would also work. So could parentheses. The point is that the
AUDIENCE will not be thinking parentheses or commas. They might hear
pauses but not register them necessarily as one or the other. The
important thing is that the actor understands what he is saying and
tries to get the audience to follow along. I deliver it in this manner:

"Sir Robert could do well...(pause) marry, to confess, could he get me".
The commas are almost non-existent as I am delivering the second half of
the line as a punch line to a joke about Sir Robert's worthiness, as
well as hinting at impotency. My point is: this line could be delivered
in many ways, with punctuation (all variations) not giving as good of an
indicator of how to deliver it as one's own understanding and
interpretation.

As for strict adherence to five iamb lines, well, I hate to break it to
people who believe that to be true, but not only are they not all iambs,
but I find a surprisingly large number of feminine endings in
Shakespearean lines. "To be or not to be" the most famous.

Analysis of lines is never a good substitution for good old
understanding, passion, variation, and plain old charisma. To believe
meaning should take a back seat to meter and punctuation is erroneous.
If I wanted to see lines delivered with perfect timing and emphasis, I
would hire a metronome to perform my Shakespeare.

If anyone in the Los Angeles area is interested in the performance of
King John, please contact me off list.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Sutton <
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Date:           Saturday, 21 Sep 2002 03:16:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1934 Re: Passion in Pieces

Helen Vendler sounds like a buzzsaw going through frozen meat.
Intelligent use of metre maybe, voice capability zero.

I have the utmost respect for her scholarship, but Peter please. Why not
Alex Jennings?

W.

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