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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Re: Her C's . . .
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1704  Friday, 26 July 2002

[1]     From:   Michael Shurgot <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 08:54:28 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1697 Re: Her C's . . .

[2]     From:   Hugh Grady <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 16:18:57 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1697 Re: Her C's . . .

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 22:58:35 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1685 Re: Her C's . . .


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Shurgot <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 08:54:28 -0700
Subject: 13.1697 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1697 Re: Her C's . . .

Dear Colleagues:

Brian Willis's argument that Burbage played Falstaff prompts this
response, which I simply cannot resist. With apologies for mentioning my
own work, I argue in Stages of Play (Delaware, 1998), Ch. 5, that Kempe
played Falstaff, and Burbage Hal. I argue further that the tension
between Kempe as Falstaff and Burbage as Hal during performance led to
Hamlet's complaints about clowns that act up while some important moment
or business of the play is being performed. See, besides Ch 5, my note #
6 on p. 235, in which I make a theatrical argument about who played whom
in the Henry plays. See also the fine essay by J. A. Bryant,
"Shakespeare's Falstaff and the Mantle of Dick Tarlton" IN SP, 51
(April, 1954), and David Wiles, Shakespeare's Clown: Actor and Text in
the Elizabethan Playhouse (Cambridge, 1987). This assumption that
Burbage had to have played Falstaff must be challenged; it has hung
around too long. We need to think about these roles in theatrical terms;
i.e., what worked on stage and why, and also in terms of Shakespeare's
company's relationship with their audience.

I mention my own work only to generate dialogue, and I think that the
work of Bryant and Wiles is unnecessarily neglected in our facile,
scholarly assumptions that don't think about plays being performed in a
theatre before spectators. Stage, not page!

On another note about actors and their roles, I have just returned from
the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland where I saw a miserable
Macbeth doomed to hell fires because the director, Libby Apple, cast a
decent comic actor, J. Valmont Thomas, as Macbeth, and Thomas had no
idea what he was doing with any of Macbeth's words. Here indeed is an
actor who cannot cross genres, and I would agree with Brian Willis that
few actors can play both comic and tragic parts equally successfully.

Regards,
Michael Shurgot

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 16:18:57 -0400
Subject: 13.1697 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1697 Re: Her C's . . .

I'm sure I will be joined by many in pointing out that the role of
Falstaff is generally thought to have been created by the great comic
actor (soon after to go out on his own) Will Kempe--not Burbage.

Best,
Hugh Grady

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Jul 2002 22:58:35 -0400
Subject: 13.1685 Re: Her C's . . .
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1685 Re: Her C's . . .

Michael Shurgot argues that "only a very few actors can cross genre
lines effectively, and I can't imagine Burbage being able to play a
cynical creep like Malvolio".  I can't agree with any part of this.  I
didn't get to see Olivier or Gielgud in great Shakespearean comic roles,
but I did get to marvel (in between moments of helpless laughter) at
John Neville (whom I first saw 30 years earlier as a great Richard II)
as an utterly memorable Armado, William Hutt (3 notable Lears, and a
basketful of other successful performances in tragic roles) as a notable
Fool, and Peter Ustinov as an affecting if idiosyncratic Lear (all of
these at the Stratford Festival).  Good actors not only can but must
cross generic lines.  As for Malvolio, I'd venture that most of us on
this list think of him as anything but cynical.

David Evett

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