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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0534  Wednesday, 19 March 2003

[1]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Mar 2003 16:14:49 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0528 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

[2]     From:   Michael Shurgot <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Mar 2003 08:44:55 -0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.0528 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Mar 2003 16:14:49 -0000
Subject: 14.0528 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0528 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

Little has changed since Shakespeare's time.  Those in this thread
claiming that accents say nothing of a person's social position are
living, perhaps, on a different planet to me.  Would these people be
happy with Lear and a Cockney accent?  Perhaps Macbeth with a Glasgow
accent?  As I suggested in a recent post, the American accent is based
on working class origins - that's why many people baulk at it being used
for Shakespeare's Lords.  In fact any drama involving Kings and
ploughmen would use the accents that the audience expects.  Perhaps
James Bond with a Devon accent?  I don't think so.

Certainly in England if you want to get on in the wider society you will
need to lose your urban accent.  There is not one clear example of
anyone doing otherwise.  We have the soft inflecting tones of some
politicians, like Dennis Skinner or Harold Wilson - but much watered
down and in place for political reasons - which brings me back to my
original point.

Class consciousness in America is not so mad as it is in England but the
same rules apply.  A King does not talk like a ploughmen - or vise
versa.

SAM SMALL
http://www.passioninpieces.co.uk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Shurgot <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Mar 2003 08:44:55 -0800
Subject: 14.0528 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0528 Re: Shaw on Actors' Accents

Dear Colleagues:

Sean Lawrence's 3/18 response to my post about accents, etc. is clever,
for which I commend him. The implication is that in the US, where our
knowledge of modern languages (including English?) is paltry, "foreign
films" are more sophisticated and esoteric and therefore attended by
fewer but more educated and intellectually curious patrons than the
latest Rambo or Terminator, etc. (God help us: can one imagine what
films will come from Bush's horrid war in Iraq?)

Analogically, I gather that he would argue that an avowedly "British
sounding" Lear might play in a theatre that traditionally stages
"serious" drama that its patrons would consider culturally significant
and intellectually challenging. On that score, I would agree. But as one
who has spent many years reviewing Shakespeare productions in several
American cities (admittedly all on the west coast), I believe that
American companies can produce WS's plays in what are often called
"regional theatres" (so-called in the pages of Shakespeare Bulletin)
that can command the attention of serious theatre patrons. I guess my
view of WS is that he was, and should be seen (yes, and heard), as an
artist whose work appeals in many ways to the "field full of folk." That
idea is obviously not new, nor do I pretend that it is. But I imagine
that the motley collection of pilgrims whom Chaucer portrayed would have
loved WS's plays, and that intelligent actors even in "regional"
American theatres can make Shakespeare's language clear and meaningful
to varied spectators.

With apologies to all for that last sentence which will probably provide
yet more shot for one of Mr. Weinstein's cannons, I remain cordially
yours,

-Michael Shurgot

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