2003

Re: Renaissance Audiences

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1523  Monday, 28 July 2003

From:           Kathy Dent <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 28 Jul 2003 10:30:06 +0100
Subject: 14.1515 Renaissance Audiences
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1515 Renaissance Audiences

Jane Drake Brody writes:

>I am not sure that the comparison between Renaissance audiences and
>today's audiences who are "entertained" by TV twenty-four hours a day
>can be made.  Additionally, I suspect that Renaissance audiences were
>far more attentive to verbal cues and rhythms than their more
>visually-oriented descendants. I am not meaning to suggest that the pit
>wasn't rowdy, but I doubt that it generally dismissed the play as easily
>as our over stimulated youth can do.  I suspect that the Renaissance
>audience was far more akin to attendants at a revival meeting, shouting
>to the minister and generally having a great time.  This behaviour is
>not rude because it is in sync with the "show" itself and contributes to
>the experience for everyone.  I doubt that any revivalist would want a
>silent audience, but it is also true that the revivalist would despair
>over an audience whose attention was more on itself than on "the Word."

I was not intending to suggest that Renaissance audiences would be the
same as today's, but only that the Globe's audience is different and
behaves differently from an audience in a darkened and silent auditorium
- and this difference is a positive one.  I think it's dangerous to
speculate about how Shakespeare's contemporaries would have reacted to
his work, but there is evidence that some playwrights of the period
thought that their audiences were insufficiently attentive. I'm very
dubious about the analogy of the revival meeting: surely this is a type
of communal event that owes its distinctive form to African culture.

The amount that the Renaissance players spent on costume also suggests
that there was some element of spectacle going on for the audience and
the kind of displays laid on for the royal processions does not suggest
that the Elizabethans were immune to a bit of visual stimulation.
Perhaps we haven't changed so much as we think we have.

Kathy Dent

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Henry V

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1522  Monday, 28 July 2003

From:           Jan Pick <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 27 Jul 2003 15:22:15 -0700
Subject:        Henry V

Why has no one noticed the killing of the Dauphin in the current Henry V
at the National Theatre?  Why is he killed?  It isn't Shakespeare and it
destroys the next 20 years of English history!  And why are current
productions of Shakespeare's plays so dumbed down and 'sexed up'?  I
used to see productions with layers of complexity, now we're down to
about two!  Entertaining theatre, but nothing to keep chewing on for
weeks afterwards!

Is it me?

Jan Pick

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Re: Colour-Blind Casting

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1520  Monday, 28 July 2003

[1]     From:   M. Yawney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 25 Jul 2003 18:01:04 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

[2]     From:   K. V. Sproat <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 26 Jul 2003 13:10:54 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

[3]     From:   Mark Adderley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 27 Jul 2003 13:55:59 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M. Yawney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 25 Jul 2003 18:01:04 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

I think what has been fascinating and frustrating about this discussion
is that it is not really about ethnicity issues but rather about how we
each view theater.

If one expects theater to give an illusion of life as a photograph does
or to interpret life like dance, music, and poetry. If one expects the
former then one cannot accept any casting that deviates from one's
assumptions of appropriateness. If one wants the later, then one
welcomes the deviation. Race, gender, and other factors are matters to
pay attention to and ignore as necessary.

With film and television providing illusionistic drama, most theater has
moved toward interpreting reality rather than attempting any
illusion--especially in classical theater. Hence theater artists
impatience with realism and naturalism-preferring-audiences' impatience
with contemporary theater.

A semi-related sidenote: I recently read David Greenspan's She Stoops to
Comedy which is very interesting in light of these issues. It is the
story of a classical actress who disguises herself as a man to play
Orlando opposite her ex-lover (a woman) in a production of As You Like
It. The classical actress is played by a man. There is no attempt at
disguise or anything approaching realism. (For example: We are told one
character is either a lighting designer or an archeologist with
alternate versions of her activities described whenever she appears.)
Whenever something appears to be becoming "real" its theatrical nature
is foregrounded, which only enhances the humor and emotional impact. It
is appropriate that As You Like It is the background for this play on
the nature of theater, illusion, and the role of convention.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           K. V. Sproat <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 26 Jul 2003 13:10:54 EDT
Subject: 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

>go all liberal and starry-eyed

A loaded phrase if I ever read one, perhaps intended to intimidate
persons like myself from professing liberal politics? Sorry, Charlie!
Proud of it!

Was Dr. King "liberal and starry-eyed," or a great leader with more
courage than most of us have ever known or can imagine having, who
CHANGED THIS NATION with nonviolent action?

KV Sproat
(I'm in the USA)

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Adderley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 27 Jul 2003 13:55:59 -0500
Subject: 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1512 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

"If I remember correctly, Klein interprets Hamlet's words about his "too
too solid/sullied flesh" to be a introspective commentary on his own
body weight, suggesting that Hamlet was on the heavier side (ok, it
sounded like a stretch to me, no pun intended, but he nevertheless does
make the claim in his book)."

Were these comments added by Shakespeare to please Burbage, perhaps, or
did Burbage suggest them?  It makes me wonder how much of the plays as
we have them were written by the actors.  Some of Feste's speeches seem
to me improvised rather than written, which would fit in admirably with
Robert Armin's known talents.

Mark Adderley
Missouri Valley College

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Thomas Wilson's Arte of Rhetorique

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1521  Monday, 28 July 2003

From:           William Davis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 27 Jul 2003 14:35:47 EDT
Subject:        Thomas Wilson's Arte of Rhetorique

After foraging through the collection of posts regarding Shakespeare's
rhetorical influences, and not finding what I hoped to find, I thought I
would toss a question out to the group.

I had the chance to skim through Thomas Wilson's "Arte of Rhetorique..."
recently (as well as Richard Sherry's extensive book on the same
subject, and a few other publications from Shakespeare's day), and
superficially it appeared to me that Wilson's approach to rhetoric -
especially in context of jesting and comedy -  had a very similar
viewpoint to the way in which Shakespeare applied his rhetoric in comic
situations (more so than I can find in any of the other rhetorical books
in the 1500s).  I didn't think it was much of a surprise, however,
considering how Wilson's book was the most popular and widely published
of his day.  Later, however, after picking up a copy of Sister Miriam
Joseph's book on Shakespeare's rhetorical art, I read that no definite
connections between Shakespeare's work and Thomas Wilson's book had ever
been made.  No one denied the possibility that Shakespeare may have had
access to Wilson's book, but without some direct, irrefutable connection
between the plays and Wilson's "Arte," it was still a question as to
whether or not Shakespeare had used it, or even studied/read from it.
Sister Joseph's book was published in 1947, and I haven't been able to
find anything to indicate whether this is still a common belief, or if
subsequent research has shown otherwise.  Ideas, anyone?

Much appreciation,
Wm Davis

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Re: Bloom on Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1519  Monday, 28 July 2003

[1]     From:   Bruce Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 25 Jul 2003 14:40:02 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1506 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 25 Jul 2003 23:14:22 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

[3]     From:   Hugh Grady <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 26 Jul 2003 11:12:34 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 25 Jul 2003 14:40:02 -0600
Subject: 14.1506 Re: Bloom on Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1506 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

"Theory" at root means a way of seeing (from Greek "theoria," a looking
at, viewing, contemplation).  The discomfort some have with theory may
come from its focusing so much on the way things are seen rather than on
the things seen.  It is as if a group of "lensists" were pointing out to
everyone that everything is seen through one lens or another
(eyeglasses, telescopes, microscopes), while a group of "anti-lensists"
maintains, "No, some of us see things directly."  The lensists then
point out that even people without glasses still have lenses in their
eyes and a complex apparatus of nerves and brain cells and other tissues
required to perceive and interpret.

The lensists of course are right.  But they don't, for the most part,
notice that their focus has shifted to the apparatus for seeing and away
from the things seen.  They also vastly underestimate the extent to
which the "things seen" are seen by just about everyone as part of a
shared experience of the world and the extent to which the apparatus for
seeing is roughly and unavoidably the same for everyone.  They
exaggerate the peculiar differences between different ways of seeing and
reify as a particular lens (i.e. "theory") something that is really only
part of the interpretive process.

C. S. Lewis commented on the shift from the things seen (or experienced)
to the process of seeing (experiencing) and also on the encouragement
this shift gives to the reductive impulse, the impulse to explain things
away ("What you take as valuable or significant is really only a
chemical reaction, a bunch of meaningless matter, an arbitrary
construct, etc., etc."):

"It is a disastrous discovery, as Emerson says somewhere, that we
exist.  I mean, it is disastrous when instead of merely attending to a
rose we are forced to think of ourselves looking at the rose, with a
certain type of mind and a certain type of eyes.  It is disastrous
because, if you are not very careful, the colour of the rose gets
attributed to our optic nerves and its scent to our noses, and in the
end there is no rose left."  ("Bulverism" from _God in the Dock_)

"At the outset, the universe appears packed with will, intelligence,
life and positive qualities; every tree is a nymph and every planet a
god. . . . The advance in knowledge gradually empties this rich and
genial universe: first of its gods, then of its colours, smells, sounds
and tastes, finally of solidity itself as solidity was originally
imagined.  As these items are taken from the world, they are transferred
to the subjective side of the account: classified as our sensations,
thoughts, images or emotions.  The Subject becomes gorged, inflated, at
the expense of the Object.  But the matter does not end there.  The same
method which has emptied the world now proceeds to empty ourselves.  The
masters of the method soon announce that we were just as mistaken (and
mistaken in much the same way) when we attributed 'souls,' or 'selves'
or 'minds' to human organisms, as when we attributed Dryads to the
trees.  . . .  We, who have personified all other things, turn out to be
ourselves mere personifications. . . .  And thus we arrived at a result
uncommonly like zero."  (Preface to D. E.  Harding's _Hierarchy of
Heaven and Earth_)

"Up to a point, the kind of explanation which explains things away may
give us something, though at a heavy cost.  But you cannot go on
'explaining away' for ever: you will find that you have explained
explanation itself away.  You cannot go on 'seeing through' things for
ever.  The whole point of seeing through something is to see something
through it.  It is good that the window should be transparent, because
the street or garden beyond it is opaque.  How if you saw through the
garden too?  . . .  If you see through everything, then everything is
transparent.  But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world.  To
'see through' all things is the same as not to see."  (_The Abolition of
Man_)

Interesting thoughts, and I think relevant to the discussion.

Bruce Young

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 25 Jul 2003 23:14:22 +0100
Subject: Re: Bloom on Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

"Where Shakespeare is concerned, I prefer to research the theories that
were widely held in his time and speculate from there, because those
theories held relevance for him and his contemporaries. Critical theory
was not then in practice."

Plato?

Aristotle?

Longinus?

Horace?

Sidney?

Daniel?

Jonson?

Hamlet?

etc.

"The thing we share is humanity and that is not only reason and
intelligence, but also my physical, emotional, and spiritual being."

Another Theory - "humanism". Would Shakespeare and his contemporaries
(Francis Bacon!!) have recognized that?

They might have asked, as I would, how I could share "my physical,
emotional, and spiritual being" with anyone.

Obviously if you're still in thrall to humanism (or should that be
"Humanism"?), it is no surprise that you should "truly believe the
literary Theories of the 20thC from structuralism onwards have offered
little in the way of adding to Shakespeare scholarship". The problem is
not with these  Theories, but with the exclusivity of your Theory.

m

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 26 Jul 2003 11:12:34 -0400
Subject: 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1517 Re: Bloom on Hamlet

In William Stutton's latest reply to the debate about theory, I believe
we are getting down to one of the basic enabling paradoxes of a debate
which here veers toward the "presentism-historicism" dialectic that
Terry Hawkes, I, and several others have been raising in various
publications in the last few years. Theory is inescapable, whether to
early 21st century readers or to early 17th century writers.
(Importantly, theory in this sense need not mean static, Scholastic
systems of concepts such as have sometimes been put forth or taken as
the only form theory can take.) Manifestly as well, Shakespeare's
theories could not be the same as our own. Does that mean, as Sutton
suggests, that only theorists contemporaneous with Shakespeare are
relevant? A bit further reflection on this--and above all, further
research into the history of Shakespeare criticism over the
centuries--will show, I think, the pitfalls of such an assumption.

The main problem here, of course, is that there is no innocent
interpretation of the theories of Shakespeare's contemporaries. Just to
pick an example on which there is nearly universal contemporary
consensus, E. M.  W. Tillyard presented a highly truncated,
ideologically informed "Elizabethan World Picture" in an attempt to do
exactly what Sutton proposes, focus on Shakespeare's contemporaries to
illuminate his plays.  Numerous critics have by now been able to show
the extent to which Tillyard's version of Elizabethan culture was in
turn constructed by him from a set of assumptions and ideologies of his
present. Stephan Greenblatt, for my money, is a much more illuminating
and interesting historicist, but he is an aesthetic and theoretical
Postmodernist (in the broad sense) who has achieved his high standing
among contemporary Shakespeare scholars, in my view, precisely because
he has found an idiom through which to interpret Shakespeare for a new
age and new readers under the transformed conditions of Postmodern
culture. In short, no historicism without a latent presentism.

Cheers,
Hugh Grady

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
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