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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0434  Monday, 16 February 2004

[1]     From:   Roy Flannagan <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Feb 2004 08:06:37 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[2]     From:   Michael McClintock <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Feb 2004 10:38:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[3]     From:   Sebastian Perry <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Feb 2004 15:38:36 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0406 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[4]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Feb 2004 14:37:55 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[5]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Feb 2004 16:47:47 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[6]     From:   Maria Concolato <
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        Date:   Saturday, 14 Feb 2004 07:58:08 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0406 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[7]     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 14 Feb 2004 14:53:32 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roy Flannagan <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Feb 2004 08:06:37 -0500
Subject: 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Isn't Hamlet's behavior during the performance of the dumbshow and the
rest of the Mousetrap an indicator of possible audience reaction to
Shakespeare's plays?

He is the prince, after all, and I suppose he is entitled to have his
say at a court-funded performance, but he seems to be rude to the
players (by interrupting the performance), rude to his mother (the
"murder in jest" business), rude to Claudius (the free conscience bit),
and very rude to Ophelia ("Did you think I meant country matters?").  He
almost completely ruins the play for the actors and for its audience, by
turning it into a catechism or a mousetrap for Claudius, Gertrude, and
Ophelia.

Is this the way a rich twit was allowed to act, in public, during
performances of an Elizabethan or Jacobean play?

Roy Flannagan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael McClintock <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Feb 2004 10:38:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Andrew Gurr discusses the issue of audience involvement and provides a
number of non-Shakespearean examples in his Playgoing in Shakespeare's
London, 44-48. In his view, "The audience was an active participant in
the collective experience of playgoing, and was not in the habit of
keeping its reactions private."

Michael McClintock
McKendree College

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sebastian Perry <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Feb 2004 15:38:36 -0000
Subject: 15.0406 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0406 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Al Magary wrote:

 >There are numerous examples of plays-within-plays, but these are
 >different as they don't involve the playhouse audience.  Hamlet has the
 >mime play within it, "The Murder of Gonzago," which the prince has
 >requested in revised form (2.2) and coaches the players on, but when it
 >is performed (3.2), there is no stage-audience participation, though
 >from our POV the real king, Claudius, deliberately walks out.

I wonder if you're not glossing over Hamlet's irate interjections
_during_ the performance of The Mousetrap. e.g. "Begin, murderer. Leave
thy damnable faces and begin" (3.2.246-7). Of course, his perspective is
more that of playwright than spectator, since he wants to push them
along to the "necessary question... to be considered" (3.2.42-3).

I can certainly envisage an audience hissing through Gaveston's first
appearance in _Edward II_, especially with his dismissal of the
multitude as "sparks | Rak'd up in the embers of their poverty"...

Bill Godshalk wrote:

 >Tiffany Sterne's Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan, p. 115,
 >suggests that playwrights may have taken audience reaction seriously,
 >"revising plays directly after the first night in the light of the
 >audience criticism."

Stern expands on this in a forthcoming article for _Studies in
Philology_: "'A Small-beer Health to his Second Day': Playwrights,
Prologues, and First Performances in Early Modern Theatre". Well worth
looking out for.

Regards,
Seb Perry.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Feb 2004 14:37:55 EST
Subject: 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

I always tell my students that the Elizabethan audience aesthetic was
much more similar to that of the modern baseball crowd than the modern
theatre patron.

Billy Houck

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Feb 2004 16:47:47 -0800
Subject: 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

"But whether they had alternative lines prepared for different audience
responses, as in videogames, that I doubt."

I think quite the opposite. Shakespeare's complaint in Hamlet about Will
Kempe seems to be a clear example of of a host of off the cuff remarks
that The Elizabethan actor must have relished. Richard Tarlton was
certainly renowned for his extempore ability. And Quince's advice to
Snug (with Will Kempe playing Bottom), I think, adds delightfully to
what must have been a very common occurrence. These actors were
performing several plays a week, there's no way they couldn't have found
themselves in a situation where they had to think quickly on their feet
and make it up.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Maria Concolato <
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Date:           Saturday, 14 Feb 2004 07:58:08 +0100
Subject: 15.0406 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0406 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

I wonder whether Will Summer's Prologue (as it were) in Nashe's
'Summer's Last Will and Testament' may be a good example of the possible
interaction between actors and audience. In my opinion, it certainly
offers a clear idea of what was then going on. Greetings. Maria Concolato

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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 >
Date:           Saturday, 14 Feb 2004 14:53:32 -0500
Subject: 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0425 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Petruchio seems to invite audience reaction at the end of 4.1: "He that
knows better how to tame a shrew,/Now let him speak. 'Tis charity to
show." Of course there is a question as to which audience these lines
are addressed.

If they are addressed to the nameless lord (if he and Sly are still on
stage), then they may draw attention to the fact that the lord is indeed
using a different method to tame Sly.  Petruchio is depriving Katherine
of sex, food, sleep, and (new) clothes to "tame" her, while the lord is
giving these things to Sly in order to "tame" him.  Since Shakespeare
gives the lord no lines or stage directions, his reaction to Petruchio's
invitation is moot.

But if Petruchio is addressing the audience in the theatre, then he
shouldn't be surprised if an auditor responds.  For years I've wanted to
stand up and sing Richard Burton's advice on how to handle a woman.  And
one of these years, I shall have the extra Bombay and tonic -- and do 't.

Bill Godshalk

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