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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0452  Tuesday, 17 February 2004

[1]     From:   Susan St. John <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Feb 2004 09:22:11 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0434 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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 >
        Date:   Monday, 16 Feb 2004 19:54:48 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0434 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan St. John <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Feb 2004 09:22:11 -0700
Subject: 15.0434 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0434 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

I'm certain that Bill Godshalk knows this, but I feel compelled to point
out that the advice on "how to handle a woman", from the musical
Camelot, is not Richard Burton's advice, but rather King Arthur's...and
I certainly agree in real life ('more flies with honey' and all that).
But having played Kate, I do believe that Petruchio's way was the only
way in that instance- 'fighting fire with fire' so to speak!  A strong
man who will stand up to her and her tantrums is what she needed.  So if
an audience member feels the need to answer at that point, then the
actors and the director have not done their job.

However, having performed in a great deal of children's theatre where
audience participation is encouraged, I can say for a fact that actor's
must be ready for anything.  That's part of the fun of live theatre.
Just the fact of having to hold for a laugh or applause (or booing or
throwing food), necessitates the use of improvisational skills.  I'm
sure it was no different in WS's day.

I believe Shakespeare gives us a lot of clues with the rustics in
Midsummer; just look at how much talking the nobles do during the
performance of Pyramus and Thisby - to the point that Bottom actually
answers them back, and Moonshine has to start over three times because
the audience distracts him from his memorized speech.

Susan.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Feb 2004 19:54:48 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.0434 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0434 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Roy Flannagan writes, "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...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?"

Al Magary wrote, "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)."

Did someone really write that Prince Hamlet was a "rich twit"?  And is
there really concern that the character is an actor, aware he is an
actor?  Then why does he *act* like a director, in a play about a trial
of a king he produced and staged, and helped write, during the play
within the play?  Sounds more like Perry Mason!  Motive, to quote
Sherlock Holmes, is apparent and damning of the accused and Prince
Hamlet is the prosecutor zeroing in on the defendant to fess up on the
stand.  Mark Claudius the murderer and Prince Hamlet a zealous attorney
for the State of Denmark, who has *marked* the evil doer on stage!  The
Usurper King squirmed, and tried to hide his evil face, and bolted the
witness chair like a confirmed criminal caught in the act.  Too bad the
bailiff didn't cuff him in silver bracelets and ankle chains.  But even
the audience cannot escape the obvious conclusion, something was rotten
in Denmark, and behold, it was the liar on the throne.  The sound track
in a Perry Mason show would register gasps from the gallery of visitors
observing the trial of the phony king.  Mood music would play, and the
audience would go home satisfied that Prince Perry had won another for
the Gipper!

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

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