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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0474  Wednesday, 18 February 2004

[1]     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
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 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 11:58:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0452 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 12:37:04 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 15.0452 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the Performers?

[3]     From:   M Yawney <
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 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 09:47:07 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0434 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 11:58:22 -0500
Subject: 15.0452 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0452 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Susan St. John writes:

 >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!

And I respond:

Yes, I knew, but I always hear Burton's voice when I think of the song.

And I think that, even with the best acting, audiences will react as
they will, not as the actors wish.  So I think Petruchio is a spouse
abuser and today would be locked up.  Sleep deprivation was, in the
sixteenth century, a known torture for witches.  I'll bet Katherine
would respond well to sex, food, sleep, new clothes-and a month of fun
in Paris or even London!  So this auditor would like to tell Petruchio that.

Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 12:37:04 -0500
Subject: Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        SHK 15.0452 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Bill Arnold says of the performance of 'The Mousetrap'

'The Usurper King squirmed, and tried to hide his evil face, and bolted
the witness chair like a confirmed criminal caught in the act. '

In your dreams. The fact is that 'The Mousetrap' doesn't work. In the
world of Elsinore, as beyond it, art doesn't make anything happen.
Shakespeare's play faces up to this bleak truth.

T. Hawkes

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M Yawney <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004 09:47:07 -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?

Looking at the audience interaction in play-within-play scenes as being
typical can be misleading.
It could represent typical behavior or it may not. The joke in The
Knight of the Burning Pestle and other comedies is that the behavior of
the intrusive audience is NOT typical. Just as today the fun of A Night
at the Opera is that the Marx Brothers do the things we would not.

Probably the best approach would be to look at play-within-play scenes
in drama of periods within the last century or two and compare it to
actual audience behavior. Then extrapolating from those comparisons we
might come closer to understanding the relationship between those scenes
in Renaissance drama.

My suspicion is that there are few (if any) play-within-play scenes in
which the onstage audience sits in the quietly appreciative manner of
most modern audiences. Why would anyone include such a scene in a play?
These scenes need to be more rowdy even if the actual audience is not.

There are many misconceptions about the Renaissance theater that are
believed because they are repeated so often. Remember how for years we
were taught that there was an "inner stage"-until modern scholars
pointed out that there is no evidence for such a feature. The audience
at the Globe may have been vocal-but they may also not have been.
However, we really need to look at the sources with a critical eye and
be skeptical of the accepted wisdom if we want to find the truth.

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