The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0229 Wednesday, 28 January 2004
Date: Tuesday, 27 Jan 2004 13:37:19 -0500
Subject: 15.0213 Julius Caesar's Conventions
Comment: Re: SHK 15.0213 Julius Caesar's Conventions
There must have been some convention about or acceptance of nudity,
because there had been wide spread stagings of Mystery plays featuring
naked Adams and Eves. Presumably, though not necessarily, Eve was
played by a male. But the Fall plot stipulates that our first parents
must begin naked, become ashamed, and cover themselves with leaves that
grow nearby. Pictorial representations of Adam and Eve before and after
the period show them as naked, with varying degrees of veiling of the
private parts by posture or gesture or vegetation-- not really possible
on a stage, although movies manage it.
I've staged Cycles including Adam and Eve and the Fall multiple times,
in the context of a church worship-event, using various conventions
from maximum flesh to baggy long johns dyed beige with "parts" drawn on
with magic marker. The response-- which ranges from bawdy laughter to
reverent seriousness-- seems to depend more on the performance style and
the actors' own expressive choices than on the choice of costume. A
convention is only acceptable if it is accepted-- there must have been
those to whom the very idea of nakedness is so offensive that any
mention of it, let alone and representation of it, is an abomination.
So the question becomes: did the offended have enough power to make
staging nakedness unlikely? Lear and Poor Tom suggest otherwise.
On John Reed's point about dialogue, my own preference is that such many
lines be played directly to the audience, and productions that I've seen
that do this-- I saw a few 50 years ago, before there was much in the
way of advocacy for the practice-- "work better" in the sense that they
engage the audience more intensely at exactly the points where speaking
to "the air" or in dialogue with a character who does not have an urgent
"need to know" disengages the audience and lowers the dramatic tension.
The play vividly becomes about "us" rather than "him" or "those
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