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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: December ::
Macbeth Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2089  Monday, 13 December 2004

From:           John Reed <
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Date:           Saturday, 11 Dec 2004 15:39:39 -0800
Subject:        Macbeth Characters

I am wondering whether anyone wants to discuss how to identify
characters in these plays, for example in Macbeth - specifically how we
know how many speaking parts there are or were.  It might look like a
very simple question on the surface, perhaps not worth discussing, but
I'm really wondering about it.  Suppose we start with some simplifying
assumptions: The F text accurately reproduces the original script (or
whatever term we might like to use for it): there are no missing pages,
  everything on the handwritten pages from the source got printed, and
nothing got added during the chain of transmission (by scribes,
compositors, or whoever).  So we are looking at a reasonably reliable F,
trying to reconstruct how many speaking parts there were (in the
original performance, I mean), who they were, what they said, and how we
know who they were. The Speech Prefixes, of course, are going to be
important in this quest, but I'd like to begin with the observation that
there are more distinct Speech Prefixes than there are speaking parts.
Not counting duplicates, I am counting 56 distinct Speech Prefixes in F.

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