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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
Roles
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1846  Thursday, 7 October 2004

[1]     From:   David Richman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Oct 2004 11:01:06 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1831 Roles

[2]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Oct 2004 17:25:26 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1811 Comments on Polonius / Roles

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Oct 2004 13:53:08 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1831 Roles

[4]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Oct 2004 18:36:59 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1831 Roles


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Richman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Oct 2004 11:01:06 -0400
Subject: 15.1831 Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1831 Roles

Mischievous question for Steve Urkowitz, and/or anyone else.  Might
Burbage, versatile actor par excellence, have been playing
Prospero--whose every third (or third) thought was his grave, at least
toward the end of Act V; and about the same time (what a long and
serpentine sentence this is getting to be) might Burbage have also been
playing Leontes, who, at least for the first three acts, is no older
than thirty and perhaps younger than Hamlet?  When Burbage, (if Burbage)
uttered "As sure as this beard's grey" did he mean it, literally?  And
by the way, how many children had Lady Macbeth?

Cheers,
David Roleman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Oct 2004 17:25:26 +0100
Subject: 15.1811 Comments on Polonius / Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1811 Comments on Polonius / Roles

Steve Sohmer wrote:

 >John Briggs asks if it's possible Shakespeare played Polonius. I think
 >it more than likely. Shakespeare almost certainly played Julius
 >Caesar, judging from the two in-jokes, i.e. "when Caesar says do this
 >it is performed" and "bade the Romans memorize his speeches and write
 >them in their books." When Polonius claims to have enacted Julius
 >Caesar -- and, by the way, he's talking to Burbadge/Hamlet who (as
 >Brutus) slew him in the capitol -- the author is making quite a
 >capital joke.
 >In addition to playing Polonius, I believe Shakespeare also doubled as
 >Old Hamlet's Ghost. Anyone else have a similar preternatural
 >intuition?

One obvious connection is that the actor playing Julius Caesar also
played his Ghost, as I am sure Steve Sohmer pointed out long ago (I'm
sorry, I really haven't been paying attention - I only sat up and took
notice when Peter Bridgman pointed out the 'beautified' connection.)

One thing about "Julius Caesar" that is gnawing at my brain is the
following famous comment by Ben Jonson: "Many times he fell into those
things, could not escape laughter: as when he said in the person of
Caesar, one speaking to him; 'Caesar, thou dost me wrong.'  He replied:
'Caesar did never wrong, but with just cause' and such like: which were
ridiculous."  The phrasing would seem rather arch (even for Jonson),
unless he really meant that Shakespeare acted the part of Caesar.

Alternative doublings proposed for the Ghost in "Hamlet" are the Player
and/or the First Gravedigger.  In his Arden3 edition of "Merry Wives",
Giorgio Melchiori proposes that John Heminges played Falstaff.  (Toby
Belch is a Falstaff-type character, and Armin would have played Feste,
so Falstaff is not a clown's role, making Kemp unlikely as the original
Falstaff.  Melchiori suggests that Armin played Hugh Evans in "Merry
Wives", and that Kemp was the original Bardolph.)  The crunch question
is this: did Heminges or Shakespeare himself play these comic roles?
Which opens up the mouthwatering prospect of Shakespeare having written
Falstaff for himself to play!  I have read elsewhere (Helen Cooper, "Did
Shakespeare play the clown?", TLS, 20 April 2001, pp.26-27) the
suggestion that the young Shakespeare specialised in playing comic roles.

John Briggs

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Oct 2004 13:53:08 -0400
Subject: 15.1831 Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1831 Roles

 >>It is after Hamlet that the male leads were all middle aged or upwards.
 >
 >Two thoughts:
 >
 >Pericles at least starts out as a young man seeking a bride,

True, but those were the Wilton scenes.

 >And: Given the King's Men repertory, Burbage seems to have been playing
 >Lear-y old guys one day, scant-of-breath intellectuals the very next
 >day, and maybe Romeo-antic whippersnappers on the third.

Also (probably) true; but the earlier plays had already been written.
The observation is about new plays that WS wrote to accommodate the
palette available to him.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Oct 2004 18:36:59 +0100
Subject: 15.1831 Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1831 Roles

Steve Urkowitz wrote of Donald Foster's SHAXICON database:

 >it's the job of the community to remember good
 >work when it's done and published

Indeed. Nothing of SHAXICON has been 'done and published'; it's all
unsubstantiated assertion.  Foster's claim that dramatists remember the
parts they play and that those parts' rare-word usage 'floods into'
their subsequent dramatic composition (Foster's phrasing) should hold
for dramatists other than Shakespeare.

Steve Roth and Matt Steggle tried to replicate Foster's claimed relation
between performance and composition using Colley Cibber and were unable
to find a correlation.

Their work is at www.GabrielEgan.com/SHAXICAN

If Foster would like to show the rest of the world how it's done, I for
one am all ears.

Gabriel Egan

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