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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Macbeth Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0014  Monday, 3 January 2005

[1]     From:   William Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 02 Jan 2005 13:48:44 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0009 Macbeth Characters

[2]     From:   Thomas M. Lahey <
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        Date:   Sunday, 02 Jan 2005 11:46:28 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0009 Macbeth Characters

[3]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Sunday, 02 Jan 2005 18:25:05 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0009 Macbeth Characters


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 02 Jan 2005 13:48:44 -0500
Subject: 16.0009 Macbeth Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0009 Macbeth Characters

John Reed asks: is anyone willing or able to present some conscious
rationale for having these 38 speaking parts in Macbeth? A good
question. But perhaps the best way to go about answering the question
would be to look at all of Shakespeare's plays and the number of
speaking characters in each. Can we assign a rationale of speaking parts
to each?  Does the number of speaking parts correspond to other issues?

Charles Hamilton's edition of The Second Maiden's Tragedy -- which he
identifies as Cardenio -- has not been greeted with great critical
acclaim, and few scholars accept Hamilton's "Paleographic Evidence"
(123-86). I wouldn't use Hamilton's work as the basis for a critical
argument.

Of course some speech prefixes / speech-headings are ambiguous. A
well-known ambiguity occurs in King Lear tln=176, where the
speech-heading Cor. may refer to Cordelia as well as Cornwall. For more
speculation on speech-headings, see George Walton Williams, ed.
Shakespeare's Speech-Headings (Newark: U Delaware P, 1997), esp. Random
Cloud's "What's the Bastard's Name?"

Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas M. Lahey <
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Date:           Sunday, 02 Jan 2005 11:46:28 -0800
Subject: 16.0009 Macbeth Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0009 Macbeth Characters

John Reed writes:

 >Shakespeare appears to me often to have used
 >a speech prefix as an identifier, not for character
 >within a play, but for function within a scene, such
 >as "Seruant", or "First Murderer" (1 Mur).  Are any
 >of these functional designations equal to
 >something/someone else in another scene
 >(with a different function)?

Based on the blatant Captain/Sergeant mix up in Scene Two, I believe
that precision wasn't high on anyone's list while some would argue it is
"fact" because it appears in print.  The one thing I learned in my brief
military career:  Rank matters.

 >In the Orson Welles movie of Macbeth, Macbeth is
 >equal to one of the murderers in the scene where
 >Macduff's castle is attacked.  This might be
 >grandstanding by Welles, but it might not be.
 >The Stage Directions in Shakespeare are laconic.

I believe that lack of financial backing, i.e., lack of money was the
root of this evil.

Healthy New Year,
Tom

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Sunday, 02 Jan 2005 18:25:05 -0500
Subject: 16.0009 Macbeth Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0009 Macbeth Characters

 >I wonder if Cardenio has any relevance here.  I am not aware of the
 >informed scholarly opinion on the matter, but it was the opinion of the
 >editor of a recent printed edition of that play that whoever wrote out
 >the manuscript did so in Shakespeare's handwriting.

This would be the late Charles Hamilton's book setting forth his fantasy
to the effect that Middleton's "The Second Maiden's Tragedy" is
"Cardenio". No one, to my knowledge, has ever taken him seriously. That
does not, of course, mean that the manuscript is not a genuine play
script of the period, but it is not Shakespeare's.

 >J. Kennedy,
 >above, suggested that Gerald equals Servant in a play from the 18th
 >century,

That would be Lewis Theobald's "Double Falshood" (which I have on-line
at <URL:http://pws.prserv.net/jwkennedy/Double%20Falshood/index.html>),
a 1727 play based on the real "Cardenio", which has been lost since
Theobald's day, probably to Warburton's cook.

 >So I'm wondering how many of these apparently distinct Speech Prefixes
 >belonging to apparently distinct minor characters are homologous.  Is
 >there enough equality to create one or two major characters?  Would it
 >make a difference?  How about Hamlet (that is always a ripe one for
 >discussion): could Ghost equal Reynaldo equal Gravedigger?

This conflates the question of character identity with the question of
multiple casting.

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