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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
First Folio Function
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0897  Friday, 6 May 2005

[1]     From:   Bruce Richman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 May 2005 14:02:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0883 First Folio Function

[2]     From:   Kurt Daw <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 May 2005 15:28:58 -0400
        Subj:   First Folio Function

[3]     From:   Steve Urkowitz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 May 2005 17:42:33 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 3 May 2005 to 4 May 2005 (#2005-75)

[4]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 May 2005 09:06:18 +1000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0867 First Folio Function

[5]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 May 2005 09:36:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0883 First Folio Function


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Richman <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 May 2005 14:02:48 -0500
Subject: 16.0883 First Folio Function
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0883 First Folio Function

An idle musing, but I'm fascinated by Kim Carrell's comments on how
(some) actors make their text selections. The Shakespeare of the
scholars and the Shakespeare of the actors and directors so often seems
two different writers. Clearly the interests of stage and library are
differently concentrated. I don't know if conferences have been
organized around the idea of achieving closer reconciliation, or at
least better understanding, between what have become the two sides, but
perhaps it would be a suitable theme for a major meeting if it hasn't
already been done to death outside my awareness.

Bruce Richman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kurt Daw <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 May 2005 15:28:58 -0400
Subject:        First Folio Function

Much of the debate about the function of First Folio usage might be
paraphrased, "What makes actors think they know better than editors?"

That is less the point than that many actors feel contemporary editors
are making many of their decisions (sound as they are) to make the texts
clearer and more apprehensible to readers. Those decisions may or may
not serve the rhetorical purposes of those speaking the texts, or the
interests of audiences who are listening to them. In specific, most
modern texts are far more heavily punctuated than were early editions of
the plays. If you observe all of those punctuation marks in production
with pauses the verse becomes broken beyond comprehensibility. Suddenly
you are doing Pinter instead of Pericles. I know of no major edition
that is editorially designed for speakers rather than readers, and in
the absence of such editions many actors simply turn to Folio
themselves. The problems of working around unusual spellings and
typographical conventions diminishes fairly quickly, and you find an
occasional insight through an interesting speech heading or alternative
assignment of speaker.

This does not excuse the fetishizing of the Folio by those who imagine
it gives them direct access to Shakespeare's intentions, but many actors
find the rhetorical structures of the early texts helpful without
subscribing to any such beliefs.

The simplest answer to the Folio vs. Quarto question is that Folios are
more readily accessible in facsimile than Quartos, so it is not uncommon
for even an undergraduate actor to own one, where those owning a
complete set of Quartos are rare, though not unheard of.

Kurt Daw, Ph.D
Dean of Fine and Performing Arts, SUNY - New Paltz

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 May 2005 17:42:33 EDT
Subject:        Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 3 May 2005 to 4 May 2005 (#2005-75)

Tom Bishop rightly notes that

      there are parts
     of the Folio text that no-one, actor or editor, can make much sense of
     on page or stage.

But those arguing for using the earlier texts find that too many of the
editorial interventions found in modern editions deal with polishing or
"correcting" or normalizing very sensible theatrical coding.  An
example: I just finished a production of PERICLES.  In the scene with
Ceremon and the box with Thaisa in it (3.2) there are two commands by
Ceremon about opening the box: first --

Cer. Set't downe, let's looke vpon't.
   2.Gent. T'is like a Coffin, sir.
   Cer. What ere it be, t'is woondrous heauie;
Wrench it open straight:
If the Seas stomacke be orecharg'd with Gold,
T'is a good constraint of Fortune it belches vpon vs.   [1290]
   2.Gent. T'is so, my Lord.

and again:

Cer. How close tis caulkt & bottomed, did the sea cast it vp?
   Ser. I neuer saw so huge a billow sir, as tost it vpon shore.
   Cer. Wrench it open soft; it smels most sweetly in my sense.
   2.Gent. A delicate Odour.
   Cer. As euer hit my nostrill: so, vp with it.

In production, that box is a real issue.  My designer botched together
something with a rope tie rather than close caulking, but the actors
played as if it needed prying.  When Ceremon gives the first command, I
had him direct Phylemon, his "leading servant," to go offstage to fetch
a wrenching tool, not something that anyone in the fiction of the play
at this moment onstage might have had in hand.  When she came back, the
delayed opening went forward.

But in the Oxford edition of the play, the editor decided that the first
command was a mistake.  And so he eliminates it from his text. Indeed it
may have been a mistake, we can't tell from the document itself.  But in
a passage where so much attention is being given to the physical
objects, stripping that first command leaves a production following the
Oxford text with a problem.  True, it ain't a huge problem.  You just
have to have your box-coffin-haulers bring on a wrenching iron with
them.  But, hey,  who's play are we doing here anyway?  I don't know for
sure who inscribed those two commands, but I do trust that person's
theatrical acumen in the visualizing of this particular moment more than
I would trust the Oxford editor's.  So I found a theatrical rather than
an editorial solution to the "doubled command."  (I think it was Harold
Jenkins in one of his less-than-magisterial-moments in his HAMLET
edition who postulated that Shakespeare NEVER used doubled words or
commands and they should be "singularized?" to get back to the lost
original that hides behind the veil of print.)

Now I would ask Tom Bishop not as he asks, "Must all actors therefore
become textual scholars as well?" but rather "Mustn't textual scholars
become actors and directors as well?" (Though Kenneth Muir did a lot of
acting and it didn't necessarily help his editorial sense of stage action.)

In workshops with actors, teachers, students and directors over the past
twenty-odd years -- at the RSC, the Stratford  Festival in Ontario and
the ACTER troupes -- I've shown people the basic tools that textual
scholars work with to build their modern editions.  Over and over, I
find that these people are not afraid of the oogly-boogly task of
becoming familiar with the world of textual scholarship.  It's fun.
It's powerful.  It helps them to see why we textual scholars do what we do.

"A table of green fields"?  Yes, that don't make much sense a-tall.
But the passage from A&C 5.2 emended by Theobald

                                For his Bounty,
There was no winter in't.  An Anthony it was,
That grew the more by reaping:

to  "an _autumn_  it was"   --  that intervention is second-guessing
rather than problem solving. When I am working with an actor on this
sentence, I'll explain that Antony's generosity was like himself, like
that mystery of exuberance wherein the more we give the more we have to
give.  Cleopatra here speaks in an extravagant language, not in the ugly
mechanical tongue of Roman accounting we heard earlier from Agrippa, "He
ploughed her, and she cropped."  Actors understand that.  Old guys from
the Bronx understand it too.  Theobald didn't.

Ever,
Steve Urquartowitz
City College of New York

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Friday, 6 May 2005 09:06:18 +1000
Subject: 16.0867 First Folio Function
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0867 First Folio Function

Prof. Tarlinskaya writes "If the poet bothered to write in iambic
pentameter, divided into lines, with its own metrical, stressing and
syntactic rules, these have to be respected by actors as well as by
readers. Also, Shakespeare differentiated his personages by verse
structure, opposing them as character types, "emplois,"
(heroes-villains, impulsive-sophisticated, and more, see my book on
Shakespeare's verse), it might help an actor's interpretation of a part."

Amidst all this enthusiasm for the depredations of Compositor A I am
glad to see someone making this point.  It is the silliest sort of
superstition to take the compositorial mangling of Shakespeare's
lineation to be some sort of authorial code addressed to the actor.

Peter Groves

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Friday, 06 May 2005 09:36:40 -0500
Subject: 16.0883 First Folio Function
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0883 First Folio Function

 >I choose based on what plays
 >most effectively in rehearsal and performance. Directorial and audience
 >response are just as important - if not more important - in determining
 >this. If a Quarto text plays most effectively I will go with that, but
 >the Folio text tends to get the job most often.

I've always found this actors' first-folio proposition far-fetched, for
reasons some have already cited, but I'm willing to hear arguments. I
can easily see that an early modern text can contain meaningful data we
smooth out in modernizing. So can we have a sample, please, of the
folio's specifically superior guidance for performance compared to both
modern and quarto texts? "I go by what works in performance" is a bit of
a blank check.

Frank Whigham

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