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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
First Folio Function
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0944  Thursday, 19 May 2005

[1]     From:   Gerald E. Downs <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 May 2005 16:00:56 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0931 First Folio Function

[2]     From:   Kim Carrell <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 May 2005 10:54:47 -0400
        Subj:   RE: First Folio Function


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gerald E. Downs <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 May 2005 16:00:56 EDT
Subject: 16.0931 First Folio Function
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0931 First Folio Function

Sarah Cohen cited Pollard's acceptance of Simpson's view of H5 punctuation:

 >Alfred W. Pollard . . . does supply a nice example of a First
 >Folio passage whose punctuation suggests a certain dramatic
 >interpretation.
 >
 >"The strength of Mr Simpson's treatise lies in his examples,
 >and the example which effected my conversion was a line and
 >a half from King Henry V (V.i. 49 sq.) spoken by Pistol, as,
 >in terror of Fluellen's cudgel, he begins to eat the leek. In the
 >Folio it is printed, quite shamelessly:
 >
 > By this Leeke, I will most horribly reuenge I eate and eate
 >I sweare.

Pollard quite shamelessly says, "quite shamelessly"; but why? When were
the F compositors otherwise "shamed"?

 >. . . the Folio shows us Fluellen flourishing his cudgel,
 >and how should Pistol stop while he might count three after
 >'reuenge,' or even one after 'eate,' when the slightest pause
 >might bring the cudgel on his head? The absence of stops
 >here . . . gives what is practically a stage direction . . ."
 >"Shakespeare's Fight With the Pirates and the Problems
 >of the Transmission of his Text", A.W. Pollard . . .

In 1929 Van Dam asked: "If Prof. Pollard's imaginative vision rightly
converted him, then the comma in Pistoll's next speech is inexplicable:

       Quiet thy Cudgell, thou dost see I eate.

. . . And why should we want to introduce a stage-direction  where the
text is so clear that no actor can possibly mistake the situation?"

This example defeats itself and proves, if anything, arbitrary punctuation.

Gerald E. Downs

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kim Carrell <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 May 2005 10:54:47 -0400
Subject:        RE: First Folio Function

I would first like to thank Sarah R. Cohen for the "bravo"...and to
those who e-mailed the same directly to me.

I think David Lindley's question:

"...might it not be possible that the text which might work best is that
edited by scholar a or b, who has, as every good editor should,
meditated long and hard over the choice of every comma, every word"?

is a very valid one, which I would like to address.

Let me begin by saying again that I am answering for myself only. I do
not wish to put words in anyone else's mouth. But I will add that I am
far from the only theatre professional who feels this way.

Mr. Lindley points out the possible assistance provided the "beginning
student (or actor)" by a modern edited version of the plays. While he
certainly does have a point regarding their value to the beginner, I for
one would encourage those same students and actors to move to the next
level and use the original texts as soon as possible. My reason for this
is simply that I have found far too many changes in modern editions that
have no basis whatsoever in the Folio or the Quartos. I am not simply
talking here about punctuation and spelling. For example:

Why do modern editions continue to set Mercutio's "Queen Mab" speech as
verse when both the Folio and Q2 show it is prose until the line

"This is the hag, when Maides lie on their backs".

Changing this to verse means an actor working from such a text has been
robbed of critical information for his performance. The shift from verse
to prose within the speech is indicative of a shift in Mercutio's
mental/emotional state as he speaks - and the line at which the shift
occurs becomes even more significant. Romeo winds up being robbed
because without this shift on Mercutio's part, Romeo's response

"Peace, peace, Mercutio peace,
Thou talk'st of nothing"

has far less significance as well.

Why do modern editions repeatedly change/add/omit stage directions? Just
prior to Mercutio's death neither FF or Q2 gives a stage direction
"Fight" or "They Fight" for Mercutio and Tybalt - but there most
pointedly IS one for Romeo and Tybalt. Dramatically it is much more
effective and tragic if Mercutio is wounded in the course of his and
Tybalt's macho posturing which Romeo breaks up - and Mercutio's "...why
the devle came you betweene us? I was hurt under your arme" becomes much
more poignant. The scene also plays faster this way and gives a much
stronger sense of events rapidly spiraling out of control, and Romeo's
rage when Tybalt re-enters has far more fuel. With the added fight
between Mercutio and Tybalt the forward motion of the play slows down,
and the poor slob playing Tybalt is stuck with two complicated fights
back-to-back. (Should you scoff at that notion allow me to invite you to
visit me in Boston. As I am a fight director I can easily put you
through the paces of such a pair of fights so you can see just how
physically exhausting it is).

To move to some other plays, modern editions often move a stage
direction from its place in the original text. For example in Act 2
scene 1 of "The Taming of the Shrew" modern editions move Baptista's
entrance to just prior to Petruchio's line

"Heere comes your Father..."

when in the FF text Baptista's entrance happens three lines earlier at

"For I am he borne to tame you Kate".

The FF text gives Petruchio the option of seeing Baptista before Kate
does, and therefore saying those three lines FOR BAPTISTA'S BENEFIT.
This is critical because Petruchio can then use the lines just prior to
Baptista's entrance as a serious, heartfelt wooing of Kate. I know from
experience in the role that this results in a much richer moment and a
genuine connection between Petruchio and Kate - but simply by moving
Baptista's entrance this choice is no longer an option.

Finally, why do modern editions of "Twelfth Night" change Toby and
Malvolio's final lines? If Toby's line to Andrew in FF:

"Will you helpe an Asse-head, and a coxcombe, &
a knaue: a thin fac'd knaue, a gull"?

becomes its usual modern edition version:

"Will you help? An ass-head and a coxcomb and a knave;
a thin faced knave, a gull"!

the sense of the line is clearly not even the same. In the FF text Toby
is obviously referring to himself. Because of this we see at the last
some signs of emotional growth in Toby and in post-Stanislavskian terms
the character has an "arc". The modern version of the line leaves Toby
as an offensive boor - and again, the actor is denied the information to
complete the "arc" of his character. Look at the way Malvolio's final
line is always changed and apply the same reasoning - but do that on
your own. (This post is already too long).

There are many, many more examples but one hopes that these will serve
to illustrate my point. The editors of whom Mr. Lindley speaks may
indeed have "meditated long and hard over the choice of every comma,
every word". But when they become responsible for changes such as I have
shown here they are doing far more harm than good.

Kim H. Carrell
Actor/Fight Director
AEA/AFTRA/SAFD
www.kimcarrell.com

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