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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Gambon as Falstaff
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0993  Wednesday, 25 May 2005

[1]     From:   Michael Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 May 2005 06:06:08 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0966 Gambon as Falstaff

[2]     From:   Sandra Sparks <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 May 2005 13:08:31 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0966 Gambon as Falstaff

[3]     From:   Bill Lloyd <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 May 2005 23:43:21 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0979 Gambon as Falstaff


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 May 2005 06:06:08 -1000
Subject: 16.0966 Gambon as Falstaff
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0966 Gambon as Falstaff

Bill Lloyd begs the question by assuming a 'real-life' model for
Falstaff. Readers interested in the fat knight's literary origins should
take a look at the corpulent Sir Robert Tresilian, the king's close
friend and principal misleader in 1 Richard II (aka Woodstock).

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sandra Sparks <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 May 2005 13:08:31 -0400
Subject: 16.0966 Gambon as Falstaff
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0966 Gambon as Falstaff

Bill Lloyd:

 >I tend to go with Pope as Falstaff but I don't find it inconceivable
 >that Kempe may have risen to the occasion when presented with such a
 >role. He often played fools but was not himself a fool-- see Juliet
 >Dusinberre's recent article detailing his musical skills. If we go for
 >Pope as Falstaff, I'd nominate Kempe for Gadshill in Part 1 and Shallow
 >in Part 2."

Hindsight from a modern viewpoint shortchanges Kemp, definitely, if he
is seen as JUST a clown. The problem, I feel, was that as he extended
his range of roles, he could not lose his clown's heart for taking
center stage and winging it, too, too many times.  He also had a
colossal ego, and has made that clear with his own book. It is clear:
Egos clashed, and out he went, just in time to miss Henry V. I stick by
my assertion that he was the original Falstaff; it may have discontented
the Henry V audiences, but it gave Mistress Quickly one fine speech, one
of my favorite speeches for women in these plays.

As for playing Gadshill and Shallow - I would say that he saw himself as
a first player, not a supporting man.

About Shakespeare playing Falstaff (I'm sorry, I'm losing track of who
wrote that...) oh, no. He may have physically grown to Falstaffian
proportions in his last years, but how many here can actually imagine
him doing that?

Sandra Sparks

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Lloyd <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 May 2005 23:43:21 EDT
Subject: 16.0979 Gambon as Falstaff
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0979 Gambon as Falstaff

Yes, the information on John Lowin's Jonsonian roles in 1615<>1620 (as
well as that on Heminge's playing Corbacchio) does come from the
so-called 'Riddell' casts inscribed in a contemporary hand in a copy of
the Jonson Folio. I believe most theatre historians provisionally accept
these casts as genuine and probably reflective of firsthand knowledge. I
thought I had hedged indeterminacy sufficiently in that post
["speculation", "suspect", "probably"] but I suppose I should have said
of the Riddell casts "it's very probable" instead of "we know".  How
about "all but certain"?

As to the idea that Lowin was too much of a 'new boy' to create such
important parts as Sir Pol and Sir Epicure [and by implication play
Falstaff], I don't agree. He would have been 30 years old in 1606 when
we believe he first played Sir Pol, and he had acted for a few years
with the Earl of Worcester's players before joining the King's men.
Richard Burbage was about 25 when he had his first success with Richard
III; and if Edward Alleyn was the first Tamburlaine he was only about 18
years old when he took the London stage by storm.

It seems to me perhaps likely that Lowin was specifically recruited to
replace a departed member, perhaps [ahem] the recently deceased Thomas
Pope, maybe. His later prominence suggests he was an actor of talent,
and I see no particular reason to believe he would have had to wait
years to take significant parts. By the way, before the discovery of the
Riddell casts it had already been suggested that he was the first Sir
Epicure, and also that he had been the first Volpone-- a much larger and
more important part. He did play Volpone by the 1630s, but the Riddell
casts suggest he must have inherited the part after the death of Richard
Burbage. Tiffany Stern's important recent book *Rehearsal From
Shakespeare to Sheridan* gives some reason to believe that early modern
professional actors tended to keep the same parts until forced to
relinquish them by death or incapacity

John Heminge, incidentally, if he was the original Falstaff in 1596
would have been... [fanfare]... 30 years old when he created that part.
In 1613 and 1616 he was referred to as "old Heminge" although he was
still in his 40s [he turned 50 in Nov 1616]. This combined with his
[quite probable] playing of the decrepit Corbacchio has made some
suspect that he played grave or mature parts, such as perhaps Polonius
or Julius Caesar. Edmond Malone claimed that he remembered reading in a
pamphlet somewhere sometime that Heminge was the first Falstaff, but as
no one has been able to substantiate this vague claim for over 200
years, I think not too much weight can be placed on it. At least no more
than on Riddell...

Anyways, this is all speculation, but informed speculation, based [I
believe] on weighing the possibilities and sometimes the probabilities.
I could well be wrong and maybe Samuel Cross was the first Falstaff.
"Barring new evidence we'll never know..."

Bill Lloyd

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