The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1857 Thursday, 10 November 2005
Date: Thursday, 10 Nov 2005 13:05:57 -0500
Subject: 16.1843 The Rude Mechanicals
Comment: RE: SHK 16.1843 The Rude Mechanicals
Gabriel Egan wrote:
>It is noticeable, however, that the onstage audiences of the inset plays
>in MND and HAM are aristocratic and boorish, endlessly interrupting and
>making lame jokes. Shakespeare shows the toffs, not the plebs,
>exhibiting the failings Sparks notes.
I received private e-mail on this as well. One of the problems I have
with modern scholars is that they cannot seem to break away from looking
at things with a modern scholar's eye. There is no reason to treat
audiences of WS's time as anything more or less than what they were, all
of them: people who came to see and be seen. It didn't matter whether
they were rich or poor, common or aristocratic: some were noisy, some
were quiet, most in between: noisy when bored or irritated or
distracted, quiet when interested. It is not always that different
today, in a lot of public venues. Lord knows I have seen firsthand it is
not always true inside a Shakespearean theater, even now, and you cannot
guess who will be rude just by their income or class!
The fact that Elizabethans were able to see WS's work firsthand does not
make a single one of them more important or more full of virtue - or as
a friend of mine likes to say, "people of taste and discretion-" than
any other audience, any more than most people actually thought that
Shakespeare's work was all that important at the time. He may have laid
the foundation of greatness with his work, but it is later interest that
built the greatness. That interest that has built in the centuries since
his death is amazing. It has come up with fantastic and broad ideas of
what is buried within the work and what the work meant and why he wrote
something to a point of picking atoms - something I am quite sure never
ever occurred to the man when he first wrote the works.
And, in regards to WS writing of the repetition of the two plays within
the plays, I would say he must have had an excellent reason to do that,
one everyone who saw the play would understand, just from a point of
nostalgia for the way, I feel, theater used to be.
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