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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: November ::
The Rude Mechanicals
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1865  Saturday, 12 November 2005

[1] 	From: 	Marina Tarlinskaya <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 10 Nov 2005 10:48:49 -0800 (PST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals

[2] 	From: 	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 10 Nov 2005 20:55:29 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals

[3] 	From: 	Abigail Quart <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 10 Nov 2005 16:58:50 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Marina Tarlinskaya <
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Date: 		Thursday, 10 Nov 2005 10:48:49 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals

"Plays within plays" were typical of the dramatic genre of the period. 
No "nostalgia" here; Shakespeare sometimes parodies the earlier, 
"bombastic" style-as in "Hamlet," in the "Mousetrap." The audience of 
the period must have been more sensitive to verse than modern audience 
(and modern actors), otherwise Elizabethan poets would not go to the 
trouble of writing in verse, opposing personages by verse and prose, and 
those who speak in verse-by the types of "rhythm" they use (such as 
"heroes" vs. "villains").

M. Tarlinskaja

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Gabriel Egan <
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Date: 		Thursday, 10 Nov 2005 20:55:29 -0000
Subject: 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals

In response to my comments on the onstage audience in MND and HAM Sarah 
Sparks wrote

 >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.

I didn't comment on audiences of Shakespeare's time, but on the 
audiences he represented in those plays.  They are not ordinary people 
but aristocrats (a duke, a duchess, a king, a prince, and others) and 
they behave badly. No anachronism is involved in my saying this: that 
they are of the ruling class is indisputably what the texts we have tell us.

Jack Heller points out privately that the principle holds also with the 
onstage audience of LLL. I can't think of a countervailing example, but 
would like to hear if others can.

Gabriel Egan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Abigail Quart <
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 >
Date: 		Thursday, 10 Nov 2005 16:58:50 -0500
Subject: 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1857 The Rude Mechanicals

Sandra Sparks:

 >"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."

Now, see, to me this IS looking with a "modern scholar's eye."

No audience today, going to a reproduction of the Globe and seeing as 
accurate a version of what appeared originally onstage as we can 
reproduce is going to behave just as the audiences did back in 
Shakespeare's day. We are jaded by choice, conditioned to entertainment 
endlessly provided for eyes and ears. The Elizabethans did NOT have TVs 
waiting at home. They didn't have a choice of movies from Netflix. They 
didn't have the huge amount of built-in leisure that we do. It was 
provide your own entertainment, or work, work, work, or... find a way to 
have the magical interruption of some kind of performance, a hanging, a 
bear baiting, a play.  Let's all question the magic of hangings and bear 
baiting. But a play? It sets a scene you cannot see, except with your 
mind's eye, Horatio. We need more elaborate contrivances, but they 
didn't. We are more visually oriented with a constant barrage of 
close-ups and long shots, but they never had that, so they paid more 
attention to the words than we will ever do. Paid such close attention 
that they pushed them into our language forever.

Now, how does that square with an audience with a short attention span, 
as Ms. Sparks has previously claimed? Doesn't.

 >"It is my belief that the Rude Mechanicals of "Midsummer" and the company
 >of players in "Hamlet" both exhibit a trait of performances before the
 >playwrights of Shakespeare's time started developing the modern form of
 >theater: because crowds tended to be noisy and have short attention
 >spans, especially when the plays were done in the open during market
 >fairs, a brief version of the play would be given to get people's
 >attention, then the full play would be given for those who planned to
 >stick around!"


I buy the little preview, but that doesn't have anything to do with a 
short attention span. It has to do with proving your goods are worth 
buying. My butcher used to give me a slice of bologna, not because I 
wouldn't wait till the meat was cut, but to prove it was delicious.

 >"People who came to see and be seen" is a dismissive, contemptuous
 >statement. Time was in short supply in a labor-intensive society. 
Nobody had
 >frozen food waiting to be thawed in the microwave at home after a 
quick stop
 >at the laundramat and the dry cleaners. The audience that chose to 
give its
 >precious time, needed the assurance that the time would not be wasted. 
As to
 >the interaction with the audience that seems even to be written in, that
 >argues greater, not lesser involvement. Surely that was why 
performances of
 >Richard II were considered incendiary enough to bring the company in for
 >questioning. Because it was believed that audiences could be moved to 
action
 >by the presentation onstage. And if they believed that, isn't it 
reasonable
 >to believe that the audiences seen by the Elizabethan secret police were
 >deeply attentive to the performance?

Of course, there is another possibility. Hopping oceans and centuries, 
we can see Noh dramas and Kabuki performances, where the audiences are 
so well-versed in the plays, so familiar with the scripts, that they 
only come to see their favorite scenes, and pretty much ignore the rest. 
What segment of the population would have had the leisure and income to 
become that familiar with the plays of Elizabethan England? Yup, the 
rich ones.

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