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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: November ::
Living Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1955  Sunday, 27 November 2005

[1] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Friday, 25 Nov 2005 20:44:20 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1946 Living Characters

[2] 	From: 	John V. Knapp <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 26 Nov 2005 01:01:02 -0600 (CST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1946 Living Characters

[3] 	From: 	C. David Frankel <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 26 Nov 2005 20:13:25 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1946 Living Characters


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Friday, 25 Nov 2005 20:44:20 -0000
Subject: 16.1946 Living Characters
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1946 Living Characters

Douglas Galbi writes ...

 >From 1535 to 1538, all Marian shrines in England were destroyed.
 >In 1538, Our Lady of Walsingham was burned in a formal ceremony
 >similar to that used to execute persons convicted of treason.

Not quite.  Heretics were burnt; persons convicted of treason were 
hanged, drawn and quartered.

 >Subsequently, a much higher share of English females began to be named
 >Mary.  The frequency of this name among newborn girls rose from about
 >1% c. 1500 to about 13% c. 1600.

It strikes me that these statistics can be interpreted in one of two 
ways. The obvious interpretation is that the good folk of England were 
registering a protest at the baptismal font against the hammers, chisels 
and whitewash of the reformers.  But another explanation is that there 
had previously been something of a taboo in medieval England against 
naming girls after the Mother of God (like naming boys 'Jesus'), but now 
that Mary was just another saint, her name was available.

Incidentally, Shakespeare's daughters may also have been named after the 
Virgin, since Susanna and Judith were both 'types' of Mary to medieval 
Christians.  Susanna because she was chaste, and Judith because Joachim 
the high priest says to her, 'You are the glory of Jerusalem! You are 
the great pride of Israel!  You are the highest honour of our race!'. 
These lines appear in numerous Marian prayers.  The Virgin's father, St 
Joachim, also got his name from this high priest.

It may be just a coincidence but Susanna and Judith are both names not 
found in Protestant Bibles.  Daniel 13 and the book of Judith were among 
the books the reformers threw out.

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John V. Knapp <
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Date: 		Saturday, 26 Nov 2005 01:01:02 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 16.1946 Living Characters
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1946 Living Characters

Dear David Bishop et al., --

As a character in *Cool-Hand Luke* once said, we have here I think a 
failure to communicate.  I will assume, for the sake of argument, that 
the failure is largely mine and so want to clarify a couple of points. 
1) Of course it's only a play, and characters have not ontological 
status but are only representations; only in that sense can they be said 
to seem "real;"  2) I also doubt that Shakespeare knew much about 
contemporary criticism (and that's probably a very fortunate thing!); 
3) Sure one could say that many of Shakespeare's plots were, as Abigail 
Quart pointed out, soapy, but we were discussing the relative ratios of 
how a critic could think about a character as either potentially 
separate from or irreducibly part of a given plot.  4)  the "convoluted 
criticism" to which Prof Bishop suggests I practice I must here deny. 
My point was a (relatively) simple one: Shakespeare created characters 
in families like those in Hamlet with his intuitive feel for how, for 
example, two brothers might display levels of sibling rivalry, and how 
one persuaded his immature son into continuing the family battles.  In 
practical terms, that display has not been as well-discussed as so much 
else in the play but is well worth exploring-as I did in *Reading the 
Family Dance* (2003).

A critic with some understanding of family interactions could plausibly 
argue that looking at the play from the Ernest Jones' position ["The 
Oedipus-Complex as An Explanation of Hamlet's Mystery: A Study in 
Motive." The American Journal of Psychology 21.1 (January, 1910): 72-113 
], has tended to shrink many critical responses to variations of 
Freudian dogma.  I simply argued that by looking at these characters as 
interacting inside a family dynamic-as posited by a critic, not 
Shakespeare himself-one opened up a number of interesting critical 
alternatives to, for example, the plethora of dreary humping scenes in 
Gertrude's closet we've seen in so many recent film and stage adaptations.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		C. David Frankel <
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Date: 		Saturday, 26 Nov 2005 20:13:25 -0500
Subject: 16.1946 Living Characters
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1946 Living Characters

Over the years, in my teaching of script analysis, in my directing, and 
in my teaching of plays in general, I've been developing a vocabulary 
for talking about plays that I think recognizes the different 
perspectives brought forth in this conversation.  I'm still tentative 
about the actual terms, and they've changed over the years, but here goes:

When analyzing a script, especially with an eye toward production, a 
useful method of analysis involves exploring three interrelated worlds: 
the fictive, the dramaturgical, and the theatrical.  Separable for 
analysis, these worlds overlap and interpenetrate each other; 
nevertheless, each provides different insights into the play as whole, 
insights that carry implications for the translation of script into 
production and the subsequent experience of audiences.

The fictive world concerns the story. In the fictive world, people (or 
people-analogs:  animals, robots, etc.) do things to and with other 
people in particular places.  Romeo loves Juliet.  Engaging the fictive 
world allows audiences (which includes readers) the opportunity to 
speculate about human motivation:  why does Romeo love Juliet.  Yet all 
the while we engage in this speculation, we're aware that Romeo and 
Juliet are not people, but characters.  That is, they are fictive, and 
have no "reality" outside the construct of the play.  In that they are 
fictions, they belong to the dramaturgical world.

In the dramaturgical world we ask how are Romeo and Juliet used - what 
function do they serve?  The dramaturgical world is the world of plot, 
character, ideas, language, and so on.  However, it is more than that. 
The dramaturgical world also includes the cultural context in which the 
playwright creates, including the genre conventions and those 
idiosyncratic conventions that shape the writing of the individual. The 
dramaturgical world also includes those theatrical conventions that 
shape the dramatic imagination of the playwright. Of course, the 
dramaturgical decisions manifest in the form of language, for that is 
the playwright's most immediate medium.  The playwright offers a kind of 
model for action at a distance, however, in that the real medium for the 
play is the four-dimensional one of the theatre:  that medium made up of 
actors, space, time, light, sound, scene design, and so on.  The 
dramaturgical world, in short, embodies a sort of virtual theatrical 
world, one that may or may not appear in a given production of that play.

The theatrical world, then, refers to the particular manifestation of a 
play in performance.  Here we are concerned with actors, designs, and 
the nature of buildings and audiences.  No matter how closely the 
playwright is connected to production, the virtual theatrical world in 
the text differs from the actual theatrical world of a production. 
Although Shakespeare knew his company and theatre space, every 
individual performance of Romeo and Juliet surely differed from the one 
(or ones) he staged in his head.

Different plays (periods, styles, etc.) differ in the degree to which 
the fictive world and dramaturgical world are foregrounded, and that, I 
think, provides another way of talking about plays and theatre.


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