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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Clocks and Bells
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1724  Monday, 10 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	Jack Heller <
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	Date: 	Friday, 7 Oct 2005 09:02:54 -0500 (EST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1718 Clocks and Bells

[2] 	From: 	Steve Sohmer <
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	Date: 	Friday, 7 Oct 2005 12:07:31 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1718 Clocks and Bells

[3] 	From: 	Michael Egan <
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	Date: 	Friday, 7 Oct 2005 06:11:42 -1000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1718 Clocks and Bells


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jack Heller <
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Date: 		Friday, 7 Oct 2005 09:02:54 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 16.1718 Clocks and Bells
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1718 Clocks and Bells

If I may append a related question to this thread:

In the play A Mad World, My Masters (by Middleton), Follywit has his 
theft of a watch discovered by the ringing of its alarm. As I supposed 
that timepieces were far more rudimentary in 1606, how would the 
illusion of a watch alarm have been created to have the sound occur on cue?

Jack Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Steve Sohmer <
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Date: 		Friday, 7 Oct 2005 12:07:31 EDT
Subject: 16.1718 Clocks and Bells
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1718 Clocks and Bells

Dear Friends,

I would like to try to satisfy Martin Steward about bells which might 
intrude on an audience attending a performance at the Bankside Globe.

The stage direction "Clocke strikes" at line 826 of the Folio 'Julius 
Caesar' comes "about" an hour into a play which started "about" two 
o'clock. But, surely, we would not expect the bells of Saints Bennett or 
M.Overy to chime on cue. And, no doubt, someone in the wings struck the 
bell which sounds on the prompt book's cue. So how to reconcile the two?

The tower clocks of Shakespeare's era were notorious bad time-keepers; 
these mechanical clocks were could lose one hour in every twenty-four. 
They were reset at dawn and sunset by sextons using a local almanac, of 
which there were many. Shakespeare glances at the practice in 'King 
John' 3.1.250 ... and, of course, his sexton in 'Hamlet' is 'absolute.'

Elizabethans were used to having tower clocks chiming well out of synch. 
There was such a cacophony of bell-noise in Paris that Charles V ordered 
all the churches in the city to take their cue from the bells of the 
Palais-Royal. And (somewhere) Montaigne writes about the cacophony of 
church bells in Italy. When I was at Oxford (1995), late at night when 
the city was quiet I used to listen to some four or five steeple clocks 
chiming out-of-synch.

This is a roundabout way saying that bells ringing three at 2:50 or 3:10 
-- or bells ringing three fifteen minutes apart -- which we would find 
maddening -- would not faze Elizabethans.

Hope this helps.

Steve

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Michael Egan <
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Date: 		Friday, 7 Oct 2005 06:11:42 -1000
Subject: 16.1718 Clocks and Bells
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1718 Clocks and Bells

This very interesting question can be extended further. For instance, 
the subterranean travels of the ghost show that Hamlet was intended for 
performance on a stage with a cellar. The darkness (and other 
references) in Macbeth imply indoor performance in a hall lit spookily 
by candles. In 1 Richard II a man rides a horse onto the set suggesting 
that the action was intended for the outdoors, perhaps the provincial 
tour, a speculation reinforced by the maneuverings of the two large 
armies which fight things out at the end. (Cf. Hodges: Enter the Whole 
Army.)

What further inferences about staging context can be drawn from details 
in other plays?

--Michael

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