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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Clocks and Bells
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1756  Monday, 17 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 13:02:46 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1741 Clocks and Bells

[2] 	From: 	Philip Eagle <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 13:18:12 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1741 Clocks and Bells

[3] 	From: 	Holger Schott Syme <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 23:05:49 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1741 Clocks and Bells

[4] 	From: 	Michael Egan <
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	Date: 	Friday, 14 Oct 2005 07:15:47 -1000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1749 Clocks and Bells

[5] 	From: 	Ben Alexander <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 15 Oct 2005 00:17:24 +0100
	Subj: 	Shakespeare's Bells


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 13:02:46 -0400
Subject: 16.1741 Clocks and Bells
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1741 Clocks and Bells

Alan Jones asks

 >Can anyone who has attended a performance in the New Globe
 >tell us how audible and disturbing they found the church bells
 >and other local noise such as traffic? Aircraft, obviously and
 >horribly: but I wonder whether much else at a lesser height
 >penetrates the walls.

I have attended both day and evening performances since the official 
opening.  I have not noticed any ambient sounds except for the 
helicopters (which are horridly annoying) and other aircraft.  Do not 
recall ever hearing a church bell.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Philip Eagle <
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Date: 		Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 13:18:12 -0400
Subject: 16.1741 Clocks and Bells
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1741 Clocks and Bells

After attending many performances at the Southwark Globe I can say that 
there is no problem with traffic noise as the theatre is not close to 
any busy road and shielded by surrounding buildings on the land side. 
Loud music, horns and engines from river boats, though, are ocassionally 
audible inside the theatre to a disruptive degree.

As is, on occasion, the conversation of bored schoolkids who have fled 
to the surrounding piazza.

Philip Eagle

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Holger Schott Syme <
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Date: 		Thursday, 13 Oct 2005 23:05:49 -0400
Subject: 16.1741 Clocks and Bells
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1741 Clocks and Bells

I've spent considerably less time than Michael Egan thinking about the 
play he refers to as 1 Richard II and I got to know (and like) as 
Woodstock, so I can't claim his depth of knowledge or persuasion; having 
said that, from all we know about touring, a play conceived exclusively 
for outdoor performance seems "wildly unlikely" or at least extremely 
unusual in the mid-1590s.

If Egan is right that the play was written for the provinces while the 
theatres in London were closed because of the plague, does he assume 
that Shakespeare (to humour him) anticipated the prolonged closure of 
the theatres? How could he have done that? And if he didn't, why on 
earth would he write a play that would have been unstageable at the 
Theatre, the Curtain, the Rose, or wherever Pembroke's Men thought 
they'd play once theatres reopened?

Andrew Gurr (and many other theatre historians) has argued that most 
plays up to 1594 would have been conceived as touring plays-because 
touring was what companies did. How could Pembroke's Men predict what 
sorts of venues would be open to them in any given town? Would they only 
perform Woodstock in places where large innyards that also offered easy 
access for horses were available, whereas towns that opened their 
guildhalls to them did not get to see that play (a play which thanks to 
its novelty must surely have been an attractive commodity)? As Gurr has 
suggested, touring brought with it a preference for indoor venues that 
made the outdoor theatres in London somewhat unattractive; he rightly 
points out that Burbage's initial instinct was to replace the Theatre 
with an indoor playing space (the Blackfriars) when the lease was about 
to expire in 1596.

 From all we know, then, we ought to assume that players (and 
playwrights) had to produce plays with a wide variety of venues in mind, 
even as they displayed a preference for indoor stages. The list of 
outdoor spaces Egan imagines (and I quote from his informative and 
useful website: "market squares, tavern yards, streets, village greens, 
even vacant fields") is largely anachronistic. We have very little 
evidence for the staging of plays by professional troupes in open spaces 
after the 1570s-for obvious economical reasons (how do you charge 
admission in a market square or an open field?). Inns, both their 
outdoor yards and indoor spaces, became the main venue when the players 
weren't allowed into the guildhall, and remained highly desirable as 
performance sites even after companies established permanent homes in 
London.

The point of all this is that it would have been economically bizarre to 
conceive a play in such a way that it required not merely a very 
specific kind of stage, but more importantly, the most problematic kind; 
a kind that would have made production in London and (perhaps crucially) 
at court particularly difficult if not impossible. The idea is made even 
more unconvincing by Egan's insistence on the pageantry of the play: 
Woodstock would have required a massive cast for a touring company, 
large props, and an unusual number of beautiful costumes; it would thus 
have been a major financial investment, and one would expect it to be 
designed for performance in the widest possible variety of sites and 
circumstances. To limit artificially the range of venues for such an 
enterprise would have made no economical sense whatsoever, and making 
money was a playing company's main objective.

All of the above in turn suggests to me that the horse, just like the 
bear, probably wasn't a live animal. The scene doesn't really require 
the horse to come on stage at all-the "spruce courtier a horsebacke" 
could dismount before he comes on, and I can imagine a staging of the 
scene with simply a horse's head and front legs sticking out from either 
door or from behind a central curtain; there are many, many far more 
baffling scenes in early modern drama. The play certainly does not 
require a live horse for Woodstock's conversation with the animal to 
work dramatically-that is entirely the actor's responsibility.

The general point about venues also raises questions for Steve, but I 
suppose most of the plays he references are from the late 1590s, when 
the Chamberlain's Men had found a permanent home and Shakespeare could 
rely on a more or less stable environment. I do want to reiterate, 
though, that Michael Egan's point about Macbeth has very little to do 
with early modern staging methods or conditions, and I think it is 
revealing that he doesn't address my objections to it at all. I might 
also add that the notion of a space "spookily lit by candlelight" is a 
little hard to maintain given a culture where candles were the main 
source of night-time illumination-the idea of candlelight as "spooky" 
strikes me as a distinctly modern perception (but I'd be happy to be 
corrected on that one-perhaps a single ["brief"?] candle produced a more 
frightening atmosphere than whole candelabra-full?).

I remain happily stuck in my own paradigm (which, I'd like to note, was 
formed on the basis of research conducted in the last 10 years-I wonder 
whose paradigm is shifting more "glacially" here...)

Holger

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Michael Egan <
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Date: 		Friday, 14 Oct 2005 07:15:47 -1000
Subject: 16.1749 Clocks and Bells
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1749 Clocks and Bells

Holger Schott Syme raises some obvious objections to my proposal that 1 
Richard II was conceived for the provincial tour, and that the horse in 
III.ii is real. These and others are all considered at 
http://richardsecondpartone.com/dating_the_play.htm  and passim in my 
discussions of Hamlet and Woodstock's 'golden metamorphosis'.

--Michael Egan

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Ben Alexander <
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Date: 		Saturday, 15 Oct 2005 00:17:24 +0100
Subject: 	Shakespeare's Bells

Dear All,

I have read with patience the correspondence about the bells in 
Southwark and near to the
Globe. There were other church bells close to the arenas where the plays 
were performed,
in particular Westminster Hall.

When the First Folio mentions the "banks of the Thames" everyone today 
assumes The Globe.
Since the excellence of the plays probably derives from the exigencies 
of the Court
audience, I think it worth pointing out, that Westminster Palace, 
Greenwich Palace,
Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle are all on the bank of the 
Thames, as is the
Blackfriars Theatre.

If there was any question of synchonisation I suggest it would probably 
have been with
bells at one of the Westminster churches.

Kind Regards,
Ben Alexander
www.maryfitton.com

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