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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: July ::
Shakespeare and Aging
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1253  Thursday, 28 July 2005

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 2005 11:38:08 -0400
        Subj:   Shakespeare and Aging

[2]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 2005 23:51:09 +0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

[3]     From:   Jinny Webber <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 2005 12:14:25 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 2005 12:30:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

[5]     From:   Siobhan Cox <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 2005 18:53:24 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

[6]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 2005 14:51:23 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

[7]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 2005 17:14:08 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

[8]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Jul 2005 14:24:49 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

[9]     From:   Thomas Pendleton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Jul 2005 22:42:44 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 2005 11:38:08 -0400
Subject:        Shakespeare and Aging

Marvin Krims asks: "Might we say that Prospero mellowed with age,
becoming more forgiving with less need to control everything?"

Well, yes, but because of circumstances. For what it's worth, I think
Prospero bows to the inevitable. He can't hold onto Miranda forever, and
he can't hold onto the island forever either. You can view this as
positive, but I see it as finally accepting the inevitable, which is a
bit different.

It's like the inscription in fake German that used to hang in my
grandmother's hallway: "We sind too soon old und too late smart!"

My view is that the play suggests that Prospero's mistakes will be made
again by another, younger Prospero (Ferdinand?), and another, and
another. Only in the face of death do we finally come to our senses, a
theme in *Henry VIII* as well, best exemplified, perhaps, by Cardinal
Wolsey, "Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness. . . ."

I might add that this idea is quintessentially medieval. It's part of
the wisdom of *Everyman*.

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 2005 23:51:09 +0800
Subject: 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

Nancy Charlton <
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 >

 >So I thought, while grandma types could hardly be Kate or Imogen or
 >Rosalind or Beatrice, surely Shakespeare didn't relegate them entirely
 >to roles barely more than walk-ons. Excluding gender-bending, these came
 >to mind:
 >
 >The Duchess of Gloucester in Richard II.
 >Margaret in Richard III.
 >Gertrude, with reservations.
 >Volumnia, perhaps the meatiest.
 >Possibly the Mistresses Ford, Page or Quickly, though they aren't
 >exactly over the hill.
 >Queen Elinor in King John.
 >
 >Any other possibilities?
 >
 >Nancy Charlton

It depends on your definition of 'older'.  The historical Cleopatra died
at 39; Shakespeare's play depends throughout on the discrepancy between
Antony and Cleo's passion and their age.  The part is thus a gift to
most actresses in their forties and many in their fifties.  Helen
Mirren, of course, did the part first with the RSC in 1984 and then at
the RNT in 1998, when she and Rickman were both more or less middle-aged.

Regards,
Arthur Lindley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jinny Webber <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 2005 12:14:25 EDT
Subject: 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

In response to Nancy Charlton's question, surely Paulina is
Shakespeare's finest role for an older woman.

Best,
Jinny Webber

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 2005 12:30:21 -0400
Subject: 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

The Countess in AW/EW is probably the longest, although I agree that
Volumnia is "meatier."

But why confine the roles to female ones?  As a woman ages she
frequently becomes sufficiently androgynous to carry a male part.
Vanessa Redgrave is a case in point.  I did not enjoy her Prospero at
The Globe a few years ago, but that was because she had no conception of
the drama in the part, not because she was not a convincing man.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Siobhan Cox <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 2005 18:53:24 +0100
Subject: 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

The role of the Countess in "All's Well That Ends Well" is considered by
many to be the best part Shakespeare wrote for an older woman.

Siobhan Cox

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 2005 14:51:23 -0400
Subject: 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

Nancy Charlton <
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 >

 >I have found this thread coinciding with a question I've had for quite
 >awhile: what possible Shakespearean roles could older women play?
 >
 >The Weird Sisters, obviously and perhaps exclusively, as long as the
 >actress could sing and dance a bit. However, at a performance of "Taming
 >of the Shrew" last Saturday, a woman not much younger than I, played,
 >with great panache, the Widow--with all of four lines to speak but
 >critical to the action. (She also directed the show, and most ably.)
 >
 >So I thought, while grandma types could hardly be Kate or Imogen or
 >Rosalind or Beatrice, surely Shakespeare didn't relegate them entirely
 >to roles barely more than walk-ons. Excluding gender-bending, these came
 >to mind:
 >
 >The Duchess of Gloucester in Richard II.

And the other Duchess of Gloucester in 2 Henry VI.

 >Margaret in Richard III.

But not an entire Margaret, alas.

 >Gertrude, with reservations.
 >Volumnia, perhaps the meatiest.
 >Possibly the Mistresses Ford, Page or Quickly, though they aren't
 >exactly over the hill.
 >Queen Elinor in King John.

Just off the top of my head....

Juliet's nurse.
Paulina (a possible reading).
Margery Jourdayne (ditto).
The Countess of Rousillon.
The Abbess (C of E).

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 2005 17:14:08 -0400
Subject: 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

Nancy Charlton wants to exclude "gender-bending." I hope I'm not being
merely ideological when I argue that women can effectively perform a
whole basketful of roles. In my experience the ratio of persuasive to
unpersuasive performances by cross-dressed women as about what it is
when only men play men. I've seen so-so Hamlets and Prosperos, a pretty
good student Falconbridge, a very interesting professional Buckingham,
and a compelling Lear, though this last in a very stripped down
production by Mabou Mines that made comparisons with other Lears difficult.

Within the limitation, Ms. Charlton's list should include the Duchess
of York in R3, the Duchess of York in 1H4, Catharine of Aragon in H8,
the Abbess in Err, the Countess of Rossillion in AWW (as rich a part  in
its way as Volumnia), Calpurnia, the Queen in Cym, and Paulina in WT.

Genderbendingly,
David Evett

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Jul 2005 14:24:49 -0700
Subject: 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

What possible Shakespearean roles could older women play?

The Abbess in Comedy of Errors
The Countess in All's Well
The Queen in Cymbeline

Colin Cox

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Pendleton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Jul 2005 22:42:44 -0400
Subject: 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1244 Shakespeare and Aging

The Countess of Rousillion is, I would guess, the closest to a real plum
for an older actress (and pretty good for a boy actress once upon a time).

Tom Pendleton

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