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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: February ::
Deceitful Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0020  Friday, 10 February 2006

[1] 	From: 	Carol Morley <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 09 Feb 2006 19:37:34 +0000
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0006 Deceitful Plays

[2] 	From: 	Arnie Perlstein <
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 >
	Date: 	Thursday, 9 Feb 2006 09:20:19 -0500
	Subj: 	Deceitful Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Carol Morley <
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Date: 		Thursday, 09 Feb 2006 19:37:34 +0000
Subject: 17.0006 Deceitful Plays
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0006 Deceitful Plays

William Heminge's 'Fatal Contract' not only has the earliest autonomous 
early modern female revenger I've managed to trace, but disguises her as 
an Ethiopian eunuch till the end of act five.
(Yes, I've an edition coming out soon - currently halfway through the 
Index, but still able to remember the plot after a fashion.)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Arnie Perlstein <
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 >
Date: 		Thursday, 9 Feb 2006 09:20:19 -0500
Subject: 	Deceitful Plays

 >"Martin Steward makes an interesting point about Beaumont & Fletcher's
 >practice of concealing material information known to some of the
 >characters
 >from the audience. Shakespeare hardly ever indulged in this, but there
 >are
 >exceptions, such as withholding the true identity of the Abbess in C/E
 >for a
 >surprise ending. But this is not the same thing as deliberately
 >deceiving
 >the audience with false information.....Keeping a secret and lying are
 >two
 >distinct offices."

We need look no further than in Shakespeare's plays themselves for 
insight on this issue. In the plays, he actually tells us what his 
"M.O." was in this regard. Just look at his "stage-managing" 
"spin-doctoring" characters: Richard III, Iago, Edmund, the Weird 
Sisters, Hamlet, Helena, Duke Vincentio, the list goes on and on.

Most of these characters specialize is a kind of "judo" approach to 
misleading others. It would be too gross a technique, and not as 
effective, to simply lie or deceive in a linear way. By far it is 
preferable to recruit and enlist the preconceptions and prejudices of 
the person you wish to gull and put them to work for you! Look at Maria 
and Malvolio in 12N. And Iago and Othello. And Edmund and Gloucester. 
And Hamlet and everybody else in Hamlet. The list is very long indeed. 
These manipulative characters all have that "devilish" aspect, i.e., 
Lucifer doesn't get the soul unless that person has actively chosen to 
do the wrong thing. It's not good enough to get him to do the wrong 
thing through mere ignorance.

So, in exactly the same way, I believe that Shakespeare, throughout all 
his plays, was continually doing exactly that, putting out ambiguous 
information and letting the reader/audience "fill in the blanks," 
lulling the audience into taking a stroll down the proverbial garden 
path. But he is also challenging the alert members of his audience to 
work harder, to recognize that reality is subjective, not objective, and 
that life is confusing, and it's really hard to even get close to "the 
truth".

And that is why I also believe that he did not find it necessary to 
"debrief" the audience/reader as to every such deception. So that those 
who chose to look deeper would be the ones with a better chance of 
understanding the complexity and ambiguity beneath the "clear" surface. 
And the others, well, they would have their simpler, more comforting 
versions of "what happened".

Arnie Perlstein
Weston, Florida

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