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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: February ::
Deceitful Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0030  Tuesday, 14 February 2006

[Editor's Note: For me to continue posting a discussion thread, 
contributors will indeed need to make new points rather than merely 
restating previous positions.]

[1]     From:     Larry Weiss <
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 >
    Date:     Monday, 13 Feb 2006 13:19:50 -0500
    Subj:     Re: SHK 17.0026 Deceitful Plays

[2]     From:     Arnie Perlstein <
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 >
    Date:     Monday, 13 Feb 2006 19:46:52 -0500
    Subj:     Deceitful Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Larry Weiss <
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 >
Date:         Monday, 13 Feb 2006 13:19:50 -0500
Subject: 17.0026 Deceitful Plays
Comment:     Re: SHK 17.0026 Deceitful Plays

I agree with David Evett that WS seems to have gone out of his way in 
most cases to keep the audience in on the gag when a more secretive 
approach might have heightened suspense in a fashion we would consider 
dramatic by current standards.  In addition to the examples he cites, 
the case of Hero in MA/N pops out.  That is an exact parallel to 
Hermione's faked death, except that the audience is told from the 
beginning precisely what is going on.

Claudio's non-death in M/M is another example -- the audience knows the 
details, even to the identity of the substitute head, when it might have 
been more theatrical to put us in the place of Isabella, to share her 
unexpected joy as we do Leontes's.  Audience members who were familiar 
with the source would have expected Claudio to have been beheaded, just 
as audience members familiar with Pandosto would have assumed that 
Hermione was really dead.

Except for the case of the Abbess in C/E, which I agree is a minor 
incident, I cannot think of any other instance in which WS clearly 
concealed a material fact, no less lied about one as in WT.  But there 
is one other remotely possible example:  It is not 100% clear in 
KL,IV.vi that Edgar is not really taking Gloucester to the edge of Dover 
cliff.  If the scene was staged so as to have the actors approach the 
edge of the stage, some members of the audience might have feared that 
Gloucester was actually about to die, but I doubt that most would.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Arnie Perlstein <
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 >
Date:         Monday, 13 Feb 2006 19:46:52 -0500
Subject:     Deceitful Plays

 >"I will insist however, that in the plays he points to, we readers and
 >spectators are engaged as co-conspirators, before, during, and after the
 >fact: it remains the case that on very few occasions does Shakespeare
 >withhold such crucial information about identity and situation and even
 >motive as that Hermione, whose collapse at the news of her older child's
 >death we witness and who is repeatedly said by Paulina to be dead, is 
still
 >alive."

It is my opinion that Shakespeare's practice in regard to mysteries in 
his plays was twofold: (i) he would temporarily mislead the 
audience/reader by setting up certain apparent circumstances, but then 
explicitly debrief us/them sometime during the play as to how those 
apparent circumstances were not actual. Hermione is an extreme example 
of that; and (ii) he would permanently mislead the audience/reader by 
setting up certain apparent circumstances, but then not explicitly 
debrief us, but instead would create leave it to the inquisitive reader 
to dig deeper and realize that there has been a mystery all along which 
was solved "offstage".

 >"Elsewhere, we see Julia, Portia, Rosalind, Kent, and Edgar disguising
 >themselves.....His providential escape is announced to Horatio and us 
early
 >in 4.6."

But is it really providential? Is it even real? My point is that all 
these masqueraders/disguisers/dissemblers in his plays are there for a 
metadramatic reason, i.e., that they are stand-ins for Shakespeare 
himself, in relation to his audience.

 >"This is not to deny that Malvolio, Othello, Hastings, Orlando, 
Gloucester,
 >and the others are not drawn into errors, comic or disastrous, because 
they
 >lack knowledge we have; only to say that except in rare cases Shakespeare
 >chooses to place us behind the scene of his magic show, not, as it 
were, on
 >the stage."

I'd say that most of the audience is onstage, but doesn't even realize it.

Arnie

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