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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0221  Monday, 27 March 2006

[1] 	From: 	Scott Sharplin <
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	Date: 	Friday, 24 Mar 2006 10:12:04 -0700 (MST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again

[2] 	From: 	Alan Dessen <
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	Date: 	Friday, 24 Mar 2006 16:13:16 -0500 (EST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again

[3] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 25 Mar 2006 03:58:29 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again

[4] 	From: 	Bill Lloyd <
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	Date: 	Sunday, 26 Mar 2006 08:45:42 EST
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0197 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Scott Sharplin <
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Date: 		Friday, 24 Mar 2006 10:12:04 -0700 (MST)
Subject: 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again

Bruce Young writes:

 >But my thinking would be swayed if someone could provide concrete
 >evidence of doubling in Shakespeare's time deliberately designed for
 >symbolic or thematic effect.

John C. Meagher devotes a chapter to this topic in his book 
"Shakespeare's Shakespeare." I think a few of his suppositions are 
dubious, but overall I was convinced that Shakespeare acknowledged 
doubling as one of his many potential resources when playwriting, and 
was not afraid to incorporate references to it into his work.

In the production I recently directed, Cordelia and Fool were played by 
separate actors, but both were young ladies with blonde hair and bright 
eyes. The two actors brought entirely different (and both very 
successful) interpretations to the roles, but their physical 
similarities were enough to invite a comparison from the audience, and 
to justify Lear's confusion on "My poor fool is hanged."

(And I do think it is confusion, and not a reference to any off-stage 
event. Remember that this is the same grief- and wit-stricken Lear who 
declares, with complete certainty, that Kent is "dead and rotten.")

Scott Sharplin

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Alan Dessen <
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Date: 		Friday, 24 Mar 2006 16:13:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again

Questions about casting practice in those first performances have been 
around for a long time. The pioneering essay is William J. Lawrence's 
"The Practise of Doubling and Its Influence on Early Dramaturgy" in 
*Pre-Restoration Stage Studies* (Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1927), pp. 
43-78.  Among the subsequent essays see particularly Stephen Booth, 
"Speculations on Doubling in Shakespeare's Plays" in *Shakespeare: The 
Theatrical Dimension*, ed. Philip C. McGuire and David A. Samuelson (New 
York: AMS, 1979), pp. 103-131; and John C. Meagher, "Economy and 
Recognition: Thirteen Shakespearean Puzzles," *Shakespeare Quarterly* 34 
(1984): 7-22. For an essay devoted to Cordelia-Fool, see Richard Abrams, 
"The Double Casting of Cordelia and Lear's Fool: A Theatrical View," 
*Texas Studies in Language and Literature* 27 (1985): 354-68.

That such doubling was necessary is evident in *Julius Caesar* where 
only four figures (Brutus, Cassius, Antony, and Lucius) reappear after 
the assassination (five if one counts Caesar's ghost), so that the many 
speaking parts after 3.1 had to be taken by the actors who had played 
the conspirators, Cicero, Artemidorus, the soothsayer, Portia, 
Calphurnia, and others.  On what basis, then, was the decision made as 
to who came back as whom?  Would the players have allotted the roles? 
Or are we to assume that when Shakespeare killed off a major figure (and 
hence a major actor) early or midway in a script (e.g., Caesar, 
Polonius, Duncan) he somehow planned for the return of that actor?  Then 
there are the various textual anomalies: e.g., the presence of Peto 
rather than Poins to pick Falstaff's pockets at the end of *1 Henry IV*, 
2.4 (was the Poins actor a Welsh speaker needed for Glendower in 3.1?); 
or the presence of Caius Ligarius but not Cassius in *Julius Caesar*, 
2.2 (was the lean Cassius actor needed for the sick Ligarius?).

Bruce Young's skepticism about symbolic, thematic, ironic, or conceptual 
doubling is well-founded.  The original evidence, as he notes, is very 
limited.  There *are* casting charts for several late moral plays from 
the 1560s and 1570s (adeptly analyzed by David Bevington in his 1962 
*"Mankind" to Marlowe*), but only two such charts survive from the 1590s 
and thereafter - from *Mucedorus* and *The Fair Maid of the Exchange* 
(and the latter breakdown needs emendation to make it work).  For my 
take on this evidence, see "Conceptual Casting in the Age of 
Shakespeare: Evidence from *Mucedorus*," *Shakespeare Quarterly* 43 
(1992): 67-70.  Put simply, in *Mucedorus* the major roles (Mucedorus, 
Amadine, Segasto, Mouse) are through lines, whereas the same actor plays 
Envy (the figure hostile to Comedy in the Induction and Epilogue), 
Tremelio (a hit man hired to kill the title figure), and Bremo (the wild 
man who keeps hero and heroine as prisoners), so that one actor plays 
three enemies of Comedy.

As to today's productions, the most common choice is to have the Caesar 
actor come back as Strato or some other figure in Act 5.  Whether on the 
stage or on the page, Stephen Booth's observation holds true: "a 
speculator's direction necessarily reflects the brand of common sense 
that suits his personal aesthetic bias."

Alan Dessen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Saturday, 25 Mar 2006 03:58:29 -0500
Subject: 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0215 Doubling of Cordelia and the Fool: Again

While there may be no "concrete evidence" for Elizabethan and Jacobean 
doubling, there is ample circumstantial evidence that the practice was 
inevitable.  All we need to do is compare the length of the dramatis 
personae with the shortness of the lists of players in the companies.

While it might be fun to speculate about authors deliberately designing 
doubled roles for thematic purposes, and while that cannot be ruled out, 
Occam's Razor dictates a simpler solution:  What appears to be thematic 
doubling is merely the natural consequence of casting to type -- 
multiple roles were taken by the actor peculiarly suited to them.  If 
Duke Theseus is played by "he that plays the king," a leading member of 
the troupe, it would be wasteful for him to be offstage for Acts II 
through IV, so he returns as Oberon (another royal character), and, 
voil

 

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