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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
Dumbshows?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0417  Monday, 8 May 2006

[Editor's Note/Request: On Wednesday, I announce that "With the power 
vested in me as the one who giveth SHAKSPER and the one who taketh it 
away, I hereby announce that Friday, May 5, 2006, will be the last day 
for discussion of this topic on the SHAKSPER listserv. If you have 
anything more to say, please say it now or forever hold your peace. 
Further discussion may, of course, continue among the participants in 
private or on the Hamlet Blog Place, wherever that may be.  Goeth in 
peace." And on Friday, I received two more postings in this thread. In 
case there was a misunderstanding, I meant that Friday would be the last 
day that I would post on the thread and thereafter it would be closed. 
Also, I asked a while ago that members make an effort to limit 
themselves to one post per day. I realize that the weekends constitute 
more than one day but today is one day. My call for a limit was intended 
to reduce traffic on the list so that I would not have to take as much 
time each day editing and so that members would take time to consider 
what thread was most important to them to respond to on a particular 
day, thus forcing members to reflect on all of the posts of the day 
rather than immediately hitting the reply key after reading any single 
digest. Please keep these two requests in mind.]

[1] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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 >
	Date: 	Friday, 5 May 2006 15:20:29 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0402 Dumbshows?

[2] 	From: 	Paul E. Doniger <
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 >
	Date: 	Friday, 5 May 2006 14:09:58 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0402 Dumbshows?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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 >
Date: 		Friday, 5 May 2006 15:20:29 -0400
Subject: 17.0402 Dumbshows?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0402 Dumbshows?

Frank Whigham examines the R&G discussion on the use of the dumbshow, 
quoting this explanation:

 >PLAYER: Well, it's a device, really -- it makes the action that follows
 >more or less comprehensible; you understand, we are tied down to a
 >language that makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style.

I have to admit that I saw humor underlying the "more or less" phrase, 
which I took to mean not "somewhat,' but rather an explanation that the 
dumbshow made the actual play EITHER more comprehensible or less 
comprehensible, a very different and wonderfully humorous remark, I 
thought. The dumbshow, depending on the performance, could be useful to 
clarify or confuse. Stoppard's love of the English language and 
word-play show that not only language, but even pantomime can be 
misinterpreted or obscure. Of course, the case may also be that I am 
getting the joke that was never told!

Jim Blackie

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Paul E. Doniger <
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 >
Date: 		Friday, 5 May 2006 14:09:58 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0402 Dumbshows?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0402 Dumbshows?

If I am not mistaken, isn't the dumb show in Hamlet a rather unusual 
one. Few dumb shows, I believe, presented a pantomime of the full story 
of the plays they introduced. Moody Prior wrote as long ago as 1942 that 
"among all extant dumb-shows of whatever type, that which precedes the 
Murder of Gonzago is unique in presenting a summary of the play to 
follow" ("The Play Scene in Hamlet" ELH 9:3 191). Has this thesis been 
disproven? If it's still true, then what does that suggest about the 
function of the dumb show and Claudius's silence during it. I wouldn't 
fault Stoppard if he was unaware of this ... R&G is too good a play for 
us to fuss about such a detail.

I think it was W.W. Lawrence who suggested that Claudius is watching, 
listening, and waiting for an opportunity to stop the play without 
bringing suspicion upon himself (I can't find the article at the 
moment). That certainly seems logical. What does everyone else think?

Paul E. Doniger

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