2007

Gertrude done her in?

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0264  Monday, 2 April 2007

[1] 	From: 	Martin Mueller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Friday, 30 Mar 2007 11:33:40 -0500
	Subj: 	Messenger Reports in Shakespeare

[2] 	From: 	David Frankel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Friday, 30 Mar 2007 12:43:11 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0257 Gertrude done her in?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Martin Mueller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 30 Mar 2007 11:33:40 -0500
Subject: 	Messenger Reports in Shakespeare

I hope it is a legitimate posting to reflect a little on the question 
why Shakespeare would have chosen to put a report of Ophelia's death in 
Gertrude's mouth.

Many years ago the German Anglist Wolfgang Clemen wrote a nice little 
book about _Wandlungen des Botenberichts bei Shakespeare_ or "The 
Evolution of the Messenger Report in Shakespeare." It is a dramatic 
convention, inherited from Greek tragedy, that some events are 'told' 
rather than 'shown'. It is a fairly strictly observed convention in 
Greek tragedy that the messenger's role is strictly limited to his 
reporting. He is not in any strong sense a character in the play. It is 
also a convention that the messenger is to be believed. There is no 
doubt to question his veracity.

Shakespeare likes to play with this inherited topos, and his  particular 
purposes are often clearly illustrated by asking the  simple question 
how the report deviates from ancient conventions,  which Shakespeare 
understood as well as Milton, who two generations  later produced a 
perfectly rules-compliant report about the death of  Samson.

In _Julius Caesar_ he puts the account of the offer of a crown to Caesar 
in the mouth of Casca, and he goes out of his way to tell the audience 
that Casca is a biased narrator ("after his sour fashion").  In The 
Winter's Tale, an illiterate narrator (the clown) is given the very 
difficult task of reporting two concurrent catastrophes--the shipwreck 
and the eating of Antigonus by the bear. He fails miserably, but it is 
through this failure that Shakespeare gives a brilliant account of what 
happened.

In Hamlet, there is first the question why the death of Ophelia is 
reported at all in such detail and second why Shakespeare chooses 
Gertrude as the messenger. As for the first question, it seems highly 
likely that the suspicious drowning of Katherine Hamlett in Stratford in 
late 1579 stands behind the story of Ophelia in many ways (see my notes 
on the word 'crowner' at http://panini.northwestern.edu/ 
mmueller/ShakeQuirks/index.html.

As for the second, the simplest explanation is often the most 
appropriate. At Ophelia's funeral Gertrude says

I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife;
I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not have strewed thy grave.

The bond of sympathy that ties Gertrude to Ophelia here resonates much 
more strongly in the context of Getrude's earlier report, which can and 
perhaps should be seen as an intensification of sympathetic 
identification that is not uncommon in the messenger reports of Greek 
tragedy. As a sixteenth century reader or writer you would not have 
needed a deep familiarity (first hand or second hand via Seneca) with 
the genre to be familiar with that aspect of it.

Some years ago I saw All's Well at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and 
I was very struck by the odd ways in which the triangle of Bertram, 
Helena, and the Countess of Rossillion repeats that of Hamlet, Ophelia, 
and Gertrude. A mother with an impossible son would like for him to 
marry a nice girl who is not of his class but of whom she is very fond.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Frankel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 30 Mar 2007 12:43:11 -0400
Subject: 18.0257 Gertrude done her in?
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0257 Gertrude done her in?

Perhaps this slight change of direction will be enough to move the 
conversation into more productive areas, but if not, that's fine.

Jeffrey Jordan points out, agreeing with Hardy that

 >Gertrude is not even
 >a person.
 >Gertrude's is a facet of the Bard's imagination.

However, he spends a great deal of his time discussing off-stage 
happenings as if they involved real people-and that, I think, is an 
important part of the issue.

When Jordan says:

 >The reason why Gertrude's speech exists in the play is to
 >inform the audience of the fact of the Ophelia character's
 >death.  That's necessary because the event occurs offstage.
 >The audience won't know about it
 >unless they're informed somehow, since it isn't shown.   Shakespeare
 >used the Gertrude character to report the fact, and did it in
 >a highly poetic way because, well, the Bard was a great poet,
 >and that's how he did things.

he points out that there's a dramaturgical reason for some sort of 
speech or scene-the audience needs information.  He could press the 
point further, though, by asking why the playwright wants Gertrude to be 
the informer, and why he (Shakespeare) has her speak those particular 
words-all, perhaps, ultimately unknowable, but all aspects of the 
dramaturgy of the play.

The audience, however, having learned that Ophelia has died offstage, 
is, mostly, immersed in the fictive world of the play-and they 
experience it (perhaps this is related to Owen Fernie's comments in the 
Presentism Roundtable regarding literature-as-its-experienced) AS IF the 
characters were real.  Many readers and spectators will, despite the 
simultaneous knowledge that "the playwright dun her in", try to figure 
out what's going on in the world of Denmark as they experience it, 
either through the words on the page or the actions on the stage.

It may be that "the Bard was a great poet, and that's how he did things" 
is the final answer that theorists, critics, scholars, readers, viewers, 
et. al., come to, but in the theatre an actor playing Gertrude is still 
on stage saying these words about a person who's no longer there (and, 
as a person, only existed virtually), and audience's will speculate 
about why.

_______________________________________________________________
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Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for Refurbishment

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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0263  Monday, 2 April 2007

[1] 	From: 	Cary Dean Barney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Friday, 30 Mar 2007 17:24:36 +0200
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for Refurbishment

[2] 	From: 	David Frankel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Friday, 30 Mar 2007 12:22:19 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for Refurbishment

[3] 	From: 	Brian Willis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Friday, 30 Mar 2007 10:10:07 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for Refurbishment

[4] 	From: 	David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date: 	Monday, 2 Apr 2007 11:25:51 +0100
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for Refurbishment


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Cary Dean Barney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 30 Mar 2007 17:24:36 +0200
Subject: 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for 
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for 
Refurbishment

Just to add, anyone who happens to be there Saturday should catch 
William Houston's riveting Coriolanus.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Frankel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 30 Mar 2007 12:22:19 -0400
Subject: 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for 
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for 
Refurbishment

I was lucky enough to see the first performance in The Courtyard last 
summer as part of the Shakespeare:  Text and Performance workshop.  As I 
understand it, the Other Place has been architecturally incorporated 
into The Courtyard-it is, in essence, the lobby (foyer).  I believe that 
when The Courtyard is taken down, The Other Place will be restored as, 
well, the RSC's other place.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Brian Willis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, 30 Mar 2007 10:10:07 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for 
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for 
Refurbishment

 >"I am not sure I understand what is meant by
 >'The Other Place (TOP): will act as a foyer for the Courtyard Theatre
 >and reopen as a small studio when all works are complete,' and would
 >welcome clarification."

The Other Place is actually now the foyer of the Courtyard - the room 
that was that theatrical space became the meeting space, bar, ticket 
office, stairwell and store of the new theatre. The Courtyard theatrical 
room is actually a new construct built adjacent to The Other Place on 
the parking lot that serviced it and RSC patrons. So, if the RSC follows 
their plans once renovations are complete on the RST, they will simply 
tear down the Courtyard, gut the "foyer", ie the walls that were once a 
wide open theatrical space, install the seats, floor and lighting and 
resume productions there. Fairly easily done actually.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Monday, 2 Apr 2007 11:25:51 +0100
Subject: 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for 
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0222 Royal Shakespeare Theatre Closing for 
Refurbishment

I attended a performance of Coriolanus in the last week at the RST - and 
thus completed a loop back to the first season I went to that theatre, 
and saw Olivier's Coriolanus in 1959.  While I am not sorry to see the 
space go, despite the many personal memories that attach to it , I am a 
little worried by the fact that what we seem to be promised is, in 
effect, a larger version of The Swan (relegating that space, presumably, 
to the status of a Cygnet).  Having, like Hardy, been at the Courtyard, 
I am, unlike him, less than entirely bowled over by it. I sat for one 
production right round the side of the thrust stage, and, despite every 
effort in the blocking, found it a frustrating viewpoint from which to 
watch the Henry VI plays.  In the smaller Swan this doesn't seem to 
matter so much, or is perhaps easier for the actors to mange, but in the 
larger space it does, in my view, lead to a distinctly inferior quality 
of experience.  One may be very much closer to the action than in the 
remoter parts of the old RST's gallery, but closeness and involvement 
are not necessarily the same thing. I'm not a theatre historian, but I 
do wonder whether the De Witt drawing hasn't been responsible, in part, 
for creating a notion of the 'thrust' stage which is not necessarily the 
only one.  The excavations of The Rose seem to suggest a stage which 
projects into the audience, but does not have anything like the depth of 
audience round the side. I do hope that the new stage will be genuinely 
flexible, so that it can be experimented with - otherwise I fear we may 
have as many rebuilds as the RST itself has endured in the last twenty 
or thirty years.

David Lindley


_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Manga Shakespeares

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0260  Monday, 2 April 2007

From: 		Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Monday, April 02, 2007
Subject: 	Manga Shakespeares

SelfMadeHero, an independent UK publisher, has just launched Manga 
Shakespeare, a book series providing a unique combination of manga and 
classic dramatic texts. The first two titles - Romeo and Juliet, set in 
modern-day Tokyo, and Hamlet, in a cyberworld, -  were released in March 
2007.

Forthcoming titles:

Richard III  		published September 2007
The Tempest  		published September 2007
A Midsummer
  Night's Dream  	published February 2008
Julius Caesar  		published June 2008
Macbeth  		published June 2008

http://www.selfmadehero.com/manga_shakespeare/manga_shakespeare.html

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Alms for Oblivion

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0261  Monday, 2 April 2007

From: 		Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Sunday, 01 Apr 2007 14:35:16 -0400
Subject: 	Alms for Oblivion

Returning to Stratford-upon-Avon for the first time in a decade, I 
caught Gregory Doran's Coriolanus and wondered why I had bothered. 
Dependably slick, the direction is remarkably free of ideas, save for an 
intermittent androphilia/gynophobia--Coriolanus touches his wife only 
once, on the hand, but allows Aufidius to kiss him lingeringly on the 
mouth.  In the title role, the oafish William Houston lurches from an 
affected bass to an exaggerated falsetto to a sing-song rasp that verges 
on the inaudible.  He is innocent of wit or eloquence, and he 
unforgivably changes his penultimate line to "...like an eagle in a 
dove's-cote, I/Fluttered all your Volscians in Corioles." Timothy West 
plays Menenius skillfully, but with a fatal lack of involvement that 
robs him of vividness and warmth.  Janet Suzman would be a formidable 
Volumnia if age had not undermined her lungpower, and if she did not 
weaken her early scenes by inappropriately conveying doubt about the 
martial ethos.  The rest of the cast is adequate.

The production's bankruptcy is signaled by its resort to borrowing at 
crucial moments.  It ends with Coriolanus deliberately impaling himself 
on Aufidius's sword (Elijah Moshinsky, 1984).  The final tableau depicts 
Aufidius on the ground cradling the body of Coriolanus like a pieta 
while vainly crying "Assist!" to his absconding colleagues (David 
Thacker, 1994).

--Charles Weinstein

P.S.:  I subsequently saw the Nunn/McKellen Lear, which was much better, 
and had the effect of partially redeeming the time.  A detailed report 
will follow, when unredeemed time permits.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Shakespeare Authorship Survey

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0259  Monday, 2 April 2007

From: 		Thomas Pendleton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 19:50:25 -0400
Subject: 	Shakespeare Authorship Survey

[Editor's Note: Tom Pendleton, co-editor of the Shakespeare Newsletter, 
was moved to respond to the request he received to complete the so-call 
authorship survey. Below is that response.]

Dear Mr. Calame:

I have recently been invited to participate in a survey by the New York 
Times Education Life to determine what college professors think of the 
Shakespeare Authorship question.  I am sorry to see this silliness 
dragged our yet again since it has been demonstrated repeatedly that 
there is not the least scrap of evidence that anyone other than William 
Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the Shakespeare plays.

The fact that the survey is being conducted under the supervision of 
William J. Niederkorn, who has for at least the last five years operated 
as the Times resident Oxfordian, is, I think, reason to suspect that the 
outcome of the survey will in some way end up supporting Mr. 
Niederkorn's own views in this matter. Indeed, on August 30, 2005, Mr. 
Niederkorn had suggested that "authorship studies" be made part of "the 
standard Shakespeare curriculum"-an idea that makes little sense unless 
one is already committed to the belief that the job of being Shakespeare 
is now open for applications.

I am aware that Mr. Niederkorn has portrayed himself as neither an 
Oxfordian nor a Stratfordian, but as an impartial seeker after the 
truth.  His supposed impartiality is, however, well demonstrated by his 
assertion that "On both sides of the authorship controversy, the 
arguments are conjectural" (Aug. 30, 05).  What "conjecture" means in 
regard to the orthodox position is the assumption that the surviving 
contemporary testimony is likely to be reliable, especially when it 
co-relates with other surviving testimony.  Thus, that the Shakespeare 
who in his will named Hemings and Condell as his fellows is the same 
Shakespeare whom Hemings and Condell seven years later identify as their 
"friend and fellow" who wrote the plays of the First Folio. On the other 
hand, "conjecture" for the Oxfordian means starting from the conviction 
that Shakespeare lacked the education, social status and life experience 
necessary to have written the plays, and then dismissing any evidence 
that contradicts this conviction as fraudulent or mistaken or meaning 
something other than it says.

To present the all but universally accepted evidence of Shakespeare's 
authorship as merely an indifferent option to the Oxfordian position is 
to misrepresent grossly the historical and literary situation.  And this 
is what Mr. Niederkorn's previous publications in the Times have done, 
and what-it is reasonable to expect-his reflections on his survey will 
continue to do.  As I understand your function at the Times, it is to 
assure that your readership is presented with reliable and properly 
researched information and analysis.  I do not suggest that Mr. 
Niederkorn's survey be scrapped-this would probably be inappropriate-but 
I do suggest that when the results of and reflections upon the survey 
are published, the Times-as it has not done in the past-also present in 
some detail the evidences on which the orthodox case it based; not just 
a two or three line disagreement from some orthodox spokesman that will 
be buried among Mr. Niederkorn's biographical fantasies.

If the Times is serious about its reputation for accuracy and 
reliability, it really cannot allow Mr. Niederkorn to continue to speak 
for it on this matter.

Please feel free to make what use of this e-mail seems best to you. 
Thank you for your attention.

Thomas A. Pendleton, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Iona College
New Rochelle, N.Y. 10801
914-633-2156
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

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