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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0801  Saturday, 1 December 2007

[1] 	From:	Carol Barton <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 28 Nov 2007 10:21:44 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

[2] 	From:	Lynn Brenner <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 28 Nov 2007 10:26:43 EST
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Carol Barton <
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Date:		Wednesday, 28 Nov 2007 10:21:44 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
Subject: 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

Arnie, I think you may have hit on an important distinction in 
"soliloquizing": the overheard thoughts of a villain or a tragic 
character--which though necessarily audible to the audience, are not 
perceptible to the other characters on the stage--and the innocent 
verbalized musings of an innocent speaking aloud to herself when she 
doesn't think anyone else can hear: "Oh, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art 
thou Romeo?" In a comedy, the eavesdropping presents interesting 
opportunities for plot-twists and matchmaking; but if anyone were to 
overhear Edmund's or even Hamlet's thoughts, the action of those plays 
would likely take a decidedly different turn.

But for a soliloquy to be a soliloquy, the speaker has to be unaware 
that he or she is being overheard--Hamlet's speech when he knows someone 
is listening furtively to him is very different from his speech when we 
are overhearing his thoughts, or when he thinks he is alone. If the 
utterance is consciously spoken to deceive another, it loses the 
"protected" status of soliloquy--first, because the speaker knows that 
he or she has an onstage audience, and second, because the speaker is 
intentionally manipulating what is said.

That's my take on it, anyway. In any case, thank you for raising a 
question that led me to a distinction I'd never thought about before.

Best to all,
Carol Barton

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Lynn Brenner <
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Date:		Wednesday, 28 Nov 2007 10:26:43 EST
Subject: 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

 >1. Does Helena intend to be overheard by the steward, who perhaps has
 >been watching Helena closely for some reason?
 >2. If Helena does intend to be overheard, does she speak what she
 >actually feels, or does she present a false front of humble, hopeless,
 >but true love, as opposed, say, to a more cynical attempt to marry up?
 >3. If the steward is reporting the same soliloquy quoted above, he
 >presents the Countess with a "translation" that seems to stray widely at
 >some points from what Helena actually said, as in the children's game of
 >Telephone. Or is the steward giving a reliable report, given that he has
 >observed Helena's nonverbals?

These are fascinating questions, which a production of the play could 
choose to answer in more than one way. My own view:

I don't think Helena intends to be overheard by the steward.

As you point out, there are enormous differences between the soliloquy 
we hear her deliver and the one Parolles reports. Had she wanted to be 
overheard, she might conceivably have spoken as he says; but certainly 
not as we hear her speak. Her actual soliloquy (a great one!) is the way 
she'd talk only to the most intimate friend or to her diary. I don't 
think there's any question that she's expressing her real feelings.

If you wanted to play it with a Helena who knows she's being overhead, I 
think it would have to be because this is a way to get the information 
back to the Countess and/or to Bertram and somehow improve her chances 
of getting his love. (Bertram would doubtless interpret it as a cynical 
attempt to marry up.)

And I think it would have to be a different soliloquy that she intended 
to be overheard -- presumably, the one Parolles reports.

If you chose to play it that Parolles is reporting what we heard, it 
would say more about him than about Helena -- i.e., that he's incapable 
of reporting anything without embellishing and rewriting it to suit his 
own ideas of appropriate expression.

My choice is that he's reporting another soliloquy that wasn't intended 
to be overheard, thus giving the playwright the opportunity to note in 
passing that -- as is so often the case with `secret' crushes -- 
Helena's passion for Bertram isn't as secret as she thinks.

Lynn Brenner

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