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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Understudies
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0832  Thursday, 20 December 2007

[1] 	From:	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 19 Dec 2007 17:11:05 -0000
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0826 Understudies

[2] 	From:	Duncan Salkeld <
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	Date:	Thursday, 20 Dec 2007 10:23:14 +0000 (GMT)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0826 Understudies


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Gabriel Egan <
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Date:		Wednesday, 19 Dec 2007 17:11:05 -0000
Subject: 18.0826 Understudies
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0826 Understudies

Abigail Quart wrote:

 >I'm glad that Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser
 >have academically debunked the other assertions
 >of Kiernander and Neill but the above is just a howl.

Farmer and Lesser haven't addressed any of the assertions of Kiernander 
and Neill, so far as I know. I don't mean to be rude but the above 
suggests a reader not really paying attention to the post she's replying 
to, and therefore not really deserving of an answer in turn.

To Bill Godshalk: Your original post ("Get the actors' parts, and have a 
scribe reconstruct the script") didn't sound like you meant 'do it by 
recitation', but I can see that we're not in disagreement. However, the 
conflation of memorial reconstruction with surreptitious activity might 
be a red herring here: Kiernander and Neill are imagining legitimate 
reasons for putting a script together from actors' parts.

John Drakakis writes:

 >As I recall, Blayney has taken apart Farmer and Lesser.

Well, he was allowed to answer them in the same issue they published 
their article, which I think was rather an unfair privilege. (I can't 
see them being allowed to answer him if the tables were turned.) As for 
who 'won' in this exchange, there's room for subjective judgement of 
course. But importantly, Blayney accepts that the percentage of 
playbooks that got reprinted (40% by Farmer and Lesser's methods and 
date span, 33% by Blayney's) was about double that of the percentage of 
sermon books that got reprinted (20% by Farmer an Lesser's count, 17% by 
Blayney's). However, Blayney thinks that such statistics are misleading 
if one neglects to mention that there were many more sermon books than 
playbooks so that in absolute terms the smaller percentage is a larger 
figure.

John Drakakis again:

 >But also, what happens when we think
 >about actors doubling parts?

Since the only extant actor's 'part' is Edward Alleyn's as Orlando 
Furioso, and we don't suppose the lead actor would have doubled, we 
don't have evidence for whether a 'part' covered one character (in which 
case actors playing minor characters would have several such rolls) or 
all the characters played by one actor. The latter would seem to cause 
unhelpful inflexibility in casting, but with only one extant 'part' as 
evidence the matter remains open. (Tiffany Stern would say that extant 
'parts' from related areas such as amateur and academic performance can 
help us infer professional theatre practice, but that's contentious 
within theatre-history studies.)

Gabriel Egan

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Duncan Salkeld <
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Date:		Thursday, 20 Dec 2007 10:23:14 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 18.0826 Understudies
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0826 Understudies

Abigail Quart's points about actors' improv, and that 'losing the rhythm 
blows memory', are intriguing in the context of memorial reconstruction. 
I recall reading that Gary Taylor once hired an actor friend to recite 
from memory in a test of the MR hypothesis. I wonder if rhythm played a 
part in that experiment.  Regarding the ever cheery Steve 'Urquartowitz' 
and revision, yes, revision is certainly a factor in the texts of R&J 
and HV, but so too is memory (and in the case of HV dictation too).

Steve makes his point from Hamlet neatly - but two queries in response. 
If I remember aright (aptly), the earliest text has old Fortinbras 
'impudent and bed-rid'. The second has him far more sensibly 'impotent 
and bed-rid'. Even though it's rather fun to do so, can we really 
imagine OF as a Sid James character being cheeky to his nurses? 
Elsewhere, the first imprint has Polonius remark that 'Seneca cannot be 
too heavy, nor Plato too light'. The second corrects 'Plato' to the 
obviously appropriate 'Plautus'. Are we really to think that Shakespeare 
wrote 'Plato' first time around? We don't get anything like this 
absurdity in the R&J texts, so there are qualitative differences among 
the so-called 'bad' imprints.

On Farmer and Lesser v Blayney, I too was surprised that Gabriel implied 
that Farmer and Lesser carried the day. Blayney's reply strikes me as 
nothing less than a systematic demolition of their assumptions and 
reading of the evidence.

Season's greetings to one and all,
Duncan Salkeld

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