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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: November ::
Pulpit in Julius Caesar
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0738  Thursday, 1 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 30 Oct 2007 14:05:52 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0727 Pulpit in Julius Caesar

[2] 	From:	Alan Dessen <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 31 Oct 2007 11:06:59 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0690 Pulpit in Julius Caesar


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
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Date:		Tuesday, 30 Oct 2007 14:05:52 -0500
Subject: 18.0727 Pulpit in Julius Caesar
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0727 Pulpit in Julius Caesar

Peter Holland's interesting post quotes Charles Edelman as quoting 
Gascoigne's 1576 work as using the word "trench" to describe what we 
would today call "barricades." Since OED does not record any such 
meaning, I wonder if Gascoigne misunderstood the word. This is something 
I would ask a military historian, not a philologist. Did "trench" mean 
any battlement, whether sunken or raised, or just a dugout?

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Alan Dessen <
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 >
Date:		Wednesday, 31 Oct 2007 11:06:59 -0400
Subject: 18.0690 Pulpit in Julius Caesar
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0690 Pulpit in Julius Caesar

Building on Charles Edelman's *Shakespeare's Military Language: A 
Dictionary* Peter Holland rightly notes that "the trenches in Coriolanus 
need not be a fictional image but could be an onstage reality on the 
early modern stage." His "could be," which I readily accept, signals a 
basic problem that underlies Richard Hosley's *fictional* versus 
*theatrical* distinction, a problem that can bedevil the theatre 
historian. Trenches *could* also be displayed by some inventive use of 
the trap-door or by some other technique that a theatrical professional, 
then or now, could devise. But were they? Without a magical videotape of 
a Jacobean performance of *Coriolanus*, I see no way to "prove" the 
absence or existence of onstage trenches at the Globe or Blackfriars. 
Would such a visual display have added significantly to the imagery or 
theatrical effect? Or would the moving of sizable objects on and then 
off the stage have impeded the flow of the action? Clearly, large 
properties (beds, thrones, scaffolds, bars for a courtroom) *were* 
thrust on and off when necessary, but would that category include 
trenches (and/or a pulpit)?

The absence of trenches (and pulpits) in other stage directions of the 
period may be relevant here but cannot serve as a clincher to the 
argument-analysis. To invoke my personal formulation, in reading such a 
stage direction we enter into the middle of a conversation - a discourse 
in a language we only partly understand - between a playwright and his 
player-colleagues, a halfway stage that was completed in a performance 
now lost to us. I am well aware that we will never reconstitute that 
performance, but my goal as a theatre historian is to recover elements 
of that vocabulary and hence better understand that conversation, 
whether the pre-production concept of the playwright or the 
implementation by the players. The choice of how to interpret *trenches* 
is but one of hundreds of examples of the roadblocks (or more often 
silences) that stand in the way of such recovery or reconstruction. Such 
is the nature of "doing" theatre history.

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