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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: November ::
Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0752  Tuesday, 6 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
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	Date:	Thursday, 01 Nov 2007 17:56:37 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0742 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[2] 	From:	Imtiaz Habib <
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	Date:	Thursday, 1 Nov 2007 18:09:08 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0742 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[3] 	From:	Robert Projansky <
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	Date:	Saturday, 3 Nov 2007 06:24:57 -0700
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0714 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
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Date:		Thursday, 01 Nov 2007 17:56:37 -0400
Subject: 18.0742 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0742 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

 >What do you all think about Henry V's prayer before the battle
 >of Agincourt in 4.1.? Is any prayer a soliloquy, or does prayer >imply 
an interlocutor?

Regardless of whether we ourselves believe it to be rational, the 
pray-er believes that he or she is speaking to someone; so the prayer 
does not qualify as a soliloquy.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Imtiaz Habib <
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Date:		Thursday, 1 Nov 2007 18:09:08 -0400
Subject: 18.0742 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0742 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

Re: thread on soliloquies

Has anyone considered Robert Langbaum's fine discussion of the general 
perspective of a soliloquy so-called and the particular perspective of a 
dramatic monologue and direct address of an aside (POETRY OF 
EXPERIENCE)? Some of the examples cited here correspond to the latter 
two types. Then there is the distinction between soliloquies so-called 
that convey the genuine formlessness of thought before it has reached 
decision or speech and which are rare, and those that only pretend to.

Imtiaz Habib
Professor of English
Old Dominion University

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Robert Projansky <
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Date:		Saturday, 3 Nov 2007 06:24:57 -0700
Subject: 18.0714 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0714 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

In Shakespeare's time plays were performed exclusively in daylight -- at 
least at first -- i.e., in the same light as the audience, whom actors 
could plainly see and address directly, and I believe that Shakespeare's 
soliloquies were mostly written to be played directly to that audience, 
not to oneself aloud with the audience allowed to overhear. Today we 
sometimes see a monologue or aside delivered directly to the audience in 
the theater, film or TV (mostly, I think,  in film or TV comedy, like 
the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle), with the actor turning away from the 
world of the play to talk to us. It's  a 20th century screen gimmick, 
but I buy the idea that WS used that same technique, that his 
soliloquizers should be talking right to the audience across the 
footlights, that they are at the same time both in the play as well as 
speaking directly to the paying customers who aren't.

I claim no scholarly discovery;  I've just thought about this for some 
time and experience has convinced me that soliloquies play better that 
way, that directness really pays off with such monologues. Audiences 
love it. Think of Richard making his opening Winter of our Discontent 
speech, or even a fragment of it, directly to you. That has to make a 
difference in your experience of the play, and that's a long speech with 
plenty to share among a lot of playgoers.This technique pays especially 
well if the speech is comic. Take the Porter's soliloquy, that amazing 
little comedy wedged in between Duncan's murder and its discovery. It 
plays way better if taken directly to the audience. It's much funnier 
and weirder with the Porter sharing all his imaginings rather than just 
muttering them to himself. I have even heard it said that when playing 
Shakespeare the actor should look for any acting reason that can justify 
taking any speech -- not just soliloquies -- right out to the audience. 
I think this is especially true outdoors, where there are always 
distractions even in the best settings, and where it's crucial to grab 
and hold the audience's concentration as tightly as possible.

Looking at and speaking directly to the audience not only increases  the 
intimacy of the actor-audience connection, it also raises the bar  for 
the actor, and makes him/her much more vulnerable, and raising that bar 
or those stakes almost always makes for better theater. (Think of the 
actor in Noises Off who has to jump up those stairs every night with his 
pants around his ankles: he only has to do it fast, up a lot of steps, 
and perfectly. He either gets a big round of applause or a wheelchair 
for life.) Looking someone right in the eye is an important ingredient 
when it comes to assessing a speaker's credibility, in the world and in 
the courthouse; the problem is the same for an actor -- and for the 
character.

Let me give a pair of contrasting examples of this technique: in Kenneth 
Branagh's Much Ado, when Benedick and Beatrice are in turn gulled about 
how the other loves him/her, each then has a responsive monologue to 
deliver. Branagh as Benedick mulls it over to himself, overheard by the 
guys who are fooling him, but as I recall he doesn't acknowledge the 
audience. By contrast, Emma Thompson's Beatrice looks and speaks 
directly to the camera. He has the better monologue but she makes the 
most of hers and he doesn't. She takes advantage of this techno 
opportunity to look each and every member of her audience right in the 
eye, all at once, as she reveals a side of her we haven't seen. I found 
very touching the way she opens up -- to me.

When, at the end of the play Don Pedro twits Benedick, the well-known 
anti-marriage bigmouth, about getting married, Benedick has a wonderful 
little responsive speech. It's a delicious moment: what can he possibly 
have to say for himself? I've seen a bunch of Much Ado productions, but 
only one in which the actor made the most of the  little gem in his 
answer, which should be the button on the cap for Much Ado. Even though 
the speech begins with him addressing the Prince, the actor, Timothy 
Oman, then took a step or two downstage and took it right out to the 
audience, looked right at us and shared his truth: Man, says Benedick, 
is a giddy thing.

I don't think this way of doing soliloquies, that direct eye contact, is 
the norm for Shakespeare today. I think most actors and directors just 
assume it's an interior monologue heard aloud.

Of course, I have no way of proving that Shakespeare wanted his 
soliloquies to be spoken directly to the audience rather than as 
internal musings made audible, but I have been empirically convinced. 
(Of course, I also can't point to any evidence that Leah is Shylock's 
wife and Jessica's mother and that she is dead, but I'm convinced of 
that too.) Anyway, here's the point I've been grinding down to: if 
soliloquies are pretty much written to be shared directly to the 
audience rather than solo musings, then any reason for assuming they are 
ipso facto the truth flies out the window.

Sorry this is so long.

Best to all,
Bob Projansky

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