2007

Shakespeare as Falstaff

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0756  Friday, 9 November 2007

[1] 	From:	John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 18:47:21 -0000
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff

[2] 	From:	Mike Shapiro <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Thursday, 8 Nov 2007 13:16:48 -0500
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 18:47:21 -0000
Subject: 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff

Jack Heller wrote:

 >John Briggs did mean to say John Oldcastle, didn't he?

No, he didn't :-)

Sean B. Palmer wrote:

 >Given that the part was originally Oldcastle, it would be strange to
 >base your claim at all on evidence from the name Falstaff.

The part was originally "Oldcastle" because it was based on a historical 
character. When Shakespeare was forced to change the name, he was free 
to choose any name - he was not constrained by history (actually, it has 
been argued that "Fastolf" is open to much the same objections as 
"Oldcastle".) It is generally accepted that Shakespeare took the name of 
the cowardly knight from 1 Henry VI. Now, although "Falstaff" 
[Falstaffe] is a valid 15th and 16th century spelling for "Fastolf" (the 
historical character represented in 1H6) we have no way of knowing how 
it was originally spelt - the F1 text of IH6 could well have been 
retro-edited for consistency. Giorgio Melchiori has argued that 
Shakespeare substituted the name "Falstaff" in 1H4 because in 1597 he 
was writing a Garter Day entertainment (later much expanded into the 
1600 play "Merry Wives") featuring the character from 1H6, but this time 
as a comic figure - the name was therefore hastily appropriated. The 
play of "Fall (or False) Staff" against "Shake Spear" could have 
happened at any stage, but seems unlikely to be accidental.

 >Furthermore, it's a leading role which most have presumed would call
 >for the leading clown, Kemp, though Malone said it was Heminges.

It is now generally accepted that Falfaff is not a clown's role - or at 
least, not "the" clown's role - and that Kemp was more likely to have 
been Bardolph. Kemp's successor, Robert Armin, was a singer (Feste - 
whoever played Falstaff also played Sir Toby Belch), and specialised in 
comic Welshmen (Fluellen, Sir Hugh Evans). I would argue that John 
Heminges took over Shakespeare's roles. There is some suggestion that 
Shakespeare played clown-ish roles.

 >Documentary evidence, then, does weigh against
 >Shakespeare taking on such a major part himself.

Jack Heller also wrote:

 >Another problem particularly for this idea about Falstaff is
 >that he appears in three plays, once as the lead character.
 >Do we ever hear of Shakespeare taking a lead role?

Steve Sohmer has argued (persuasively, it seems to me) that Shakespeare 
played Julius Caesar (as well as Polonius). "The" lead role was usually 
played by Richard Burbage (Hamlet, Brutus, Prince Hal, Henry V). He 
presumably played Ford in "Merry Wives" - what did he play in Twelfth 
Night: Orsino? The idea of Burbage and Shakespeare playing against one 
another is attractive.

John Briggs

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Mike Shapiro <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Thursday, 8 Nov 2007 13:16:48 -0500
Subject: 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff

I found it interesting that Ackroyd speculates in his biography of WS 
that Falstaff was created in the image of WS's father, John. John's 
questionable business activities may have resulted in his being banished 
from court (Board of Aldermen) and his application for a coat of Arms 
refused. Down the final stretch, one could contemplate whether 
Shakespeare would play a character fashioned after his father.

Mike Shapiro

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Wooster Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0755  Friday, 9 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Wednesday, 07 Nov 2007 01:03:26 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0747 Wooster Hamlet

[2] 	From:	Robert Projansky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 02:09:36 -0800
	Subj:	Re:SHK 18.0739 Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Wednesday, 07 Nov 2007 01:03:26 -0500
Subject: 18.0747 Wooster Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0747 Wooster Hamlet

 >Burton had surrounded himself with second stringers for the most part,

I assume that the qualifying phrase is meant to exclude Hume Cronyn, who 
presented a very engaging Polonius.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Robert Projansky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 02:09:36 -0800
Subject: Hamlet
Comment:	Re:SHK 18.0739 Hamlet

First, I don't know if the assessment by the Wooster Group's Scott 
Shepherd of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet as reported in Ben Brantley's NY 
Times review ("terrible") is of the film or just KB's performance, but 
Shepherd is wrong as to both. Branagh's Hamlet film has its flaws, but 
it's not terrible, and Branagh's performance isn't terrible either.

I haven't seen the Wooster Group's Hamlet; I live on the other side of 
the country and won't get to see it, but the NY Times online Act III, 
scene i, audio and slide show excerpt does not make me want to.

It's only an excerpt, but someone apparently thinks it's representative 
of the production, so I feel OK about inferring the entire daneosaur 
from this knuckle fragment. Unlike Branagh's Hamlet, it really does 
sound terrible. The actors -- presumably the live Wooster Groupers, not 
those shades from the Burton film -- manage to  make Act III, scene i, 
sound like a first read-through by actors who don't know the play. The 
scene is in verse and ought to sound like it, but they largely prosify 
it, do a lot of inappropriate end-stopping, and otherwise thoroughly 
unimpress. You can do it better in your head when you read Hamlet to 
yourself. But don't just take my word for it:

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/arts/20071028_HAMLET_FEATURE/ 
index.html

If seeing The Wooster Group actors mimicking a movie behind them is a 
wonderful surreal experience, maybe it's wonderful like an opera my wife 
saw last year. She much admired the sets, staging, and costumes. "It was 
wonderful," she said, "except for the music." Well, I like the music of 
Shakespeare, and from that WG excerpt I infer that the Hamlet verse -- 
how it sounds -- was either of no importance to the director or beyond 
her competence. Also, that I'm not up for her onstage search for pottery 
shards.

Dan Venning gently says, The Wooster Group's goal isn't to put on 
Shakespeare's play, but to make a statement about theatrical art. Well, 
OK, but why use Hamlet to do that? What do this production and its 
techniques bring to Hamlet? And why do this 'onstage archaeology' dig 
over this play? Projecting the film gets you a whole lot of things: 
yesteryear, Burton glam, Dick & Liz, and lots more, all at the expense 
of the live actors. What do you get in exchange for muddying the focus 
and the sound and putting the actors in that mimicry straitjacket?

And it's not billed as "The Wooster Group's Statement About Theatrical 
Art." It's billed as Hamlet by William Shakespeare. When you do such 
things to Shakespeare I think you ought to give  appropriate warning, as 
in Charles Marowitz's "Variations on Measure  for Measure" or "The 
Shakespeare Liberation Army Enacting 13 Lessons In Bardolatry Concerning 
The Tragedy Of Macbeth Performed By The Actors Themselves With Expert 
Commentary Wherewithal And Therein", By William Shakespeare and Timothy 
Scarrott. I can see that one at the Cheeseburger Dinner Theater at the 
Eagles Lodge -- and maybe I will.

Best to all,
Bob Projansky

_______________________________________________________________
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Problem Shrews

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0753  Tuesday, 6 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Thursday, 1 Nov 2007 14:39:22 -0500
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0743 Problem Shrews

[2] 	From:	Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Saturday, 3 Nov 2007 15:53:20 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0743 Problem Shrews


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Thursday, 1 Nov 2007 14:39:22 -0500
Subject: 18.0743 Problem Shrews
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0743 Problem Shrews

Anna Kamaralli begins her post by saying, "People who think it's the 
height of comedy to watch an "obnoxious bitch" get "what she deserves" 
have never had a problem with the play in the first place. The problem 
arises for those who hope that the play might have more to offer than 
castration anxiety-propelled wish-fulfillment. Shakespeare's plays are 
almost always sympathetic to being read in a way that supports the 
status quo, or in a way that subverts it."

I am hoping that my post did not imply that I see Kate as the bitch who 
gets what she deserves.  This is not what I meant to say.

Based on the interactions we see between Kate, her sister and her father 
at the start of the play, Katherine is characterized as someone who 
deeply mistrusts and is contemptuous of her hypocritical sister, the men 
who fawn over her, and her father (who she seems to think is 
deliberately blind to how Bianca manipulates him). The lines even in 
this short scene indicate a complexly imagined character.

These emotions necessarily color her interactions with all men 
(Petruccio included).  She is, at this point in the play, incapable of 
entering into an equal partnership in a marriage-you cannot have a 
partnership if you cannot trust.  All of this is fully supported by the 
text.

I would argue that Petruccio is equally unable to enter into a fully 
equal partnership when he first meets Kate.  He is emotionally immature. 
  However, there is evidence that he is more bluster than bite-no 
servant deliberately teases his master into a brawl in the middle of the 
street unless he has known his master for a long time and trusts him not 
to fire him. Petruccio's main problem is that he can be manipulated by 
others-his servant for one, but also his "friend" who somehow manages to 
back him into proposing to Kate (in what seems to be a sixteenth-century 
version of "I dare you-no, I double dare you-no, I triple dog dare 
you!"). Again, as I read these interactions, I do not see flat 
characters; they are believable representations.  I, myself, have 
watched some men do some very stupid things just because they started 
bragging and didn't know how to back themselves out.  Yes, it's 
immature.  That's the point-Petruccio is immature.

A good production will show how the two characters learn about what it 
means to work in a partnership, to trust one another.  I think that's 
what the San Francisco production did, and did it just as successfully 
as it portrayed the more farcical aspects of the comedy.

Even as I will argue for these complex characters, however, I will still 
maintain that because Katherine threw the first punch (she both insults 
him and slaps him at the start of their first scene together, while he 
resolutely refuses to return her insults), that the audience's 
sympathies can be more easily engaged for Petruccio.  The director, 
however, still has to make sure that the viewers never have to worry 
about her safety.  If there is violence, it has to be "cartoon 
violence." Otherwise, it's just not funny.

I think you can do them both -- have your farce and your characters, too.

Lysbeth

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Saturday, 3 Nov 2007 15:53:20 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 18.0743 Problem Shrews
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0743 Problem Shrews

Perhaps one approach to the Shrew question is to note the number of 
plays generated on the subject, some clearly in direct response to 
Shakespeare's play Shakespeare's play itself motivated in part for the 
anonymous TAMING OF A SHREW. (I haven't yet been persuaded that A SHREW 
is an early Shakespeare version of THE SHREW.) So what plays would I 
examine together?

These at least:
TAMING OF A SHREW, anonymous
TAMING OF THE SHREW, Shakespeare
THE TAMER TAMED, John Fletcher (and Beaumont?)
EPICOENE OR THE SILENT WOMAN, Ben Jonson
THE ROARING GIRL, Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton

Jack Heller
Huntington University

_______________________________________________________________
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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
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Portia and Shylock as "Others"

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0754  Friday, 9 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Martin Mueller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Tuesday, 6 Nov 2007 22:19:39 -0600
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0745 Portia and Shylock as "Others"

[2] 	From:	John Drakakis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 12:00:18 -0000
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0745 Portia and Shylock as "Others"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Martin Mueller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Tuesday, 6 Nov 2007 22:19:39 -0600
Subject: 18.0745 Portia and Shylock as "Others"
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0745 Portia and Shylock as "Others"

In Leslie Fiedler's The Stranger in Shakespeare, woman is the ultimate 
other. I don't remember Fiedler saying this about Portia--he vividly 
characterises her as a 'xenophobic medisante', but this may indirectly 
be your source.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John Drakakis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 12:00:18 -0000
Subject: 18.0745 Portia and Shylock as "Others"
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0745 Portia and Shylock as "Others"

You might like to try Alan Sinfield's essay in Alternative Shakespeares 
2 David: "How to read M of V without being heterosexist" where a 
sophisticated series of oppositions around the question of gender and 
sexuality is explored.

Cheers,
John D

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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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.

Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0752  Tuesday, 6 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Thursday, 01 Nov 2007 17:56:37 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0742 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[2] 	From:	Imtiaz Habib <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Thursday, 1 Nov 2007 18:09:08 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0742 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[3] 	From:	Robert Projansky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
	Date:	Saturday, 3 Nov 2007 06:24:57 -0700
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0714 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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 <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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

_______________________________________________________________
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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