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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: October ::
Pulpit in Julius Caesar
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0690  Tuesday, 16 October 2007

From: 		Alan Dessen <
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Date: 		Friday, 12 Oct 2007 11:06:25 -0400
Subject: 	Pulpit in Julius Caesar

To follow up on David Evett's "speculation" (with which I concur), the 
original question ("what would have been used to represent a pulpit on 
the stage during the earliest performances of JULIUS CAESAR?") should be 
preceded by a previous question: is the Folio stage direction ("Enter 
Brutus and goes into the Pulpit, and Cassius, with the Plebeians" - TLN 
  1528-9) *theatrical* or *fictional* (these are Richard Hosley's 
terms)? For an account of the distinction see the entry for "fictional 
stage directions" in our 1999 *Dictionary of Stage Directions*. To 
summarize, for Hosley fictional s.d.s "usually refer not to theatrical 
structure or equipment but rather to dramatic fiction" whereas 
theatrical directions "usually refer not to dramatic fiction but rather 
to theatrical structure or equipment." Examples of the former are "on 
shipboard," "within the prison," "enter the city" as opposed to 
theatrical signals such as "within," "at another door," "scaffold thrust 
out." The same onstage event can therefore be signaled by both "enter 
above" and "enter upon the walls [of a city"], with the second locution 
the fictional version of the first. The clearest theatrical signals are 
practical directions about properties and personnel; in contrast, in 
fictional directions a dramatist sometimes slips into a narrative, 
descriptive style seemingly more suited to a reader facing a page than 
an actor on the stage so as to conjure up a vivid image more appropriate 
to a cinematic scene than an onstage effect at the Globe: "the Romans 
are beat back to their Trenches" (*Coriolanus*, 523, 1.4.29), Jonas 
"cast out of the Whale's belly upon the Stage" (*Looking Glass for 
London*, 1460-1).

As with the pulpit, complications can arise when a reader today cannot 
be certain if a direction is theatrical (and therefore calls for a 
significant property such as a tomb or tree) or fictional (so that a 
sense of a tomb, tavern, ship, or forest is to be generated by means of 
language, costume, hand-held properties, or appropriate actions in 
conjunction with the imagination of the playgoer). Such complications 
are further compounded by the presence of an explicit or implicit *as 
[if]*. For example, "Enter Sanders's young son, and another boy coming 
from school" (*Warning for Fair Women*, F4r) may be merely a fictional 
telling of the story, but if construed as "[as if] coming from school," 
the two boys could be dressed in distinctive costumes and carrying 
books. A fictional signal such as "enter on the walls" requires only 
that the figure enter above/aloft; other seemingly fictional signals 
("coming from school," Jonas "[as if] out of the Whale's belly") may in 
contrast convey some practical instructions albeit in an Elizabethan code.

As with the *trenches* in *Coriolanus*, the term *pulpit* does appear in 
North's Plutarch but does not appear elsewhere in our database of 22,000 
s.d.s. My educated guess is therefore that a playgoer in 1599 saw the 
two orators in 3.1 placed above at a railing (David Evett's speculation) 
with no special property needed. I freely admit that I have no pipeline 
to Shakespeare's "intention" in this matter (if indeed he is the one 
responsible for the Folio s.d.), but my conclusion is based on my 
understanding of the theatrical practice of the time.

Alan Dessen

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