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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: August ::
Kent's Banishment
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0552  Wednesday, 22 August 2007

From: 		Steven Urkowitz <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 21 Aug 2007 21:21:04 -0400
Subject: 	"Kent's Banishment"

Kent's Banishment -- A different perspective on the discussion of 
potential causes of the "foure-five" and "fift-sixt" textual variants 
and the invariant "tenth day following" .

Those early actors spoke with their hands, a lot.? (See Bulwer's 
CHIRONOMIA and his CHIROLOGIA [1644]for illustrations sketched from life 
as well as his wonderfully learned tracking back to classical references 
to gestural language. See also B.L Joseph, ELIZABETHAN ACTING 2nd ed 
[1964].) Since elocution was greatly enhanced with physical movement, 
schoolboys were encouraged to include appropriate gesturing in their 
oral delivery.

So consider the gestures that a vigorous actor could use in "signing" 
Lear's angry sentence upon Kent:

Following the first-printed Quarto, the Lear actor could hold up four 
fingers at "Foure dayes we doe allot thee . . ." , and then open his 
hand wider at "And on the fift . . ."? or maybe just? indicate the 
"fift" with his thumb alone.? And then he could hold out all ten fingers 
for "on the tenth day following."

Using the Folio version, the actor can start with a fully opened hand 
for "five days," and then bring up a single finger of his other hand to 
count the "sixt," and finally as is equally plausible in the 
earlier-printed text fully open both hands for "the tenth day following."?

So, Quarto :? four fingers, five fingers, two full hands.? Folio: five 
fingers, six fingers, two full hands.

It's a minor change but visible and purposeful when played before an 
audience.? (The suggestion about fift-sixt-seventh is a typically 
anti-theatrical, anti-visual editorial intervention that we see alas all 
too often. If my "counjting out" suggestion is valid, there's just not 
much physical variety going from five to six to seven fingers.)?

As a director, I like the Folio version.? But then, I like the Folio 
version for a whole raft of other reasons as well, most of them 
involving exactly these kinds of textual variants that direct actors to 
use quite distinct physical movements. (See my SHAKESPEARE'S REVISION OF 
KING LEAR [1980].)

EAJ Honigman long ago in THE STABILITY OF SHAKESPEARE'S TEXTS? indicated 
how frequently we find "number" variants in all the Shakespearean 
multiple text plays.? Many have no explanations.? This one might.

Joys ever,
Steve Urquartowitz
now retired from CCNY
happily living in Maine

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