The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0552 Wednesday, 22 August 2007
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 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
.) Since elocution was greatly enhanced with physical movement,
schoolboys were encouraged to include appropriate gesturing in their
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 .)
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.
now retired from CCNY
happily living in Maine
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