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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: June ::
Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0372  Monday, 11 June 2007

From: 		Marilyn A. Bonomi <
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Date: 		Friday, 8 Jun 2007 10:13:22 -0400
Subject: 18.0358 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0358 Distinguishing Goneril from Regan

Abigail Quart wrote "Just words. Only words. The picture that is worth a 
thousand words didn't exist for the common man."

But the folks in the pit and the folks on the seats did have more than 
words!  They had the visuals to go with them.  Granted they did not have 
close ups, but they could pan the stage themselves simply by turning 
their heads-albeit they had to choose on which actor to focus.

And they had action. Plenty of action.  I have no knowledge of 
Elizabethan acting techniques other than Hamlet's speech to the players, 
but clearly there were traditional gestures that signified certain 
emotions and reactions, so the audience in the Globe would have been 
*more* likely to know what Shakespeare's words "meant" than we, trying 
to be "imaginary auditors" as Harry Berger would style us.

When we go to the theatre today we still rely on these visual clues, 
usually unconsciously.  We struggle with the theatre of other cultures 
not simply because of language but also because we don't know their 
kinesthetic signifiers the way we know our own.

A broad wink and nod as a visual aside to the audience, as one example, 
would tip the Elizabethans that the speech was not to be taken 
seriously.  Certain gestures would communicate respect or distain or 
fear or longing or whatever other emotion was intended with the words 
being spoken.  Elizabethans did not lack stage conventions any more than 
we do.

Nonetheless, Quart is essentially correct that those who are not 
literate or who do not have regular access to printed/written text have 
far better auditory memories and processing skills than those of use who 
read as though our lives depended upon it.  One modern proof is all 
those people who manage to grow up, graduate from high school, and make 
a reasonable living for themselves and their families and are then 
discovered, at age 25 or 45 or whatever, to be functional (or actual) 
illiterates.

Mari Bonomi

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