The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0008 Monday, 7 January 2008
From: Alan Horn <
Date: Sunday, 6 Jan 2008 06:36:25 -0500
Subject: NEW TOPIC: Performing Familiar Speeches
Recently while reading through a collection of Auberon Waugh's Private
Eye diary columns from the seventies (don't ask), I came across this
provocative passage in his entry for December 11, 1974.
Complaining about an RSC production of Macbeth, Waugh writes:
"One problem for Shakespearean actors nowadays is that they are plainly
embarrassed by the more famous speeches, like: 'Had I but died an hour
before this chance' or 'Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,' both of
which [Nicol] Williamson threw away. I see their difficulty, but it
seems a shame that we shall never hear these speeches properly delivered.
"One solution might be to swap them around a bit. Thus, instead of
saying 'Once more into the breach, dear friends,' Henry V might recite
'Friends, Romans, Countrymen;' instead of 'Tomorrow and tomorrow and
tomorrow,' Macbeth might break into 'Where the bee sucks, there suck I.'
"Obviously this solution is not ideal, particularly from the point of
view of narrative continuity, but it seems to meet two requirements-the
actors' passion for endless novelty and the audiences' pathetic hope of
hearing a little poetry from time to time."
I wonder if any performers or audience members on this list can relate
to that observation.
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