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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: January ::
Performing Familiar Speeches
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0008  Monday, 7 January 2008

From:		Alan Horn <
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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.

Alan Horn

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