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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: March ::
Paul Scofield
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0185  Friday, 28 March 2008

[1] 	From:	Matthew Henerson <
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	Date:	Sunday, 23 Mar 2008 23:22:26 -0700
	Subj:	Paul Scofield and His Generation

[2] 	From:	Mary Rosenberg <
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	Date:	Monday, 24 Mar 2008 17:02:18 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj:	A Tribute to Paul Scofield


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Matthew Henerson <
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Date:		Sunday, 23 Mar 2008 23:22:26 -0700
Subject:	Paul Scofield and His Generation

Last Wednesday, Paul Scofield died, the last and youngest of a 
remarkable generation of British actors who-depending on who you talk 
to-invented, defined, or perfected the performance of Shakespeare's 
plays in the 20th Century. You really do have to reach back to Russia 
between 1809 and 1837 (Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, and 
Pushkin) to find as geographically concentrated a field of artistic 
excellence in a single discipline as occurred between 1902 and 1922 with 
actors in Great Britain. During those twenty years were born Donald 
Wolfit, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Peggy 
Ashcroft, Michael Redgrave, Alec Guinness, and Paul Scofield. I'm forty 
years old myself-almost fifty years younger than the youngest of them, 
and I never saw a single one of them give a live performance. But it's a 
tribute to the enduring power of these actors that it would have been 
possible for me to see six of them perform major classical roles ranging 
from Othello and Shylock to John Gabriel Borkman and James Tyrone. By 
the standards of repertory theatre in England and America today, they 
were an almost supernaturally tough bunch, cutting their teeth on 
repertory seasons which no contemporary actor would be allowed, much 
less encouraged to undertake. Consider Olivier at the Old Vic in 1937: 
Hamlet, Henry V, Sir Toby Belch and Macbeth; Gielgud in his Queen's 
Season in 1938: Richard II, Vershinin, Joseph Surface and Shylock, or 
Scofield at Stratford in 1948: Bassanio, the Young Shepherd, Lewis in 
*King John*, Troilus, and Hamlet, to say nothing of what Donald Wolfit 
routinely put himself through during his self-produced tours in the 40's 
and 50's. Then-with the exception of Wolfit, who never gave himself 
easily into the hands of another director-these actors, as they matured, 
departed from the traditional stagings of the classics on which they had 
built their reputations, and worked in new plays and new companies, for 
younger and more iconoclastic directors. Peggy Ashcroft was Brecht's 
*Good Woman of *Szechwan, and Winnie in Beckett's *Happy Days*, 
Richardson starred in Orton's *What the Butler Saw*, Olivier famously 
collaborated with Osborne, Wesker and Anouilh, and Gielgud and 
Richardson with David Storey and Harold Pinter. Late in his career, 
Guinness had a hit with a Lee Blessing play, and Scofield starred in the 
London premiere of *I'm Not Rappaport*.

All this is not to say that every performance these actors gave was 
definitive, nor that every decision they ever made had as a motivating 
force the furtherance of theatrical art. Even their most celebrated 
performances, where they survive on film or in recordings, have begun to 
date. It's the nature of the beast: every generation has its Hamlet, its 
Falstaff, its Juliet, and usually more than one or two. American 
audiences, particularly with the advent of regional theatres and 
Shakespeare Festivals over the last fifty years, have become used to 
American classical actors, and perhaps find the more aristocratic sounds 
of Gielgud and Olivier mannered and stagey. But as we mourn Paul 
Scofield-and people who work in and with Shakespeare the world over 
*should* mourn him, whatever they may have thought of Peter Brook's 
*King Lear*--I can't help remembering the rest of that extraordinary 
group-of whom I never saw a one-and I can't help considering what we've 
finally lost.

Matt Henerson

In addition to filmed performances of King Lear, the Ghost in *Hamlet* 
and the French King in *Henry V*, Paul Scofield leaves behind recordings 
of Hamlet, King Lear, Oberon, Malvolio, and Pericles (Caedemon); Hotspur 
(Argo), Othello (BBC) and a second King Lear (Naxos.)

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Mary Rosenberg <
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Date:		Monday, 24 Mar 2008 17:02:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:	A Tribute to Paul Scofield

I was saddened to read of the death of actor Paul Scofield. The British 
and international stage has lost an actor of exceptional distinction, 
certainly equal to stand with the other "greats" of his time - Gielgud, 
Olivier and Richardson - and, for some of us, standing at their head.

Reading Benedict Nightingale's thoughtful obituary in the New York Times 
(Friday, March 21 2008) I was reminded of two special memories which 
will long stay with me.

When I first began teaching - in the dark ages before such teaching aids 
as TV and video - I used a couple of audio tapes to demonstrate to 
students the way in which an actor can use his voice to convey 
interpretations far beyond the words on the page. Of all actors, 
Scofield - with that distinctive "cracked" voice of his - provided 
superb illustration.

My first example was taken from the sound track of the film of Robert 
Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons," and consisted of a single word. The 
moment occurs when Sir Thomas More is asked whether he is prepared to 
recommend one of his attendants, Richard Rich, for promotion. After a 
pause, Scofield/Sir Thomas replies: "No." But the word, spoken on tape, 
with all its hesitations and lingering intonations, is much more than a 
simple refusal (though in the end, it holds no hint of uncertainty). 
There are so many levels of meaning - of shifting thoughts, of warnings, 
of remembered doubts, even of ironic humor - that it perfectly allowed 
me to illustrate to my class how the most ordinary and seemingly 
insignificant word on the page can illuminate character and add shades 
of meaning that few silent readers of the script would be able to discern.

My second example came from the opening scene of that wonderful "King 
Lear" (Stratford, 1971) which, as Nightingale rightly observes, is 
considered by many to be the greatest interpretation of the role of all 
time. I was lucky enough to see the production several times; and I 
listened with delighted admiration to the sound patterns of this strong 
and defiant old king, recognizing how the rising intonation at the end 
of his sentences gave innate authority to the character's slightest 
wish. "Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester." "Give me 
the map there." Try it for yourself. Speak the lines with an upward 
emphasis at the end, and hear the note of command. The tone perfectly 
reinforces what the disguised Kent sees in Lear's face and demeanor when 
he offers himself as a support to the cast-out king in 1.4:

Lear: What wouldst thou?
Kent: Service.
Lear: Who wouldst thou serve?
Kent: You.
Lear: Dost thou know me, fellow?
Kent: No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain
call master.
Lear: What's that?
Kent: Authority.

Given the unforgettable quality of Scofield's voice, never did Kent's 
assessment seem more true: and Lear's progressive crumbling, when it 
came, was all the more poignant.

I have always admired Paul Scofield's performances on stage and screen. 
As a friend and colleague of my husband's (Marvin sat in on his 
"Macbeth" rehearsals during the writing of "The Masks of Macbeth"), he 
was always considerate, a true "gentleman." He will be sadly missed, 
especially on the Shakespearean stage.

Mary Rosenberg

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