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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: November ::
Theseus's Private Schooling
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0625  Sunday, 2 November 2008

[1] From:   Robert Projansky <
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     Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 2008 23:32:54 -0700
     Subt:   Re: SHK 19.0613 Theseus's Private Schooling

[2] From:   Donald Bloom <
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     Date:   Thursday, 30 Oct 2008 09:19:36 -0500
     Subt:   RE: SHK 19.0613 Theseus's Private Schooling


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Robert Projansky <
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Date:       Monday, 27 Oct 2008 23:32:54 -0700
Subject: 19.0613 Theseus's Private Schooling
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0613 Theseus's Private Schooling

Re the private schooling, etc., that Theseus is talking about, I'm with Suzanne 
Westfall (I think): I don't believe Theseus has any of the motivations hitherto 
proffered and I don't think anything but the fun of it is to be gained by trying 
to puzzle him out. I think it's all W Shakespeare's doing. Theseus's "You, you, 
and you come with me" instructions are just a practical device to get Demetrius, 
Egeon and  Hippolita offstage and leave the lovers on so we can see them react 
to their situation having just been considerably worsened. In short, Theseus's 
orders are given to drive the plot. They result in leaving  Lysander and Hermia 
onstage to form their plan of action in the same place as and immediately after 
the Duke's fateful pronouncements, all of which elements -- leaving them alone, 
same place, the immediacy --  all intensify the drama for us, the audience.

It's swell for the actor playing Theseus to give himself a set of reasons for 
his character's behavior, but as helpful as they may be to him, they aren't part 
of what Shakespeare has given us. Do we ponder why Richard Gloucester throws the 
dead King Henry into another room? No. Do we ask what drives Hamlet to lug 
Polonius's guts into the neighbor room? No. Such actions surely must have 
underlying  motivations as puzzling as Theseus's. Maybe the actors playing them 
need to give themselves intentions behind such bizarre acts, but we don't ask 
about Richard's or Hamlet's motives because we know why  they do it: a dead body 
has to be removed from the stage if the play is to proceed with the next scene 
set somewhere else, and there was  no curtain behind which Elizabethan corpses 
could just stand up and walk offstage. If these murderers (and Banquo's) don't 
clean up after themselves, another scene would have to be constructed for 
someone else to do it.

Bob Projansky

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Donald Bloom <
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Date:       Thursday, 30 Oct 2008 09:19:36 -0500
Subject: 19.0613 Theseus's Private Schooling
Comment:    RE: SHK 19.0613 Theseus's Private Schooling

Arnie Perlstein responds, "Theseus has two problems -- what to do about Hermia 
and Demetrius, and keeping Hippolyta in line."

Not any major complaint, but I don't see much in Hippolyta that requires keeping 
in line. On the contrary, she seems, for a warrior-queen, rather bland and quite 
the lady.

Are we talking about some recent, feminist portrayals of her that follow the 
idea shown in recent productions of "Shrew" that show Kate as a woman terrorized 
into submission by physical abuse? I don't see that either, but people add all 
sorts of political agendas when they get Shakespeare into their hands.

Suzanne Westfall remarks, "In regard to Theseus' 'private schooling': both 
Theseus and Egeus have to get offstage and change, since both are doubling. 
Theseus has to dress for Oberon, which might take a bit of time. That's the 
actor's answer."

True (or possibly true), but the actor can't just check his wristwatch, say, 
"Oops, gotta change," and hustle off. He needs to have some sort of attitude 
toward Egeus and Demetrius which is carried in his tone of voice, facial 
expressions and gestures. I suggested the "seriously-annoyed" expression based 
on the unspoken idea, "You're causing me a lot of needless embarrassment and 
trouble when I'm supposed to be having fun."

Theseus getting more and more exasperated at the lot of them is one of those 
parts / scenes that I positively drool over taking on. (If anybody knows of a 
production in my area . . . never mind.)

(As to Oberon, for some years now I have longed to see him portrayed (in black 
tie) as a sophisticated and somewhat debauched English aristocrat out of Noel 
Coward. Titania would be the female equivalent, perhaps in pearlescent silk.)

Cheers,
don

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