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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: March ::
Shakespeare by Heart
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0087  Monday, 2 March 2009

[1]  From:   William Sutton <
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      Date:   Thursday, 26 Feb 2009 03:02:06 -0800 (PST)
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0078 Shakespeare by Heart

[2]  From:   Stanley Wells <
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      Date:   Friday, 27 Feb 2009 16:20:44 +0000
      Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0078 Shakespeare by Heart


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      William Sutton <
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Date:      Thursday, 26 Feb 2009 03:02:06 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 20.0078 Shakespeare by Heart
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0078 Shakespeare by Heart

I blush. Thank you for your kind words Ellen and Hardy!

I have mailed Brian off-list, but to answer the question of whether a 16 
year old can memorise all the works, I highly doubt it. First of all, 
how would you test such a person's claim?

I also doubt there are enough hours in a day in such a short lifetime, 
but then again I've seen Oprah where a 3 year olds recite The Constitution.

Lastly, there is the question of recall. Is it random? Any line any 
play? And which plays? Folio only?

I find with the memorisation of the sonnets, it's hard enough to test 
the complete knowledge. There will always be mistakes.

I've done several marathons (usually in 3 blocks with 15 min breaks: 
1-51, 52-103, 104-154) and made some horrendous jumps from 2nd quatrain 
to a 3rd quatrain some 30 sonnets further, for example.

Or dropping quatrains, not to mention lines or phrases, and you would 
swear you did it right. On the same note, I've seen many acknowledged 
Shakespearean actors recite single or double sonnets and not achieve a 
100% success rate.

I still have difficulty accepting the fact that Elizabethan actors had 
to do 3 or 4 different plays a week with little or no rehearsal and only 
their parts with cues-lines (2-5 words)!

Perhaps, it had to do with the type of characters one played, plus 
familiarity with the rhetoric of the age and stage.

Let's also not forget they had a prompter, who I'm sure was a busy and 
attentive man. Has Shakespeare ever been proposed as a prompt? Do we 
know anything about these people?

For those who are in Stratford on June 5th, there will be a Sonnet show 
at Hall's Croft. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has more details, and 
I'll post again closer to the date.

Slowly I'm working off as an unknown Shakespearean the places that 
Shakespeare trod. I've done the Rose, the piazza at the Globe, (the 
stage during a workshop I gave there) the Old Vic (not valid for Will 
Himself but a temple), the street outside the birthplace, and now the 
son-in law's house. Can't wait!

Yours,
William Sutton
http://blog.iloveshakespeare.com

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Stanley Wells <
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Date:      Friday, 27 Feb 2009 16:20:44 +0000
Subject: 20.0078 Shakespeare by Heart
Comment:   RE: SHK 20.0078 Shakespeare by Heart

Members intrigued by feats of memory in our time might like to recall 
that the Elizabethan diarist John Manningham, who recorded seeing 
_Twelfth Night_ performed in the Middle Temple in 1602, and who also 
told a scurrilous (but possibly true) anecdote about Shakespeare, noted 
on 1 March 1602 that his 'cousin' had repeated from memory almost the 
whole of the first book -- over 600 lines of Latin verse -- of Virgil's 
_Aeneid_, and that two days later 'he rehearsed this day without book 
very near the whole second book of the _Aeneid_, viz 630 verses without 
missing one word. A singular memory in a man his age: 62.' This is the 
sort of thing that makes me feel that we should never patronize the 
Elizabethan educational system and its products.

And anyone wishing to test Will Sutton's phenomenal memory of the 
Sonnets should attend 'The Great Shakespeare Sonnet Show' at Halls 
Croft, Stratford-upon-Avon on 5 June (cost ?12), when the redoubtable 
Will will both talk about the poems and allow himself to be tested on them.

Chairman, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
The Shakespeare Centre
Henley St.
Stratford-upon-Avon
Warks.
CV37 6HQ

[Editor's Note: I so wish I lived in the UK or, otherwise, would be able 
to attend this show. William puts on a phenomenal performance, and I 
would love to see how this show differs from the one he did at the 
Fringe Festival six years ago. But, alas, with the collapse of the 
world's financial system, I have my doubts I will even be able to 
continue my biennial trips to Warwickshire, London, and environs. Sigh. 
-Hardy]


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