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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: September ::
Actor Doubling
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0384  Monday, 27 September 2010

[1]  From:      William Blanton <
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     Date:      September 24, 2010 11:27:16 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0379  Actor Doubling

[2]  From:      Herb Weil <
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     Date:      September 25, 2010 2:13:29 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0379  Actor Doublings


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         William Blanton <
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Date:         September 24, 2010 11:27:16 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0379  Actor Doublings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0379  Actor Doublings

Based on my research into The Merchant of Venice, I believe that Shakespeare 
wrote himself into the play as Shylock the Devil, poorly disguised as a Jew, and 
doubled the role of Lorenzo. 

Copying what I wrote at shylocke.org, Part IV, Shylock as the Devil:

ANTHONIO:
Let me have judgement, and the Jew his will.
(4.1.83)

Shakespeare wrote himself into the play as Shylock the Jew (on the surface level 
of the plot). He punned on his name in this fashion in Sonnets 135 and 136. The 
actor playing Antonio would have dropped the h in his, and would have used 
gestures and tone of voice to insure that the audience got the reference: the 
Jew is Will.

BASSANIO:	
And curbe this cruell divell of his will.
(4. 1. 223)

Shakespeare also wrote himself into the play as Shylock the Devil (on several 
other levels of meaning). The actor playing Bassanio would have dropped the h in 
his, and would have swallowed or slurred the word of. As he was gesturing to 
Shylock, the actor would have said the line as this cruel devil is. Will, and 
Shakespeare as Shylock would have taken a little bow, or made some other 
acknowledgment. The audience would have recognized Shakespeare as Shylock from 
his first entrance as that character.

BASSANIO:	
I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all
Here to this devil, to deliver you.
(4. 1. 295-96)

The actor playing Bassanio would have gestured once again to Shylock.

SOLANIO:
Let me say Amen betimes, least the divell crosse
my praier, for here he comes in the likenes of a Jew.
(3 1.18-19)

Take this literally. Shakespeare reminded his audience that Shylock is the 
Devil, disguised -- poorly disguised at that -- as a Jew. 

I have not yet developed my observation that Shakespeare doubled as Lorenzo. 
However, here is one indication (among others):

ANTHONIO:
So please my Lord the Duke, and all the Court
To quit the fine for one halfe of his goods,
I am content : so he will let me have 
The other halfe in use, to render it
Upon his death, unto the Gentleman
That lately stole his daughter.
(4.1.414-19)

Shakespeare was working on The Merchant of Venice from at least mid-to-late 
1596, and completed it sometime after March 1597. He obtained the coat of arms 
of a Gentleman for his father, and for himself, on October 20, 1596. 

When Antonio says these lines, Shakespeare is on stage as Shylock. The audience 
knew that he was doubling Lorenzo, so the actor playing Antonio would have 
gestured to Shakespeare/Shylock when he said the Gentleman. Shakespeare would 
have taken a little bow to acknowledge the recognition of his new status.

Lorenzo and Shylock never appear in the same scene. Shylock leaves Act 4 
abruptly, so that he would have sufficient time to more fully change into his 
costume as Lorenzo for the beginning of Act 5.

I do not have anything to offer on any of the other plays, or on doubling in 
general. 

Bill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Herb Weil <
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Date:         September 25, 2010 2:13:29 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0379  Actor Doublings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0379  Actor Doublings

Some of you might enjoy reading my article: "'Be vigitant, I beseech you': A 
Fantasia on Dogberry and Doubling" in BJJ 6 [1999].

It notes that Dogberry and the Watch appear atypically late, unique in all 
Shakespeare's comedies and that none appear with any other major character 
except Leonato before their final scene in Act Five. I conjecture that the actor 
might have been available at times because of plans to leave the company, 
illness, or hangover -- and that the most exciting double would be Dogberry with 
Beatrice, Verges with Margaret.

Posing the possibility of the same actor playing a female and male role of 
course offends many theater historians.

The article also discusses other doubling, especially that in John Barton's 
version of the Henriad in 1969.

Cheers,
Herb

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