Light duty for an older actor?

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.025  Tuesday, 24 January 2012

 

From:         Peter Hyland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 24, 2012 9:04:42 AM EST

Subject:     Light duty for an older actor?

 

Robert Projansky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> wrote, 

 

>It occurred to me some years ago while watching a performance of

>Macbeth, that a number of Shakespeare’s plays have an older character

>(or a character who can reasonably be played by and as an old man) in

>Act I who then disappears from the play, perhaps making a nominal

>appearance at or near the end of the show. . . . 

>

>Can it be that Shakespeare, at least for some of these characters, was

>writing roles for some arthritic older actor yet simultaneously cutting him

>considerable (and considerate) slack? Maybe a company member?

>Maybe himself? I know that tradition has it that Shakespeare played

>Adam and the Ghost, both of them early outs. Some of these roles are

>quite juicy, and it’s very easy to imagine Shakespeare writing them for

>himself.

>

>Does the membership have any candidates? Or a better theory? Or have

>I found one more Secretly Encoded Key to the Universe that isn’t there at

>all?

 

Given the comparative smallness of most early modern acting companies and the fact that cast lists were often in excess of the number of players available, extensive doubling of roles was often necessary (as Bob Projansky acknowledges). The fact that a character doesn’t reappear doesn’t mean that the actor didn’t reappear. To take one of Bob’s examples, Twelfth Night, there are, later in the play, small roles (for example Fabian and the Priest) that have to be accounted for. Or perhaps more attractive thematic doubling would be the Captain with Antonio, since each acts as a kind of guardian figure for one of the play’s twins. If we have to come up with a theory like Bob’s to explain the brief appearance of the Captain we also have to explain the brief appearances of Curio and Valentine. Or, if in Henry V we are going to identify Canterbury as a role for a non-reappearing arthritic actor, why not Ely too? These were actors, after all—it was their job to play roles older (or younger or of a different race or gender) than themselves. I can see the attraction of Bob’s idea, but it seems to me to be quite unnecessary

 

Peter Hyland

PIPA/SOPA

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.024  Monday, 23 January 2012

 

From:         Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 22, 2012 3:44:45 PM EST

Subject:     SHAKSPER Discussion

 

Hardy asks what effect PIPA/SOPA would have on academic discussion sites like SHAKSPER.  It is hard to see that the proposed legislation would have any effect on them.  Of course, it is risky to be too dogmatic about any of this, as the legislation may never be passed and it appears nearly certain that it will not pass in its present form.  A redraft will probably water down the harshest provisions, so it is even less likely that the final enactment, if any, will restrain discussion here.

 

The proposed legislation is directed against the redistribution in this country of offshore “rogue” websites that exist for the purpose of providing pirated copyrighted works (movies, books, music) at wildly discounted prices or giving them away as a means of attracting advertising revenue.  The bills provide mechanisms to allow intellectual property owners to obtain orders requiring U.S. sites and even search engines to stop linking to sites whose “primary” purpose is copyright infringement.  There is a lot of ambiguity in the current drafts and the potential for unintended adverse consequences to research and open discourse is significant, so any redraft will likely narrow the definitions or what may be prohibited and provide more procedural protections.  The difficulty with this is that an overly narrow definition of what can be enjoined and excess solicitude for procedural niceties will inevitably facilitate evasion of the purpose of the law, in other words, “open loopholes.”  The balancing act will be very difficult and might be impossible.

 

In any event, I don’t think that the legislation, even in its present form, would impair open discussion here.  It is not necessary, or even desirable, for SHAKSPER to offer access to rogue websites in order to carry out its mission, and I suspect that if anyone attempted to use the site for that purpose, Hardy would quickly put an end to it (with or without a demand).  As for inadvertent linking to copyrighted material, that probably occurs now, and, so far as I know, no one has asserted a claim for infringement or contributory infringement.  Given the limited distribution on this site and its educational purpose, and (in most cases at least) the minor amount of copyrighted material that might be included in a post, the Fair Use doctrine (17 U.S.C. § 107) could be asserted as a defense.

New Mowat Essay

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.023  Monday, 23 January 2012

 

From:         Richard Waugaman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 21, 2012 5:38:24 PM EST

Subject:     New Mowat Essay

 

Thank you for your invitation, Hardy. A 2012 essay I strongly recommend is Barbara Mowat’s chapter, “Shakespeare Reads the Geneva Bible” in Travis deCook and Alan Galey (eds.), Shakespeare, the Bible, and the Form of the Book. In an essay Barbara tells me was a pleasure for her to write, she leaves no doubt that it was reading and studying the Geneva translation in particular that informs some key themes in the canon. As I told her, I was especially pleased that she highlights Shakespeare’s reading of the marginal notes for which the Geneva Bible is so well-known. For example, in discussing the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:10-11, she says Shakespeare “seems at least equally drawn to the marginal gloss on the words ‘the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me,’ a gloss which reads ‘the iniquity itself crieth for vengeance.’”

 

I hope Barbara’s essay will help renew interest in the regrettably short-changed topic of the Bible and Shakespeare. Or are there still those who agree with Santayana’s views on “The Absence of Religion in Shakespeare”? As a psychoanalyst, I’m always mindful of the risk that we may treat ambiguities in the interpretation of Shakespeare as an ink-blot, onto which we unwittingly project our own preconceptions and proclivities.

 

Richard Waugaman

Light duty for an older actor?

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.022  Monday, 23 January 2012

 

From:         Robert Projansky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 22, 2012 4:37:35 PM EST

Subject:     Light duty for an older actor?

 

It occurred to me some years ago while watching a performance of Macbeth, that a number of Shakespeare’s plays have an older character (or a character who can reasonably be played by and as an old man) in Act I who then disappears from the play, perhaps making a nominal appearance at or near the end of the show. For example: 

 

Macbeth:           Duncan

Hamlet:             Ghost

R&J:                 Montague

Othello:             Brabantio

AYLI:                Adam

MND:                Egeus

TN:                   Captain

C of E:              Merchant

Tempest:          Master, Bos’n

Cymbeline:       The two exposition Gentlemen who open the play

Richard II:        John of Gaunt

Henry IV 2:       Lord Bardolph

Henry V:          Archbishop of Canterbury

 

Some of these roles are light duty indeed -- the Master in The Tempest has only sixteen words -- but others have some heavy lifting. Gaunt has three or four scenes, gets himself all worked up and has a fierce confrontation with Richard before going offstage to die. The Archbishop of Canterbury has a long comic monologue that runs almost five minutes. And of course there’s the Ghost. But they all had lots of dressing room time (if they’re not doubling) before they were needed for their (possible) late appearance, curtain call and the dance.

 

Can it be that Shakespeare, at least for some of these characters, was writing roles for some arthritic older actor yet simultaneously cutting him considerable (and considerate) slack? Maybe a company member? Maybe himself? I know that tradition has it that Shakespeare played Adam and the Ghost, both of them early outs. Some of these roles are quite juicy, and it’s very easy to imagine Shakespeare writing them for himself.

 

Does the membership have any candidates? Or a better theory? Or have I found one more Secretly Encoded Key to the Universe that isn’t there at all?

 

Best to all,

Bob Projansky

Sleep No More

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.021  Monday, 23 January 2012

 

From:         Patrick Dolan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 21, 2012 12:58:18 PM EST

Subject:     SHAKSPER Discussion

 

I’ll bite on the question about performances. My wife and I saw “Sleep No More,” in New York last week, and I’m still trying to work my way through my response. As someone with a scholarly/pedagogical interest in Shakespeare, and who loves Macbeth in particular, I started with “This isn’t Shakespeare.” Which seems obvious.

 

But I kept thinking of other performances of Macbeth that are Shakespeare, especially Polanski’s, as I wandered through the scenes. So I think the questions that I’m chewing on at the moment are, “What does this piece say about Shakespeare, theatre and Macbeth? How does it say it? Do I agree?”

 

If anyone on the list has seen this production (which is worth your time, IMO), I’d be interested in hearing responses.

 

Cheers,

Pat Dolan

University of Iowa

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Search

Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.