Whipping a gig

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.097  Thursday, 8 March 2012

 

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

Date:         March 7, 2012 9:16:49 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Gig

 

>S.v. “whipping-top” the OED gives: “A toy of various shapes 

>(cylindrical, obconic, etc.), but always of circular section, with 

>a point on which it is made to spin, usually by the sudden 

>pulling of a string wound round it; the common whip-[top] or 

>whipping-top is kept spinning by lashing it with a whip.”

  

Strange.  Every spinning top I have ever seen is more or less conical, surely not cylindrical; otherwise it would not have a point on which it could spin.  And, as for whether or not the section is circular, doesn't that depend on the angle of the intersecting plane.

 

Laertes, the Superior Fencer?

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.096  Thursday, 8 March 2012

 

[1] From:        Paul Barry <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 7, 2012 4:39:43 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Laertes

 

[2] From:        Paul Barry <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 7, 2012 4:39:43 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Laertes

 

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

     Date:         March 7, 2012 9:16:49 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Laertes

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 7, 2012 4:39:43 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Laertes

 

A son of a king would have the best fencing teachers in the realm. German universities were famous for fencing. Hamlet and Laertes are evenly matched.  Hamlet gets the early advantage, and Laertes cheats.

 

Paul

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 7, 2012 4:52:43 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Laertes

 

Laertes has one line to substantiate this theory: “Yet it is almost against my conscience.”  Otherwise, they’re too busy fencing to add much nuance.

 

Paul

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 7, 2012 9:16:49 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Laertes

 

>Issac Asimov.  He wrote that Laertes, playing against his 

>conscience during the match, couldn’t hit Hamlet and had 

>to cheat. When Hamlet gets the unbated weapon, Laertes 

>knows the weapon is poisoned and therefore is fighting 

>for his life.

>

>I’m going from memory, and it has been some time.  It’s 

>worth a read. Find this in Asimov’s book on Shakespeare, 

>in the chapter on Hamlet.

 

Asimov says nothing like this in my copy.  2 Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare 144-45 (Doubleday 1970).

 

Rare Titles—The American Shakespeare Center, Staunton VA

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.095  Thursday, 8 March 2012

 

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

Date:         Wednesday, Mar 7, 2012 10:28 pm

Subject:     Rare Titles—The American Shakespeare Center, Staunton VA

 

Some fan notes about the American Shakespeare Center.

 

I love going there!  The brilliant actors make the scripts fly. The company creates an intense array of experiences that add up to memorable dramatic life.  Led by Ralph Alan Cohen and Jim Warren, this gang has cracked the code to make those life-potential scripts blossom into full-blown critters.  As we said in the Bronx, “ya gotta see ‘em to believe ‘em.”

 

Coming up this month, the “Ren Season” has the company working without a director; these experienced players assemble their productions much as the craftsmen/actors of Shakespeare’s company did it. They learn their lines (often working from actors’ sides only) before group rehearsals, during which they work out the things they can’t do alone, like fights, crowd scenes, music, and special effects.  The performances feel sometimes like sporting events where even the players aren’t quite sure what will happen next but are delighted with what comes along.

 

These people are fine, funny, intense, beyond belief dedicated.  Skillful. They’ve worked together on scores of plays, some for almost a decade in the company.  Think “world-class string quartet” or a family of flying trapeze artists.

 

If you haven’t been in the Blackfriars Playhouse you’re missing another treat.  Acoustically it’s like sitting inside a cello; visually it’s a return to the thrilling days of yesteryear but with local “American spare” rather than ornamented surfaces. And the pleasure of sitting on a stool onstage sharing the air with these players . . . . wheeeee!

 

And you can get to see three or four or five of these masterfully produced plays in a single weekend. On the weekend of March 15th, for example, you can see Philaster on Thursday night, Dido on Friday, It’s a Mad World, My Masters and Richard III on Saturday, and Much Ado on Sunday, and maybe still catch a late plane home on Sunday evening. On a tight time-budget I’ll fly down on Friday 23 March for Mad World, then catch Philaster and Dido on Saturday, Richard III on Sunday, and then take a sunrise flight out of Charlottesville at 5:15 am Monday getting out to the West Coast by noontime.  

 

Other passionate scholars show up for these weekends at the end of March. And then there’s Tom Berger, and Ralph Alan Cohen, and Paul Menzer, all in residence.  And the town has squadrons of Paul Menzer’s fabulous grad students in the Mary Baldwin College  MFA / M Litt programs throwing themselves into performance-related projects.   

 

Getting to Staunton VA is pretty easy. Coming down from Maine, I’ve usually flown into Charlottesville VA and had a forty-minute rentacar ride into Staunton, or I’ve flown into Richmond VA and a longer ride through beautiful countryside.  A few times I chose one or another of the DC airports and had a longer drive out to the Shenandoah Valley and Interstate 81.  (And it’s possible to fly into the local Shenandoah Valley airport right near Staunton, but I’ve not been where convenient connections could get me there.)

 

Staunton has classy hotels and B&Bs within a couple hundred yards of the theater, offering ticket and room packages. And the town boasts a growing assortment of some of the best restaurants I’ve found anywhere.  Instead of the in-town hotels, there are also very inexpensive chain motels out by the Interstate, maybe three miles away, with much lower nightly rates. If you have some extra days, you can try visiting Jefferson’s Monticello, the University of Virginia, the Skyline Drive, the Museum of the Frontier (an assembled collection of early structures with live blacksmiths and farmers attached). Or just sit in the Mary Baldwin College Library looking out its stately Palladian windows over the mountain ranges stretching to the horizon.

 

My first visit was in 2007, when I retired. Had I known how easy it is to get there and to inhale three or four or five shows in just a few days, I’d have been there much earlier.  

 

In my experience at other primarily Shakespearean production venues, I’ve had delightful and moving times.  Stratford Ontario in the 1960s, for example, forever shaped what I hope to feel in a playhouse.  But neither Stratford in Canada, nor the RSC in England, nor the National in London, nor the Public Theater in New York, nor the many regional companies I trek to, consistently give out the raw pleasure of dramatic engagement I find at Staunton’s American Shakespeare Center, especially in their Ren Season productions.  

 

Ever, 

Steve Ur-gush-owitz

Emeritus, English and Theater

City College of New York

Whipping a gig

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.094  Wednesday, 7 March 2012

 

[1] From:        Steve Urkowitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 6, 2012 6:08:37 PM EST

     Subject:     gig 

 

[2] From:        Scot Zarela <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 7, 2012 2:53:43 PM EST

     Subject:     a gig; whipping a gig 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 6, 2012 6:08:37 PM EST

Subject:     gig

 

Whipping gigs—okay.  In Breughel’s “Children’s Games” (1560) you can see images of kids spinning tops—whirligigs—by cleverly lashing them with whips to keep them going round.  

 

Edward Snow has a delightful book, Inside Breughel: the Play of Images in Children’s Games. (1997).  His Figure 4 on page 7 shows five boys spinning tops, arranged on either side of a column.  The detail is analyzed further on 114-18.   . . .  the top spinners on the right are caught at the peak of their gestures by the instant of representation; but the hand of the boy on the left seems to pause of its own accord.  He appears to eye his top from a greater distance than the strictly pragmatic arm’s length that separates the boys on the right from theirs.  The net effect is a space of measured reflection in which the boy ‘administers’ the lashing of his top and at the same time stands back and observes the effect of his blows. We can read his attitude as either brutality or detached curiosity—indeed, it is the strange affectless combination of the two that makes the image so unsettling” (115).  Breughel lays out a proto-Angelo four decades prior to Shakespeare’s. 

 

Snow’s book is a real treasure, a dramatic reading of the ways that Breughel lays dynamic meanings into his picture.  After reading it, I’ve learned to look more closely at those packed images Breughel leads us into.

 

Ever,

Steve Urtopowitz

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 7, 2012 2:53:43 PM EST

Subject:     a gig; whipping a gig

 

No obscurity, surely? I think Shakespeare would have called it an “equivocation” to follow up on “whipping hypocrisy” (to punish it) with “whipping a gig” (to make it go). Abigail Quart easily found the meaning of “gig” as a child’s toy, a spinning top. This is gig’s first meaning in the Oxford English Dictionary: “I. Something that spins. 1. A whipping-top. (Obs.)”

 

S.v. “whipping-top” the OED gives: “A toy of various shapes (cylindrical, obconic, etc.), but always of circular section, with a point on which it is made to spin, usually by the sudden pulling of a string wound round it; the common whip-[top] or whipping-top is kept spinning by lashing it with a whip.”

 

The cylindrical section and the point at one end, together make its resemblance to a [cuckold’s]-horn: so the comment that someone foolishly unconcerned about having such a horn might take it off and play with it as a toy.

 

Here’s a video of various tops in action, starting with a whipping-top:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ-VFMymEiE

 

Laertes, the Superior Fencer?

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.093  Wednesday, 7 March 2012

 

[1] From:        Conrad Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 6, 2012 2:08:09 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: Laertes, the Superior Fencer?

 

[2] From:        Nick Ranson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 6, 2012 8:00:31 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Laertes

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 6, 2012 2:08:09 PM EST

Subject:     Re: Laertes, the Superior Fencer? 

 

Andrew Wilson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> writes,

 

>Has anyone here seen a production or read an interpretation of 

>Hamlet that depicts Laertes as the clearly superior swordsman 

>in the final scene, with the reason for Hamlet’s success in the 

>first three bouts being that Laertes, knowing his sword is 

>unbated and envenomed, can’t quite bring himself to stab 

>Hamlet?

 

Issac Asimov.  He wrote that Laertes, playing against his conscience during the match, couldn’t hit Hamlet and had to cheat. When Hamlet gets the unbated weapon, Laertes knows the weapon is poisoned and therefore is fighting for his life.

 

I’m going from memory, and it has been some time.  It’s worth a read. Find this in Asimov’s book on Shakespeare, in the chapter on Hamlet.

 

Conrad

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 6, 2012 8:00:31 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Laertes

 

Andrew: we know that Laertes is considered the superior swordsman by the odds laid on him (5.2.126-127 Oxf. text) 12 to 9; and by Hamlet’s own acknowledgement: “I shall win at the odds (157).” And was the foil unbated from the start—or did Laertes slip it off after a pass or two? We cannot have the duel end too quickly either, can we? so any kind of stage business is invited by the openness of the text here, I think. As it might have been in the very earliest productions in whatever milieu the company performed.  

 

Nick Ranson.

 

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