A Word about Pre-Formatting

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0461  Thursday, 15 November 2012

 

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

Date:         Thursday, November 15, 2012

Subject:     A Word about Pre-Formatting

 

Dear SHAKSPER Subscribers,

 

Thanks to all the contributors in the “Play Length” thread; it is proving, except for my smart aleck remarks, to be an interesting discussion. (NB: I really cannot stand for a long time, and I was not trying to impose my view of the present with that of Elizabethans and Jacobeans: I was trying to be funny.) 

 

I would like to pause for a note about pre-formatting on the new platform I am using for SHAKSPER and for mounting and preparing postings for digests. 

 

Under the old system (1990 to April-May 2011), I could only use the basic ASCII character set. Now, using Joomla, I can provide posting with most symbols (like £), characters [in English or in other languages if appropriate, including italic, bold, underlining], and other formatting. 

 

Part of my job in preparing postings under LISTSERV© (old system) was to make sure that I was distributing posts using only the basic ASCII characters. With Joomla (new system), I find myself including italics, bolding, and other formatting features. However, I do try to preserve formatting, as well as spelling (such as formating, colour, favour, labour, neighbor, and generalise) and punctuation (Dr) from those using British conventions, and I DO use the “Oxford/Cambridge” comma in a series. (I learned most of what I know about formatting, punctuation, and usage from “Strunk and White” and the EDITOR program.)

 

If your e-mail client can provide italics, bolding, underling please do so and save me some time. If you e-mail client does not allow formatting options, there are several other pre-formatting tasks you can do to ease my load. 

 

If you want to use italics, for example, you can use the underscoring convention: _italic_ . If you wish to have bold, you can do this: *bold* . I can easily convert these.

 

Other formatting options I employ are “smart quotation marks” rather then "straight quotation marks"; superscripts (1st) rather than ordinals (1st); fraction characters (½) rather than straight factions (1/2); symbol characters (—) rather than symbols (--); and I try to provide ‘live’ hyperlinks http://shaksper.net rather than shaksper.net. I keep paragraphs single-spaced and flush with the left margin with a space between paragraphs rather than using indentation. I also word-wrap paragraphs rather than have hard returns at the end of each line.

 

Finally, from the Netiquette page:

  • If your name does not appear in the FROM line or does not appear correctly (i.e., account is in the name of a spouse, partner, companion, alias, etc.), sign your name at the bottom so that I can cut and paste it next to your e-mail address. You may include your title, academic affiliation, geographical location, or similar information, but signatures should be kept to a maximum of three lines.
  • Do not copy and re-send the message to which you are replying or automatically include the entire original post or digest. Quote, paraphrase, copy and paste, or cite your correspondent by name; give as much of the context as you can to clarify the nature of your reply.
  • If you “cut and paste” information from another Internet or electronic source, which often results in irregularly spaced lines of text, then pre-format that text to be sure that the information is word wrapped and does not require me to spend extra time re-formatting the text for distribution.
  • Avoid the temptation of simply cutting and pasting entire online articles and reviews and forwarding them directly to the list. Posters should judiciously quote and summarize and then provide the URL.

 

These little steps on your part will enable me to provide professionally looking digests for you and for the web site, which currently gets 150 to 300 visits a day, usually from new visitors to the site.

 

One other thing I would like to remind you of is that I can now also, on occasion, include attachments for distribution. This ability is particularly useful when you are sending in an announcement with a flyer. Announcements are made available on the web site under the ANNOUNCEMENTS tab as well as under the CURRENT POSTINGS tab.

 

I deeply appreciate the support I receive from subscribers and wish everyone well during this New Year’s celebration in many parts of the world.

 

Hardy

 

Play Length

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0461  Thursday, 15 November 2012

 

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

     Date:         November 14, 2012 4:57:50 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Play Length 

 

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

     Date:         November 15, 2012 9:46:03 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Play Length 

 

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

     Date:         November 15, 2012 11:10:15 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: Play Length 

 

 

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

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

Date:         November 14, 2012 4:57:50 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Play Length

 

John Drakakis muses, “Are we not in danger of allowing our own heavily sanitised assumptions of playgoing (and reading) to colour our sense of what might well have been a much more dangerous and protracted experience for Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences at the public theatres? It might also be worth reminding ourselves that ‘presentism’ isn’t simply a case of reading the past through the rosy-coloured spectacles of the present. It is, surely, a question of separating out our own perspectives from a past whose contours may well have been radically different from our own, and acknowledging that difference.”

 

I think John is correct, at least about our bringing 20th-21st century assumptions to the question. I agree with Larry Weiss’s point about 4 hours including pre- and post-play entertainment, and suspect, having just had the most amazingly wonderful Shakespeare experience of my life in Staunton VA, that many of the audience would arrive during the on-going music, juggling, etc. that preceded the actual play, so that not all of them would be standing for the full 4 hours.

 

Frankly, I would have stood, plantar fasciitis and all, for 4 hours to watch the American Shakespeare Center Company perform! Though I was happy enough to sit . . . I did wish the plays were longer!

 

Mari Bonomi, who’s already planning her next visit to Staunton. 

 

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

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

Date:         November 15, 2012 9:46:03 AM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Play Length

 

Dom Saliani wrote:

 

> Even in his time, it was recognized that to get 

> Shakespeare, his words had to be read. <snip>

>

> Thomas Nashe said as much - much earlier: “yet 

> English Seneca, read by candle light, yields many 

> good sentences, as ‘blood is a beggar,’ and so
> forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning,
> he will afford you whole Hamlets; I should say 

> whole handfuls of tragical speeches.”

>

> Notice he talks about reading English Seneca 

> (Shakespeare) by candle light and NOT seeing the

> play at a theatre.

 

In his preface to Menaphon, Nashe is not dispensing literary advice or praise, and his “English Seneca” is not a reference to Shakespeare. He is ridiculing the shallow scholarship of popular playwrights of revenge tragedies “that could scarcelie latinize their neckeverse if they should have neede” by pointing out their dependence on Seneca His Tenne Tragedies. Translated into Englysh (1581), a collection of ten Latin plays then ascribed to the Roman dramatist Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65). 

 

Nashe’s mention of Hamlet is usually taken to refer to an early version written by Thomas Kyd, with “read by candle light” being a reference to Kyd’s mistranslation of Tasso’s “ad lumina” (till dawn) as “by candlelight”, and “bloud is a beggar” (not found in Seneca) as probably a line from the now-lost Hamlet. The phrase “if you intreate him faire in a frostie morning” alludes to boththe weather in the first act (indicated in the extant version by “tis bitter cold”; “The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold”; “It is nipping and an eager air.”) and the ghost whom Horatio and Hamlet entreat. Clearly the “him” who is being entreated is the long-dead Roman playwright.

 

Tom Reedy

 

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

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

Date:         November 15, 2012 11:10:15 AM EST

Subject:     Re: Play Length

 

Dom Saliani wrote

 

>We need to remember that plays did not appear in

>print until they had lost their commercial viability

>on the live stage.

 

And Gabriel Egan replied:

 

>I’d be very interested to hear of evidence in support 

>of this statement.

 

There is none. I’ve long wondered why anyone would think the proposition credible: we’d have to imagine stationers—professionals primarily interested in investing in material likely to sell quickly and in large numbers—who would willingly risk their money on texts that had evidently lost their popular appeal, at least on stage. I don’t think that makes much sense, and to the extent that we can assess the connection between stage success and print, there is little evidence that such a business model existed.

 

Henslowe’s diary is pretty much our only reliable source of information about plays’ commercial success, and comparing the figures in the diary to a list of titles entered into the Stationers’ Register shows that virtually all plays purchased by stationers were successful on stage, usually up to and often after the date of entry into the Register (or the date of publication).

 

That said, it’s also true that stage popularity did not always translate into print popularity, nor did success in print clearly reflect continued popularity in the theatre. The Spanish Tragedy is one case in point: it was one of the best-selling plays of the age in print, but faded rapidly on stage in the mid-1590s. And Marlowe’s drama played almost no role in the Admiral’s Men’s repertory after 1594—and did poorly when it was staged.

 

Holger Schott Syme

Associate Professor of English

University of Toronto

Play Length

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0459  Wednesday, 14 November 2012

 

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

     Date:         November 13, 2012 6:29:20 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: Play Length 

 

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

     Date:         November 14, 2012 5:20:50 AM EST

     Subject:     RE: Play Length 

 

 

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

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

Date:         November 13, 2012 6:29:20 PM EST

Subject:     Re: Play Length

 

Dom Saliani wrote

 

> We need to remember that plays did not appear in

> print until they had lost their commercial viability

> on the live stage.

 

I’d be very interested to hear of evidence in support of this statement. Against it, I’d place the title-page of George Wilkins’s The Miseries of Enforced Marriage (1607) which says “As it is now playd by his Maiesties Seruants”. And the same year, the title-page of John Day, William Rowley and George Wilkins’s The Travels of the Three English Brothers claimed to represent the play “As it is now play’d by her MAIESTIES Seruants”.  These sound like publications exploiting the ongoing commercial viability of the performed versions.

 

More generally we have records of lucrative performances of plays that had already been printed. On 28 August 1594 the take for a performance of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamberlaine (published in 1590) was 3 pounds 11 shillings while Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta (still unpublished) took less than a third of that five days later. Indeed, the take for Tamberlaine is higher than that of almost all the plays in the season. See R. A. Foakes’s edition of Henslowe’s Diary pp. 23-24.

 

Gabriel Egan

 

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

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

Date:         November 14, 2012 5:20:50 AM EST

Subject:     RE: Play Length

 

I agree with Hardy and Dom Saliani that standing to watch a play for 4 hours or so would be uncomfortable. The assumption that contributors to this discussion seem to have made is that since ‘we’ focus exclusively on ‘the play’ and on nothing else, whether in the study or in the theatre, that Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences did too.  Agreed that there are references to playtexts that have been shortened for performance, and the assumption is that the manuscript version was simply ‘too long’. 

 

When ‘we’ attend theatre performances for the most part we sit in the dark, and we are irritated by the rustle of sweet-papers, coughing, or any other minor distraction.  In short we expect the theatrical experience to mirror in terms of concentration the process of reading.  But what if distractions were to be built into the experience: ushers/usherettes selling ice-cream during the performance, the odd pick-pocket sidling up to us, a prostitute or two touting their wares, nut-sellers etc.  And then there is the odour of unwashed bodies.

 

North American audiences have no problem sitting at a football stadium for periods of up to 4 hours, and frequently crowds at professional wrestling events stand for that amount of time, and appear to welcome the various distractions that Hulk Hogan or Vincent McMahon et al devise. In the Elizabethan public theatre the play proceeded among a whole range of distractions, and if the evidence of Jacobean plays like ‘A Mad World My Masters’ or ‘The Knight of The Burning Pestle’ are anything to go by the boundaries between the play and the audience could be dissolved in a number of creative ways. 

 

Are we not in danger of allowing our own heavily sanitised assumptions of playgoing (and reading) to colour our sense of what might well have been a much more dangerous and protracted experience for Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences at the public theatres? It might also be worth reminding ourselves that ‘presentism’ isn’t simply a case of reading the past through the rosy-coloured spectacles of the present. It is, surely, a question of separating out our own perspectives from a past whose contours may well have been radically different from our own, and acknowledging that difference.

 

Cheers

John Drakakis 

Job Announcement

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0458  Wednesday, 14 November 2012

 

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

Date:         November 14, 2012 10:20:28 AM EST

Subject:     Job Announcement

 

Dear SHAKSPEReans:

 

My college is advertising a tenure-line position for someone whose primary expertise is Shakespeare.  I’m sharing the main portion of the job description below, and will only add that we’re a department who enjoy and respect each other, have lively discussions of pedagogy, share our scholarly work in progress, and teach relatively bright earnest students.

 

Here’s the position (also accessible through the dean’s office portion of the college website: http://www.luther.edu/academics/dean/openings/):

 

QUALIFICATIONS: Ph.D. by September 1, 2013. Specialization in Shakespeare, with secondary strengths in one or more of the following: writing, drama/theater, other British literature, secondary education. The ability to teach a first-year interdisciplinary course in reading, writing and critical thinking is also required. The successful candidate should demonstrate a commitment to teaching excellence in a private liberal arts setting and to maintaining an active scholarly agenda. 

 

RESPONSIBILITIES: Teaching responsibilities will include courses on Shakespeare, early modern literature, other courses depending on the secondary strengths, and one section each semester of Paideia I (the college’s two-semester required common, writing-intensive introduction to the liberal arts). Full-time teaching load is six courses spread over the fall and spring semesters and a January term. Additional duties include advising, meeting with prospective students, and committee work.

 

Please let me know if you have questions.

 

Kate Narveson

Assoc. Prof. of English

Luther College

700 College Dr.

Decorah, IA  52101

(563) 387-1593

Play Length

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0457  Tuesday, 13 November 2012

 

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

Date:         November 12, 2012 5:44:37 PM EST

Subject:     Play Length

 

I stand with Hardy when he admits that he “cannot stand for a four hour play (or three or two or one, for that matter).” I can’t either.

And I wonder if Shakespeare actually dared to “split the ears of the groundlings, who, for the most part, are capable of nothing, but inexplicable dumb shows, and noise” with three and four hour performances.

 

I love theatre but I often find it difficult to SIT through performances some evenings in my comfortable seat in an indoor theatre protected from the elements. I cannot imagine an audience comprised mostly of groundlings (also referred to as “stinklings”) standing in the hot London summer sun for more than three hours. My imagination or credulity does not extend that far.

 

Especially when there is ample contemporary evidence that it was a relatively common practice then (as it is now) to shorten plays to an endurable length AND to “print more than was presented.”

 

In Richard Brome’s introductory material of The Antipodes, we find this declaration: “Courteous Reader: you shall find in this book more than was presented upon the stage, and left out of the presentation for superfluous length . . . ”

 

On the title page of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (1623), it is advertised that the quarto contains: “The perfect and exact Coppy with diverse things printed, that the length of the play would not beare in the Presentment.”

 

In the preface to the 5th Quarto Hamlet (1637) there is a gratuitous comment that is quite relevant to this discussion: “The play being too long to be conveniently Acted, such places as might be least prejudicial to the Plot or Sense, are left out upon the Stage.”

 

Now why would the publisher feel it necessary to include this statement?

 

The Bard’s plays also contain evidence that many audience members would often agree with Polonius’ verdict that “This is too long.”

 

We are all aware, of course, of the unambiguous (in my mind) reference to the length of plays in Romeo and Juliet

 

“The fearful passage of their death-marked love, . . . 

 Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage”

         

The prologue in Henry VIII echoes this with an oblique reference to the tolerance level of audiences:

 

Those that come to see

Only a show or two, and so agree
 

The play may pass, if they be still and willing,

I'll undertake may see away their shilling

Richly in two short hours.

 

We need to remember that plays did not appear in print until they had lost their commercial viability on the live stage.

What this practice presented was the opportunity for playwrights who were to some (or to a great) extent interested in posterity, a chance to “augment and enlarge” their texts for audiences more sophisticated than those who were capable of only appreciating “inexplicable dumb shows, and noise.”

 

Therefore, I think the real issue here is not whether the printed plays were longer than the later printed texts.

 

It is obvious that they were

          and they are

                    and they always will be. (pace Kenneth Branagh)

 

The real issue is who did Shakespeare write for?

 

Did he write for the groundlings or for the “graver” sort who relished a speech that “was never acted, or if it was, not above once – for the play … pleased not the million. ‘Twas caviare for the general.”

 

I think that we have too oft repeated the oversimplified statement that Shakespeare wrote to be seen on the stage and not to be read. This may be true but it is not the whole story.

 

He also wrote for posterity. Check out the sonnets for evidence that he was well aware that “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments” would “outlive [his] powerful rhyme[s].

 

Even in his time, it was recognized that to get Shakespeare, his words had to be read. Heminge and Condell said as much in their prefatory material to the First Folio: “Read him, therefore; and again, and again: And if then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him.”

           

Thomas Nashe said as much - much earlier: “yet English Seneca, read by candle light, yields many good sentences, as ‘blood is a beggar,’ and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets; I should say whole handfuls of tragical speeches.”

 

Notice he talks about reading English Seneca (Shakespeare) by candle light and NOT seeing the play at a theatre.

 

Dom Saliani

Editor of the ITP Global Shakespeare Series

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