Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0239.  Thursday, 17 March 1994.
From:           James McKenna <MCKENNJI@UCBEH>
Date:           Wednesday, 16 Mar 1994 09:05:30 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Ambiguity?
In William Russel Mayes's recent posting, he mentions that Edmund's "reform"
and the end of LEAR is deliberately ambiguous.  Thinking textually, I don't
have a problem with this belief, but lately (probably thanks to Steve Urkowitz)
I've become more inclined to return to my more callow wonderings about what
really went on at the Globe.  It occurs to me that, with the playwright in
residence, there would be little opportunity for ambiguity; the players could
simply ask Will.
This begins to create a split between the text as a physical document and the
text as the acted play.  If we are going to speak about the physical text, I
think we need to acknowledge that lacunae and ambiguities may be the result of
stage business firmly decided upon in the playwright's mind. That is, the plays
aren't born ambiguous but acquire ambiguity as time passes.
Has anyone worked on a production of a modern play with the playwright around
to direct?  Tell me, am I off the beam entirely? partly?
Can this idea square with my idea of last week, that the plays have no fixed
author but are the product of constant rewriting?  I think so.  Each production
had to make sense to a new audience and in a new context, and would do so with
a combination of textual revision and acting.  Until the play is revived by new
actors or by old ones with faulty memories, there is no need for ambiguity in
our thinking about it.
All that to say that I'm not sure we can talk about deliberate ambiguity unless
we're talking about ambiguity introduced for political reasons.  "Ahhh," you
say, "but it's ALL for political reasons . . . ."  Are we getting anywhere?
James McKenna
University of Cincinnati
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