The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0724  Monday, 10 April 2000.

From:           Barrett Fisher <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 5 Apr 2000 14:18:51 -0500
Subject:        Walking Out of a Play

>>I don't walk out on bad sets and costumes.  I walk out on bad acting and
>>direction.  The best community theater I have seen pales when compared
>>to the worst regional theater I have seen, and, again in my experience,
>>the quality of theater is usually greater on Broadway and the West End
>>than in the regions.  Having said that, I want to give credit to those
>>who work so hard to put on a show, even a bad show.  I actually feel
>>guilty for walking out lest I hurt their feelings.  On the other hand, I
>>consider it a great sin to allow yourself to be bored, and my greater
>>responsibility is to myself.

How about this Shakespearean standard for deciding whether or not to
walk out on a production: when Hippolyta (clearly speaking for the
others in the onstage audience) is bored by the mechanicals' performance
("I am aweary of this moon.  Would he would change!"), she is lessoned
by Theseus, who agrees with her assessment of their theatrical
experience but not her proposed action: "It appears, by his small light
of discretion, that he is in the wane; but yet, in courtesy, in all
reason, we must stay the time."

Note thar this perspective does not prevent Theseus from being a rather
severe critic at the end of the play: "Marry, if he that had writ it had
played Pyramus and hanged himself in Thisbe's garter, it would have been
a fine tragedy."  But he follows his own principle in responding to this
entertainment: "For never anything can be amiss/When simpleness and duty
tender it."

I realize, of course, that Theseus regards the play more as an act of
homage and respect from sincere but unskilled subjects than as a genuine
instance of theater.  Nonetheless, I like the idea (perhaps an outmoded
Medieval notion in our egalitarian age) of the audience as bound by
"courtesy" to the actors.  However, even in the onstage production,
Pyramus/Bottom commends Snout/Wall for being "courteous"!

Barrett Fisher
Bethel College (MN)

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