The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1857  Thursday, 10 November 2005

From: 		Sandra Sparks <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 10 Nov 2005 13:05:57 -0500
Subject: 16.1843 The Rude Mechanicals
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1843 The Rude Mechanicals

Gabriel Egan wrote:

 >It is noticeable, however, that the onstage audiences of the inset plays
 >in MND and HAM are aristocratic and boorish, endlessly interrupting and
 >making lame jokes. Shakespeare shows the toffs, not the plebs,
 >exhibiting the failings Sparks notes.

I received private e-mail on this as well. One of the problems I have 
with modern scholars is that they cannot seem to break away from looking 
at things with a modern scholar's eye. There is no reason to treat 
audiences of WS's time as anything more or less than what they were, all 
of them: people who came to see and be seen. It didn't matter whether 
they were rich or poor, common or aristocratic: some were noisy, some 
were quiet, most in between: noisy when bored or irritated or 
distracted, quiet when interested. It is not always that different 
today, in a lot of public venues. Lord knows I have seen firsthand it is 
not always true inside a Shakespearean theater, even now, and you cannot 
guess who will be rude just by their income or class!

The fact that Elizabethans were able to see WS's work firsthand does not 
make a single one of them more important or more full of virtue - or as 
a friend of mine likes to say, "people of taste and discretion-" than 
any other audience, any more than most people actually thought that 
Shakespeare's work was all that important at the time. He may have laid 
the foundation of greatness with his work, but it is later interest that 
built the greatness. That interest that has built in the centuries since 
his death is amazing. It has come up with fantastic and broad ideas of 
what is buried within the work and what the work meant and why he wrote 
something to a point of picking atoms - something I am quite sure never 
ever occurred to the man when he first wrote the works.

And, in regards to WS writing of the repetition of the two plays within 
the plays, I would say he must have had an excellent reason to do that, 
one everyone who saw the play would understand, just from a point of 
nostalgia for the way, I feel, theater used to be.


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