The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0727  Tuesday, 30 October 2007

From:		Peter Holland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Sunday, 28 Oct 2007 12:22:33 -0400
Subject: 18.0690 Pulpit in Julius Caesar
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0690 Pulpit in Julius Caesar

It's a brave scholar who will venture to disagree with Alan Dessen over 
stage directions but here goes.

Dessen suggests that "in fictional directions a dramatist sometimes 
slips into a narrative, descriptive style seemingly more suited to a 
reader facing a page than an actor on the stage so as to conjure up a 
vivid image more appropriate to a cinematic scene than an onstage effect 
at the Globe" and gives as his first example: "the Romans are beat back 
to their Trenches" (*Coriolanus*, 523, 1.4.29). But Charles Edelman 
argued, in *Shakespeare's Military Language: A Dictionary* (London: 
Athlone Press, 2000), very convincingly, that early modern trenches were 
not necessarily excavations but could also be a barricade or parapet 
with no excavation. At the sack of Antwerp in 1576, Gascoigne records 
(The Spoil of Antwerp (1576), quoted Edelman) the citizens 'brought them 
sackes of wooll and other sutch provision.And placing the same at 
thendes of five streets.entrenched under them with such expedition that 
in lesse than five howers these streetes endes, were all reasonably well 
fortified..It was a straunge thing to se.how soone many hands had 
dispatched a very great peece of worke: for beefore midnight they had 
made the trenches as highe as the length of a pike.' Note that, though 
they 'entrenched under' the woolsacks, the citizens' trenches were as 
'high', not as 'deep' as a pike. Sir Roger Williams (quoted Edelman) 
even suggests that artillery might be moved with 'trenches on wheels, 
pushed on with strong poles with the force of men, the which may bee 
made of the proofe of a field peece: with those and with wooll sackes, 
gabions [cylindrical wicker baskets], and sand bagges, faggots & such 
devises.they will soone place their batterie.'

If trenches could be made with sacks of wool or sand-bags or even 
wheeled on (none of which are covered by OED's entry for the word), then 
the trenches in Coriolanus need not be a fictional image but could be an 
onstage reality on the early modern stage.

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