Date: August 31, 2018 at 12:09:43 PM EDT
Subject: From TLS - 'These great ones'
These great ones:
The ‘Moor of Venice’, the devil and the mad king: André Holland, Mark Rylance and Ian McKellen
By Michael Caines
August 8, 2018
Shakespeare’s Globe, until October 13
Duke of York’s Theatre, until November 3
Hamlet versus King Lear: that was formerly the question. Which is the greater play – the greatest play of all, if it comes to that? In full scholarly flight, R. A. Foakes used that question, in a book published in 1993, to reflect on exactly what people mean when they talk about the “greatness” of these great ones, the tragedy of the mad prince and the tragedy of the mad king, as well as how such estimations have changed over time, and what it means for modern literary criticism. Why Hamlet for Ernest Jones and King Lear for Emrys Jones? These are representatives of different historical periods, true, but in other respects, and perhaps more than Foakes acknowledged, Hamlet’s pre-eminence and Lear’s have overlapped. As Jonathan Bate put it in the TLS, in response to Foakes’s book, maybe the “greatness” of these plays “resides in their very capacity to elicit feeling and eloquence in such a range of readers, actors and playgoers”.
Of course, year on year, readers, actors and playgoers of Shakespeare are free to make any comparison they like between any plays in the canon. So if you are to play the potentially ridiculous parlour game at all, why not make it, say, Othello versus Lear?
After all, perhaps these two tragedies do offer a more compelling contest than the usual one. Hamlet and Lear both sprawl; Othello, as the current production at Shakespeare’s Globe demonstrates, is wound with a farcical tightness. Hamlet and Lear open on to sterile promontories and blasted heaths; Othello can be, despite its political and military trappings, “embarrassingly domestic” (in Dympna Callaghan’s phrase), since it involves a handful of people, including two closely connected couples, and that notorious dropping of a handkerchief (hence Thomas Rymer’s sneering gloss on the moral of the story that “all good Wives . . . look well to their Linnen”). Hamlet and Lear speak of noble minds overthrown; who is this “Moor of Venice” (as Othello never calls himself) to be taken in by his own ensign?
This exaggerated way of weighing one play against another perhaps only exposes the absurdity of the exercise, and splitting, that fabled critical exercise of old, tends to obscure the necessity of its dour counterpart: lumping. For there are, to take only a couple of examples, elements of both Hamlet and Othello in King Lear: if you think of Edgar as a duped, maddened avenger, that is, who must stay true to his father and catch his antagonist at the right moment; and of Edgar’s father, the Earl of Gloucester, as a fairly decent man easily duped by a social inferior whom he trusts. And thinking along these lines only leads to further lumpen insights: that the rain it raineth every day, for example, which universal truth is revealed by both the Fool in Lear and, more popularly and at greater length, Feste in Twelfth Night, a mere comedy. And in turn, contra the First Folio, the generic walls start to crumble. For who plays Twelfth Night strictly for laughs, or thinks of Measure for Measure as a comedy except in name only?
[ . . . ]
As if the point needed driving home, the Globe Othello and the King Lear now playing across the River Thames, at the Duke of York’s Theatre, are Shakespearean tragedies that are also thoroughly laughable. Mark Rylance’s Iago is a wonder of deadpan deceit: he stumbles and stutters through his dupery as if he were helplessly, convincingly trying to spit out the truth; it helps that the script speeds past. To take just one instance, Montano’s splutterings in the wake of the fight that wounds him, from Othello (“Iago, who began’t?”) to the ensign’s seemingly accidental reply (“I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth / Than it should do offence to Michael Cassio”). Rylance is magnificently at ease, cavorting backwards across the Globe’s wide stage from the off, leading Roderigo to his hapless doom. Roderigo, in turn, as played by Steffan Donnelly is the epitome of the fool soon to be separated from his money. The audience does not seem to mind that he arrives in Cyprus in a trunk, smuggled over from Venice by Iago, yet, when asked if he marked how Desdemona “paddle[d]” with Cassio’s hand, can say “yes”. The laughter continues even after the interval, with Othello thoroughly established as Iago’s plaything – how Iago’s “Or to be naked with her friend in bed / An hour or more, not meaning any harm” has us slapping our thighs – and perhaps it helps that, with his moustache and red cap, Rylance looks more or less like Super Mario gone to seed. As Bianca, Catherine Bailey even earns a bawdy snicker for the unpromising parting shot “I must be circumstanced!”
[ . . . ]
Yet this is an Othello to be remembered for reasons besides its strangely riotous comic dynamism. For André Holland makes a handsome hero and credible victim for Rylance – charismatic and confident as the action begins, besotted with his wife, able to take declining into the “vale of years” as an uneasy joke (whereas at least one young-looking Othello, David Harewood in the 1990s, had to have that line cut), clearly still besotted with his wife even as he starts to hate her, too. Holland’s magnificence balances Rylance’s, and they are well supported by Warbeck, as well as Sheila Atim as Emilia and Aaron Pierre as Cassio.
These actors’ names raise a further notable point about this Globe production. . . .
[ . . . ]
Originally staged last year at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Munby’s production has now transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre, with half of the stalls apparently removed. This piece of theatrical surgery creates that sense of intimacy on which McKellen thrives. (That Ford Davies interview again: “I would like at one point during the performance to look at every single member of the audience, and when I was at The Other Place I made sure that I consciously did that”.) It also permits the introduction of a walkway traversing the auditorium: initially used for ceremonial purposes, this becomes the route for a pursuit as the play proceeds, in what is very much a Lear for this dubious moment in time. It speeds along (Lloyd Hutchinson’s end-of-the-pier Fool finds himself singing about the rain raining in the second act rather than the third). McKellen moves from grandiose regalia to retired-gent suits, amid his crowd of loutish knights straight out of the pub and into the Countryside Alliance. Swords are nasty-looking daggers (despite modern army fatigues being present and correct). There is laughter even as the handcart tips down the infernal slope (James Corrigan’s scornful Edmund causes some of it, and promises a decent Iago some day). Cordelia happens to be played by the black Anita-Joy Uwajeh, in a piece of casting that implies something of an explanation for the differences between her and her (white) older sisters (Claire Price’s enjoyably uptight Goneril and Kirsty Bushell’s barmy, oversexed Regan).
Last time round, McKellen could say of playing the king, “It’s bothering me that Lear doesn’t seem to have any soliloquies, any more than Othello does”. This, one of those points of affinity between these two plays, makes them less attractive roles, perhaps, for the actor who is fond of a moment of direct contact or conversation with the audience. (McKellen: “No wonder everyone likes Iago”. Chatting with the audience at the Globe is par, of course, for the course.) This is a king whose lines do occasionally go missing, submerged as they are in the depths of his madness, so that they register more as anguished trumpeting than words. Yet McKellen is sure to seize assuredly, and with perfect clarity, on a politically poignant moment of direct address during the storm, when Lear considers those “Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are”: “How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, / Your lopped and windowed raggedness, defend you / From seasons such as these?” The wretches are huddled upstage of him, in fact, emphasizing the concurrent cracking-up of both his mind and the flawed society over which the king formerly presided. Othello may be a fool, as he himself realizes in the end, but Lear’s folly is the greater by far, in its impact on the world beyond him.
Munby races through the third act – although there is still time for the air to become scented with spray from this “dreadful pudder” – but what follows, with Paul Wills’s stern oak-panelled set opening up at last, is as lyrical and expansively moving a Lear as anyone could hope for, thanks not least to Danny Webb’s blinded Gloucester (Munby and Wills having set his mutilation in an abattoir) and Luke Thompson as a devoted, despondent Edgar. Acknowledgement must go, too, to Sinéad Cusack’s Countess of Kent, whose stocks take the form of a cage hoisted into the air, and Anthony Howell in the less gratifying part of the Duke of Albany. Albany can be played for laughs, but here he isn’t. With little to work on, Howell makes him seem decent and intelligent – only, by the end, well out of his depth. That ending depends on a certain tragic mundanity – that feather, that rat, that button – even as Albany tries to instigate some dignified restoration of order. File next to Desdemona’s handkerchief; and call it a draw?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0294 Thursday, 30 August 2018
Date: August 30, 2018 at 1:46:30 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Young Hamlet
Date: August 30, 2018 at 2:02:31 AM EDT
Subj: Re: Young Hamlet
Date: August 30, 2018 at 1:46:30 AM EDT
Subject: Re: Young Hamlet
Picking up from my last posting: in Young Hamlet Terri Bourus observes that
Paul Werstine has criticized older theories about memorial reconstruction because they always require additional . . . speculations. Likewise, Collier’s improbable, multiplying complication has persisted in all subsequent theories that begin with a member of the audience writing down notes on Hamlet . . . . Stern . . . recognizes that none of the shorthand systems publicly available at the beginning of the seventeenth century can, in itself, explain the 1603 text of Hamlet or any other printed text of a Shakespeare play). (YH, 73)
Because MR is defined by content laid to ‘reconstructors,’ necessary added hypotheses weaken the main proposition. But there’s no more MR analogy to shorthand transmission than to print publication; conveyance isn’t construction. Bourus almost gets on track here: shorthand cannot itself explain texts; neither can e-mail apps. Phonetic shorthand needn’t have been publicly available to have been expertly utilized. That’s not to say stenography leaves no evidence, nor to deny probability of substantive textual alteration. But (if proven) it proves memorial transmission by actors, even for well performed reported plays. How much texts were contaminated before shorthand transmission is an additional question.
Stern scatters these various subsidiary hypotheses over 23 pages . . . . Nevertheless, [she] demonstrates how many speculative epicycles must be invented in order to sustain the initial assumption of note-taking. (73)
All one need consider is a single artisan who answers to both Hamlet Q1 and to the historical shorthand record. Stern proposes red herrings; Bourus’s misunderstandings are more productive. Writing of news reporters in a later age, she asserts of 1603: “There were no journalists . . .” (74). But there was verbatim shorthand.
We are dealing . . . with the evolution of specific technical practices that facilitated [shorthand]. This problem was addressed in the first half of the twentieth century when claims . . . were for the first time systematically examined from a specifically historicist perspective—and rejected as anachronistic. (79-80)
Bourus misrepresents a knowledgeable shorthand scholar, William Matthews. Writing in the ‘30s & ‘40s, he and Madelaine Doran independently rejected symbolic systems; both acknowledged the possibility that capable phonetic systems existed early—for which they found insufficient evidence. Reviewing Duthie’s 1949 rejection of phonetic shorthand, Matthews was rightly critical, though moderns (who think about it) must reject Duthie’s anti-Willis arguments as a textual chimera: Q1 Lear doesn’t report F.
It seems obvious that if worthy examples of early shorthand reporting exist, then technical capability, a system, and a practitioner of shorthand must be acknowledged. Theatrical reporting would seem a short step away. For that reason, Bourus spends time on the reporting of sermons, which is not questioned as factual but wished away as incapable. She refers first to
a fundamental problem in comparing [sermon reporters to play reporters]. Preachers . . . were not usually reading . . . so [sermons] could only be captured . . . by note-takers. . . . [They] were much more amenable to note-taking than dramatic dialogue . . . . “[One] could easily become familiar with a preacher’s . . . style and manner, he might easily practice his craft . . . .” Sermons, which were ‘delivered in a quiet place in measured tones by a single speaker, on familiar themes clearly structured and repeated, and in customary . . . language, could have been taken down in longhand by an auditor as well as students now take lecture notes.” The situation . . . behind [Q1 Hamlet] could hardly be more different. . . . Audiences . . . were hearing actors speak words that had been prewritten . . . . [A]uthoritative text always existed, so the cobbling together of notes could never be anything other than inadequate and underhanded.
Bourus first quotes Richard Knowles’s speculations (e.g., ‘publicly available’), then relies on her own. Although sermons could only be preserved by reporting (underhanded, yes; slow-pitch, no); that the procedure could be in longhand and resemble your notes is altogether mistaken—if evidence prevails. And just how different would it be to report prewritten words? These are the kinds of supposed tests one finds for reporting. I will examine Bourus’s handling of sermons, which I believe required expertise to report. She cites Evelyn May Albright (1928) on MR early in YH. Here’s some of Albright’s rational statement on shorthand (a different topic):
Some piracy, by stenography, of sermons . . . and plays undoubtedly existed in Shakespeare’s time. Mr. F .G Hubbard, in his recent edition of the first Quarto of Hamlet, says:
There is no evidence to show that either the systems or the shorthand writers . . . were equal to . . . reporting a play as accurately as the text of even the worst Shakespearian quarto is given. (Hubbard)
The study of a few contemporary sermon texts known to have been so derived might change Mr. Hubbard’s opinion. The same sort of statement is, however, often hazarded by historians of shorthand and inventors of more modern shorthand systems. It is quite true that the older systems were comparatively clumsy and inaccurate, and that they taxed the memory more . . . . Nevertheless, if they were actually used as the source of the printed texts in their day, we must face the facts. . . . But, in view of the fact that no one has yet succeeded in making out a sure case . . . confident assertions . . . that such and such a play was . . . from stenographic notes are open to challenge. (Albright 1928, 315-16)
I’ll review Bourus’s discussion of sermons, in particular those of Henrie Smith (available to all, not that any on this list would benefit from “The Benefit of Contentation” as it was first intended; some may benefit from the content as it was first transmitted).
Gerald E. Downs
Date: August 30, 2018 at 2:02:31 AM EDT
Subject: Re: Young Hamlet
Study of British shorthand begins with the printing of sermons by preachers demonstrating their quality by not reading prepared texts. Not all (1580s-90s) printed sermons stem from shorthand but those that do raise questions, including of their accuracy. Terri Bourus’s Young Hamlet addresses this indirectly and inadequately.
Stern moves from . . . motives of note-takers to . . . motives of stationers . . . . But she is not a bibliographer . . . and her conjecture depends upon . . . anachronistic assessment of the relative value of sermons and plays . . . . She observes, correctly, that the same stationer sometimes published the first . . . and then a second, “corrected” edition . . . but she then leaps to the conclusion that the publisher deliberately published “bad” texts . . . to “flush out good ones.” . . . Reported texts of plays could never satisfy playgoers or readers of literature, but reported texts could be the best available accounts . . . of what a preacher said . . . . [P]ublishing “a text in noted form in order to force the ‘real’ version from the author” . . . might make economic sense with . . . preachers like Henry Smith . . . but it does not make sense for Hamlet. (YH, 84)
Bourus mixes issues and assertions (hers and Stern’s) without focusing on reporting quality. If, as many have supposed, Lear, R3, and LLL are reported, some have been satisfied with them anyhow. Were ‘the best available’ sermons well reported? Terms like noted form and note-takers may imply imperfection but one should keep in mind stenography’s verbatim aspirations. Although it’s unlikely sermons were printed to scare up better texts, ‘corrected’ editions got there just the same, with economic blessings. If, as most conclude, Q2 Hamlet advertises its superiority to Q1, money has a part. What’s so anachronistic about that?
Reported sermons were of real concern to preachers, including ‘Silver-tongued Smith’; as with plays, the publishers held the rights. Preachers wanted no accusation of greed or other sins, nor could they wish to see their sermons printed as spoken. (Reported sermons, however, must be judged—visualized, heard—as the orations they are.) A recourse was to put God’s seal of approval on the messages, with apologies. Blackmail may not be the word, but thievery forced hands. (See Arnold Hunt, The Art of Hearing, Google preview, for a fair assessment).
As for economics, the market grew. In 1592 a preacher, “William Cupper, condemned the ‘hungrie schollars and preposterous noters’ who sold other men’s sermons and thus caused ‘divers idle and truantly preachers, [to] vaunt themselves with other mens feathers.’” (Davidson, 42). Sermons were valuable, even to copycats. (preposterous = before behind; like shorthand reports). Why it matters if Stern is a bibliographer, I don’t know. Bourus can’t ‘pull rank,’ as she demonstrates like qualification:
But in fact Ling’s first two editions of Smith’s sermon [The Affinitie of the Faithfull] do not say that it was printed by . . . [shorthand]. Instead, it is the third edition that declares itself to be “Nowe the second time Imprinted, corrected, and augmented, according to the Coppie by Characterie . . . .” It is the “corrected” edition (not the first or second) which advertises that it . . . had been taken down by using shorthand . . . . Ling does not attribute [changes] to the author. Did Ling mean to suggest that the improved edition had been reported using the more reliable, new techniques of shorthand, rather than the older . . . note-taking responsible for the first edition?
In fact (as we like to say), Bourus refers to the first edition’s two issues, one of which names Chettle as the printer with Hoskins, while the other replaces Chettle with Danter. The issues are one impression. The second edition, according to the STC, Knowles, and its own wording, is ‘the second time imprinted . . . according to the Coppie by Characterie.’ Why Bourus wonders whether a word-for-word reprint may stem from a second shorthand system, I can’t guess. If changes are minimal, the question is not of who corrected the text, but of its overall quality. However, there is little doubt that Henrie Smith corrected sermons printed from shorthand (just before he died). For example, Abell Jeffes’s 1591 edition of The Benefite of Contentation is ‘Newly examined and corrected by the Author.’ The epistle to the reader is subscribed, ‘Thine H. Smith’:
Hearinge howe fast this Sermon hath uttered & yet how miserably it hath been abused in printing . . . I haue taken a little paines (as my sicknesse gaue me leaue) both to perfit the matter, and to correct the print.
Bourus cites Knowles on Smith’s A Fruitfull Sermon, ‘taken by characterie’ (n. 48, 238):
[E]xcept for a few added lines and small touches of style, especially some condensation of language near the end, the revised edition . . . is usually virtually the same as Ling’s reported text, and is evidently based upon it. (Knowles, “Shorthand”, 178)
For ‘each and every’ (to borrow a preacherly phrase I recall) reported sermon the question must be whether it reads true as a product of an individual mind—especially so for Henrie Smith—or whether it is ‘cobbled together’ by a reporter incapable of verbatim stenography. Smith was ‘taken’ aback by the reporting (Wedding Garment) but given his preaching itself, it is hard to imagine his acquiescence in a stolen text if it was neither relatively accurate nor subject to correction. A way to judge is to read the texts oneself (short of getting religion). Having read some with surprising interest, I agree with John L. Lievsay (1947):
The printed sermons of any age are likely to prove but dull . . . . Yet here and there . . . the patient reader will discover an occasional bright rift in the fog . . . . When he does, the sense of grateful relief may easily lead him [not her in ‘47] to exaggerate the excellence of the particular sermon or preacher responsible for the unwonted gleam. In such circumstances he must look for corroborative testimony [like now] . . . . But when the radiance persists through two fat octavo volumes, he may well spare the other witnesses . . . . And to the moving eloquence of Henry Smith . . . reader or lecturer at St. Clement Dunes, a cloud of witnesses, Elizabethan and later, can readily be summoned. . . . What the peculiar appeal and excellence of his preaching were, so far as they have been preserved in his printed sermons, it is the object of this study to make clear.
The temper of Smith’s mind and the quality of his thought very quickly appear. The reader’s first and most lasting impression is that of a transparent sincerity and earnestness. Seldom does anything that Smith says have about it the least air of strain or artificiality; all seems genuine, direct. (Huntington Quarterly, 13-14)
Must we protect ‘a priori’ Shakespeare by scorning ‘cobbling scribblers’ who preserved works of a figure whose genuine accomplishments might otherwise be lost to posterity? Smith’s worth simply couldn’t be transmitted without the aid of an artisan dedicated to his own craft. Think navigation and clockmakers. Rationally, shorthand was equal to the task of recording sermons, as any Henrie Smith text attests.
If that’s true of playtexts, as I think, we owe some Shakespeare not only to Shakespeare, but to those in the boxes whose years’ labor outside the box enabled the survival of dramatic works lost to other forms of transmission—including the author’s own. If so, despite cumulative contamination, these records also show what theater was—in specific instances. I’ll check Bourus’s dismissal of contemporary testimony—risky business in any inquiry—and finally describe what most say doesn’t exist: evidence for theatrical reporting by shorthand.
Gerald E. Downs