Evolution of a Study Guide

Since starting work with the OCS in June of 2010, I’ve created Study Guides covering 19 of Shakespeare’s plays, along with our From Class to Cast guide to production. Each year’s new Study Guides typically cover the shows which are our Student Matinees at the Blackfriars Playhouse. These are usually major curriculum shows such as Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, though not always, as my guide for The Two Gentlemen of Verona can attest. This year, however, all of our matinee shows are plays I’ve already created Study Guides for (Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors in the Fall, The Taming of the Shrew in the Actors’ Renaissance Season, and Hamlet and Much Ado about Nothing in the Spring). This has given me a few different wonderful opportunities.

IMG_1491First, I’m getting a chance to do a Version 2.0 on each of those guides. This process has been a revelation to me, since it’s a tangible representation of how my pedagogical thoughts have shifted and expanded over the past four years. Some of that has come from observation, some from things I’ve learned at conferences (our own Blackfriars Conference or others), and some of it has been simple trial and error. Working with teachers in our seminars has helped me see which activities take off like shining stars and which need a little extra boost to hit maximum efficacy. In the guide for The Comedy of Errors, for example, I’ve updated the section on the rhetorical device of stichomythia based on an activity that really fired everyone’s imaginations in a later year, when we were working in Much Ado about Nothing (see the picture at right — and if you’re curious what that’s about, join us Oct 3rd-5th for the Fall Seminar!).

Since updating the guides doesn’t take as long as writing one from scratch, however, it also frees me up to expand our offerings in new ways. By the Spring, I’ll have a Marlowe guide to add to our Shakespearean shelf, focusing mostly on Doctor Faustus, to help teachers who look at these two early modern heavyweights in conjunction with each other. I’m eager to find out where the similarities and differences will lie in building a guide for Kit instead of Will.

I’m also starting work on something in an entirely new format: a scansion workbook. This is in early stages yet, but I’m excited to develop it. I’m hoping to create a hands-on, step-by-step guide to the mechanics of metrics and their application for actors. This guide was partly inspired by watching our actors in their tablework rehearsals this summer. Since we so strongly believe this is a tool that all students and actors of Shakespeare should have at their disposal, it makes sense to add a scansion-focused workbook to the resources we offer. If all goes well with that, next year I’ll build a similar workbook for rhetoric.

We’re also looking into ways to build more multimedia into our educational resources. Over the next year, the Education Department hopes to produce a series of short videos sharing exciting discoveries, tips and tricks, and demonstrations of activities.

One of the best things about Shakespeare, I think, is that you can never stop learning from the plays. Dr. Ralph has been teaching for forty years, and I still get to watch him make brand-new discoveries in the middle of workshops, when some nuance of rhetoric or staging strikes him in a way he’s never thought of before. It’s that energy that drives me when I’m building and rebuilding these Study Guides: the idea that however many discoveries I make, however many activities I create, I’ll never be done. There’s always something else to explore — and that’s the energy I most want to pass on to classrooms.

–Cass Morris, Academic Resources Manager

‘Fair Em’: A Lost and Found Story

From the desk of Kim Newton

Every now and then, someone will ask me, “So, what do you do when you’re not at camp?”  As the OCS’s Director of College Prep Programs, I spend much of my summer at the helm of the OCS Theatre Camp, an intensive college-preparatory and performance program for teens.  When I am not at camp, I am preparing for camp; much of my preparation involves research for the upcoming summer sessions.  One of my ongoing tasks is to select plays that reflect clear artistic and academic goals for our campers.  Since 2007, the OCS Theatre Camp has produced at least one play each summer by a contemporary of Shakespeare in order to broaden our campers’ understanding of how early modern playwrights collaborated and of how Shakespeare found inspiration for his plays in the works of his colleagues and predecessors.

In 2013, we produced The Wild Goose Chase by John Fletcher and Volpone by Ben Jonson.  This year, I selected the anonymous play Fair Em to complement our other Session 1 play titles, Measure for Measure and The Tempest.  Session 2 will present All’s Well That Ends Well and Henry VI, Part Three. Fair Em might seem like the odd play out in this line-up.  Why would we choose to produce a relatively unknown play that has a dubious attribution to Shakespeare?  For starters, it seems that few people have given this delightful play a fair look in the last 400 years.  I venture to say that our camp production will be among the first public performances of Fair Em in the United States.  If that isn’t cool enough, then perhaps some exhilarating bibliographic details will spark a burning desire in you to check out this play for yourself:

FairEmTitlePageQ1An undated quarto title page notes that the Lord Strange’s Men performed Fair Em in London:

“A Pleasa[n]t Commodie, of faire Em th[e] Millers daughter of Manchester:With the loue of William the Conqueror: As it was sundrietimes publiquely acted in the honourable citie of London, by the righthonourable the Lord Strange his servants. Imprinted at London for T. N. and I. W. and are to be solde in S. Dunstones Church-yarde in Fleete-streete.”[1]

The plot derives in part from an Elizabethan ballad titled, “The Blind Beggar’s Daughter of Bednal-Green”.[2] Like many plays of the time, the title of Fair Em alludes to a popular subplot, that of the beautiful Em; however, William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England, might claim the title as the play’s main protagonist.

William the Conqueror falls in love with a Danish princess, Blanch, after seeing her portrait.  He disguises himself as a knight called Sir Robert of Windsor and travels to the Danish court, only to reject the princess in favor of Mariana, a captive of the Danish King Zweno. Mariana is already betrothed to William’s friend, the Marques of Lubeck.  The ladies conspire to switch places during a rendezvous with William, and he takes the wrong girl back to England.  Meanwhile, the subplot follows Em – the daughter of a banished lord, both forced into hiding as millers. Her suitors are fumbling gentlemen, but she remains faithful to her true love, Manville. Em wards off her unwelcome suitors by feigning deafness and blindness. Manville abandons Em for another girl when he believes that she has lost her sight and hearing. In the end, the ladies stand their ground against the men who wronged them. William accepts his princess, and Manville loses both of his marriage prospects.

The play re-imagines William the Conqueror as a romantic playboy; such historic figures were often the subjects of early modern plays that refashioned familiar legends into new entertainments.

The Trouble with OCSribing Authorship

Scholars, including E. K. Chambers and W. W. Greg, date this quarto to c.1590, a time during which the Lord Strange’s Men gained much popularity and performed at court six times.[3]  The second quarto of the play comes to print in 1631.

FairEmTitlePgBoth the undated and 1631 quartos of Fair Em lack a specific authorship attribution.  Scholars have attributed the play to Robert Wilson, Anthony Munday, and William Shakespeare.  E. K. Chambers relates the first OCSription of the play to Shakespeare in The Elizabethan Stage [4]:

Fair Em has been included in the Shakespeare Apocrypha on the strength of a volume formerly in the collection of Charles II, and then in that of Garrick, in which it was bound up with Mucedorus and The Merry Devil of Edmonton and lettered ‘Shakespeare, vol. i’.”

More recent investigation by Peter Kirwan reveals that Shakespeare, Vol. I was a special collection in King Charles I’s library; the volume also contained no fewer than five additional plays attributed to Shakespeare, among them, The Puritan, Thomas Lord Cromwell, The London Prodigal, 1 Sir John Oldcastle, and Love’s Labor’s Lost.[5]  This volume, Kirwan argues, evidences an already unstable view of the Shakespearean canon emerging within a decade of the publication of the First Folio in 1623.

An entry in Henslowe’s Diary dated 4 January 1593 indicates that the Earl of Sussex’s Men performed a play titled, “william the conkerer“.[6]  The play is now lost.  William the Conqueror may be the Fair Em of Strange’s Men’s earlier repertory, played under the original subtitle.[7], 8  Roslyn Knutson posits that Fair Em traveled with the players from Sussex’s Men to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which may explain why Fair Em was bound with other plays from their repertory.[8]  Inevitably, the fact that playwrights often wrote for more than one company, and that plays, like actors, shifted ownership when companies disbanded and reformed under new patrons complicates attributions of authorship to Fair Em.

An Anecdote

Chambers notes a contemporary anecdote that also associates William Shakespeare with the character of William the Conqueror. John Manningham, a London barrister, recorded the following passage in 1601:

“Upon a time when Burbage played Richard III, there was a citizen grew so far in liking with him that before she went from the play she appointed him to come that night unto her by the name of Richard the Third. Shakespeare overhearing their conclusion went before, was entertained, and at his game ere Burbage came. Then message being brought that Richard the Third was at the door, Shakespeare caused return to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard the Third.”[9]

The anecdote, apart from playing on William’s name, may also suggest that Shakespeare may have played a role in Fair Em some time before or concurrent with Richard Burbage’s appearance in Richard III, a fixture in the early repertory of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.8

What do all of these historical tidbits add up to? We cannot know for certain whether or not Shakespeare had a hand, or a played a role, in the first appearance of Fair Em on the early modern English stage. We can, however, cite Fair Em as an example of the complexity of deciphering play authorship and of play ownership between theatrical playing companies.

Although Chambers and other scholars reject Shakespeare as the author of Fair Em, several of Shakespeare’s known works, including The Tempest, Measure for Measure, and All’s Well That Ends Well, share common plot elements with the play: the story of a father and daughter in exile, the inappropriate exploits of a ruler in disguise, and a lover’s abandonment of his betrothed. While Shakespeare may not have written Fair Em, the play may have influenced his writing later in his career.  Despite its rarity and received criticism, Fair Em offers a delightful glimpse into the early repertory of the Lord Strange’s Men and possibly to Shakespeare’s earliest connections with the London playing companies.

Please join us for the OCS Theatre Camp play festivals at the Blackfriars Playhouse this summer.  Session 1 presents Measure for Measure, The Tempest, and Fair Em on July 13. Come back on August 10 to see the Session 2 productions of All’s Well That Ends Well and Henry VI, Part 3.

–Kim


  • [1] STC (2nd ed.), 7675.
  • [2] Mannel, George. “The Source of the Immediate Plot of Faire Em”. Modern Language Notes, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Mar., 1913), pp. 80-82. John Hopkins University Press.
  • [3] Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearian Playing Companies. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.
  • [4] Chambers, E. K., The Elizabethan Stage. 4 Volumes, Oxford: Clarendon, 1923.
  • [5] Kirwan, Peter. “The First Collected “Shakespeare Apocrypha” Shakespeare Quarterly 62.4 (2011): 594-601. JSTOR. Web. Published by Folger Shakespeare Library in association with George Washington University.
  • [6] Foakes, R. A., ed. Henslowe’s Diary. Cambridge [etc.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • [7] Greg, W. W., ed. Henslowe’s Diary. London: A. H. Bullen, 1908.
  • [8] Knutson, Roslyn L., The Repertory of Shakespeare’s Company, 1594-1613. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 1991.
  • [9] Chambers, E. K. William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems. Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon, 1930.

“…mark me for his friend”

I met someone.

It came about, like these things often do, through a friend connecting us.  Soon, we were sending letters — the good, old-fashioned, hand-written kind. Then we started talking on the phone, and. he sent me photos, and a book of poetry.  And, on a fateful day in November, eight banker’s boxes arrived from California.

Six of the eight boxes we received in November.

Six of the eight boxes we received in November.

My penpal was William A. Riley, who sent his beloved late wife’s world of research on Timon of Athens to the American Shakespeare Center archives. I was delighted, and I found the timing of this gift almost magical. Lois Folger Riley* wrote her dissertation on the play that would complete the OCS’s first go at Shakespeare’s canon.  Her lifework, our company work, intersected.  One, perhaps, feeding the other.

We often receive gifts from supporters who contact us to find out if we can use the items. Last week, I took in a collection of books on 18th Century acting in England.  Earlier this year, we received costumes — party frocks and army gear (from two different donors), but this is the first time we had made a friend and been the recipient of a collection of research materials that, as best I could tell, had never been published anywhere else.

After their arrival, we let the boxes sit next to Kimberly Newton’s desk for a long while, contemplating what we could do with them.  Should they go into our archives at Washington & Lee?  That would mean cataloguing every piece of paper, or, at a minimum, each file folder.

One of the eight boxes of research that arrived in Novenmber

One box of files

Our archival area at the OCS administrative office is just big enough to hold the five years of materials we keep on site, so we couldn’t really keep all of Riley’s materials here.  Finally, I stopped letting the boxes haunt me each time I walked by Kimberly’s desk and decided that if I tackled a box or two a week, clearing away anything that was clearly detritus — boxes of carbon copy paper, stacks of typing paper, devoid of type — we would get somewhere. While I did that task, I also noted how the boxes were organized.  Some were the neat files pictured above, usually divided into research on chapters.  Others contained amazingly detailed pieces relating to research — down to the requests Ms. Riley sent to the librarians at the British Library for books she wanted to study.  There was a list of good places to eat in Louisiana, used went she went to visit her dissertation adviser.  There were also envelopes full of what we, at the office, have come to call “early modern word processing,” duplicates of sentences that she would tape into paragraphs in varying arrangements as she organized her thoughts.  A week or so ago, having done an initial assessment and seeing what we had to work with, I began the process of examination in earnest and developed a rough plan for moving forward.

This is the collection of each chapter we will be working with.

Each of the items in this stack is one chapter

Over the next few months, I will share that plan with you and will show you what we come up with.  We don’t know yet if we will be able to preserve this work for future generations.  We’ve yet to dive into the prose, or grapple with the premise, but we look forward to finding out what is there when we take that next step. We want to evaluate this research and see how it relates to what we do, possibly open up discussions — between students, teachers, professors, scholars, actors — and ask what they see, at long last, in Ms. Lois Riley’s The Meaning of Timon.

As we undertake this journey, I expect we will find out things about women writing their dissertations in the mid-20th Century, about the process of getting words to paper and research in that period vs today (see the “word-processing” example above), and, most of all, about Timon.  As for Bill’s wishes, when he sent the materials, he asked that we use them as we are able.  He shared many things with me about the woman he clearly loved, telling me things like “I used to say ‘she is the smartest woman I know,’ but now I say ‘she was the smartest person.'”  He told me, too, about her family — she is related to both the founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library and Starbucks coffee. I can’t think of a better pairing–if anyone could use some coffee, it is the people working hard at that regal institution.  He’s filled me in on their travels and has sent some photos with extensive captions written in his hand.

A collection of photos of Bill and Lois Riley, 1975-79. Bill's daughter stands next to him in the photo on the upper right.

A collection of photos of Bill and Lois Riley, 1975-79. Bill’s daughter stands next to him in the photo on the upper right.

I am looking forward to discovering more about this rarely staged play and about the scholar who created enough material to fill eight banker’s boxes with it.  I hope you will join me on this journey.

The journey begins.

The journey begins.

*She wrote under the names Lois Starbuck (a collection of poems called Journey Through Sun and Shadow) and Lois D. Pizer (dissertation).

OCS Education in 2014

As we wrap up another great year at the American Shakespeare Center, here’s a sneak peek at what we’ll be bringing you in 2014:

  • Teacher Seminars: We start the year off right with our Winter Seminar January 31st-February 1st, focusing on As You Like It and some of the wonderful learning techniques we’ve gathered from rehearsal practices during the Actors’ Renaissance Season. We already have teachers from six states registered to join us in a few weeks, coming from as far away as Oklahoma and Massachusetts. In Spring (April 25th-27th), we’ll cover Othello and The  Merry Wives of Windsor. Our Summer Seminar (August 15th) this year will be a Macbeth intensive. Our last Macbeth seminar was one of my favorites, leading to discoveries that I still bring up in workshops, so I’m greatly looking forward to revisiting the play this summer. In fact, I love it so much that we’ll also be covering Macbeth at the Fall Seminar, along with The Comedy of Errors. Registration is now open for the Winter, Spring, and Summer Seminars, and we’ll be opening registration the Fall soon.Little Academe
  • OCS Theatre Camp: We kick things off in January with an alumni reunion event: a weekend of celebrating the ARS and our former campers’ continuing love of Shakespeare. This summer, campers ages 13-18 will explore Measure for Measure, The Tempest, 3 Henry VI, All’s Well That Ends Well, and the anonymous Fair Em, the Miller’s DaughterApply now to join us this summer.
  • The No Kidding Shakespeare Camp 2014: We’re back in town this year for a week-long camp focusing on the theme of Collaboration. Our activities will explore the partnerships and the community necessary to create theatre then and now, from shareholding to co-authorship, from ensemble casts to audience contact. Registrations are now open, so make some summer plans to spend time at the Blackfriars Playhouse.
  • Conferences: Our biggest conference news this year is that OCS Education will, for the first time, present a teaching workshop at the Shakespeare Association of American Conference in April. We’re excited to bring our classroom methods to SAA members and to the local teachers of St. Louis. Dr. Ralph will also be leading a rhetoric workshop at SAA. Read more about the 2014 Conference and the OCS’s workshop on the SAA website. OCS Education will also appear at the Shakespeare Theatre Association conference in January, at the Virginia Association of Museums conference in March, and at Shakespeare Works When Shakespeare Plays at UC-Davis in September.
  • On the Road: Our workshops are currently roaming the country with the World’s Mine Oyster Tour, and next summer, we’ll build new ones for the Method in Madness Tour. We’ll be participating in Shakespeare Month at the Alden in McLean, Virginia in January, in the Virginia Children’s Festival of the Book at Longwood in the fall, and we anticipate expanding our Educational Residencies to new territories throughout the year.
  • In-House: We look forward to welcoming Little Academes from across the country during the ARS and the Spring Season, as well as to hosting the local chapters of the English Speaking Union and Poetry Out Loud Competitions. Our Leadership Seminars are also ongoing: we celebrate our continuing relationship with the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, with programs throughout the year, and with International Paper, returning for another week-long program in April.
  • OCS Study Guides: In 2014, our Lulu offerings will expand to include a special guide on Christopher Marlowe, to celebrate the fact that the OCS will produce Edward II in the Fall Season and Doctor Faustus in the Method in Madness Tour. We’ll also be creating improved second editions of As You Like It, Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the ShrewMuch Ado about Nothing, and Hamlet. You can preview all of our sixteen current titles online and purchase them as print-on-demand hard copies or PDF downloads.
  • Play-going Enrichment: Our Dr. Ralph Presents Lectures and Inside Plays Workshops will begin again in just a few weeks with insights into the plays of the Actors’ Renaissance Season. Join us select Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the year at 5:30pm to brush up your knowledge of old favorites or to get an introduction to unfamiliar works.
  • Perfect Pairings: Our 2014-2015 Staged Reading series will feature little-known plays which complement the shows produced in our seasons. After finishing the Slightly Skewed Shakespeare series in the spring, with Nahum Tate’s King Lear in March and The Famous Victories of Henry V in April, we will present Plautus’s Roman farce Menaechmi in September, in conjunction with The Comedy of Errors, and Thomas Heywood’s Edward IV, Part 1 in October, in conjunction with Marlowe’s Edward II.
  • Student Matinees: In 2014, we’ll be offering six titles for Student Matinees: Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors in the Fall, A Christmas Carol in the Winter, with a sneak peek at HamletThe Taming of the Shrew during the Actors’ Renaissance Season, and Hamlet and Much Ado about Nothing in the Spring. 
  • And more… We’re working on new initiatives in Research & Scholarship, College Prep, and Educator Resources, so look for further updates as we launch new programs and partnerships throughout the year.
A very happy New Year to all the Shakespeare lovers out there — we look forward to seeing you at the Blackfriars Playhouse in 2014!

2013 Blackfriars Conference: Liveblogging Masterlist

Wednesday, 10/23

Wake-Up Workshop #1: That’s a Certain Text
Welcome Address
Peter Holland Keynote
Plenary I (Kara Northway, Lindsey Snyder, Benjamin Curns, Darlene Farabee, Sarah Werner, Matt Kozusko)
Colloquy I: Staging Choices
Colloquy II: Methods – The Renaissance Run
Colloquy III: The Feminine in Early Modern Plays
Colloquy IV: Audience
Colloquy V: The Published Text
Staging Session I
Plenary II (Alan Armstrong, Sid Ray, Holly Pickett, Bill Gelber, Cass Morris, Peter Kanelos)

Thursday, 10/24

Wake-Up Workshop #2: If This Were Played Upon a Stage
Plenary III (Amy Rodgers, Jeremy Fiebig, Davey Morrison Dillard, Kimberly West, Heidi Cephus, Michael Wagoner)
Russ McDonald Keynote
Lunch and Learn Session: ‘The Actors are at Hand!’ Bringing the OCS to your town”
Special Presentation: “A Scholar, at the Least”
Plenary IV* (Leslie Thomson, Ian Borden, William Proctor Williams, Melissa Aaron, Evelyn Tribble, James Keegan)
Colloquy VI: Methods – Pedagogy
Colloquy VII: Rhetoric
Colloquy VIII: Adaptations
Colloquy IX: Construction of Identity
Staging Session II*
Staging Session III
Plenary V (Ann Pleiss Morris, Annalisa Castaldo, Andrew Carlson, Steven Urkowitz, Ann Jennalie Cook, Anston Bosman)

Friday, 10/25

Wake-Up Workshop #3: Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric
Plenary VI (Katharine Cleland, Brian Chalk, Jessica Schiermeister, Antonia Forster, Danielle Rosvally, Travis Curtright, Deb Streusand)
Ann Thompson Keynote
Lunch and Learn Session: The World Shakespeare Project
Plenary VII (Roslyn Knutson, Sybille Bruun, Andrew Blasenak, Hsiang-Chun Chu, Kate Moncrief, Nick Hutchison and Donald Jellerson)
Colloquy X: The Big Woo
Colloquy XI: Methods – Actingin Shakespeare: What We Teach and What We Learn
Colloquy XII: Staged and Unstaged Binaries
Colloquy XIII: History and Culture
Colloquy XIV: Playing Mad
Colloquy XV: Critical Theory
Staging Session IV
Plenary VIII (John Mucciolo, Jacque Vanhoutte, Peter Hyland, Paige Martin-Reynolds, Jeanne McCarthy, George Walton Williams, Virginia Vaughan)

Saturday, 10/26

Wake-Up Workshop #4: Asides and Audience Contact
Plenary IX (Janelle Jenstad, Christina Gutierrez, William Rampone, James Marino, Denise Walen, Don Weingust)
Abigail Rokison Keynote
Lunch and Learn Session: The Folger Digital Texts
Special Presentation: Why Der Bestrafte Brudermord might be a puppet play & The Complete Works
Plenary X (Dorothy Todd, Bob Hornback, Catherine Loomis, Celestine Woo, Lars Engle, Larry Weiss)

Sunday, 10/27

“The End of Shakespeare’s Verse?”: Part 1*, Part 2, Part 3

*All asterisked posts now include PDF downloads of handouts

The End of Shakespeare’s Verse? Part III

Three chairs are set up on stage for Giles Block, Patrick Spottiswoode, and Abigail Rokison.

Spottiswoode welcomes everyone back and alerts the audience that we are also honoring Anne Thompson whose work will be shown in a conference later in the year.

Rules for discussion, could you stand up and speak clearly and state your name and institution.

Emely Strong OCS intern: During this conference there seem to be two different standards of judging the accuracy of the text theory and practice.

Block:  I don’t see why there needs to be a conflict between those two. Clearly, there is a conflict when one feels the necessity to cut and maims the text in some way, but we all need to cut. The public won’t notice if you leave half a line standing by itself, what they do notice is if you lose the rhythm of the language. This iambic rhythm is something that binds us together because it is beating as your heart and my heart.

Rokison: I’m arguing against rules because rules bind instead of free. I would like people writing books to do historical research first.

Karoline Szatek, Curry College outside of Boston, She liked that they gave the actors in the last session someone to work off, when the actors would talk to the graduate students in the upstairs would close in the space and open up his thoughts.

Block: When someone begins a speech they don’t know how they’re going to end it.

James Keegan University of Delaware and from the OCS: I enjoy your books because they have a profound humility. Rules about verse can do damage because they are used as a stick. We have to be conscious of the text and its origin. One of the trickiest things for me as an actor (in Marlow and early Shakespeare) is the regularity of the line, and having to fight the regularity of the line.  I think Shakespeare wants us to pay attention to the line. I think in Shakespeare’s career we move from a declaratory style to more intimate style.

Jim Casey High Point University: I noticed that when the actors started talking to (the not there in reality) Lady Macbeth their stresses changed.

Block: I certainly feel that it is not all iambic but there are a lot of trochaic beats. I go trochee hunting. There are a lot of lines where you can make a choice. Which is more easy?

Casey: I thought the reading was better when they changed the stress and made it less like something that could become monotonous.

Block: One thing I feel is that in those fifty line speeches you want to be dividing them in to different thought units, each though unit has its different color. Finding how one though morphs into or prompts another.

Keegan: In Shakespeare’s Metrical Art he does that. You build, and then you come down again, it is an interesting coming together of the formalist and method versions

Block: When Tamburlaine first played I imagine that people were amazed at how he just kept building.

Rokison: I try to get students to try and scan the passages. and I don’t tell them which words are trochees and iambic because they have to find it for themselves. Don’t imagine that every metrical irregularity is doing something because that’s another rule.  William Proctor Williams was saying that he was editing Haywood’s plays at the moment. At the begining of his career he didn’t use any shared lines and then as his career when on he used more and more.

Lawyer in the audience says only bad thing is that Shakespeare’s plays don’t leave much for copywrite litigation.  A professor he knew got very excited about Rokison’s book and her ideas on rules and line endings.

Rokison: I think some of those line endings might be rather useful, but I have never played Macbeth so I don’t know, but I think pausing after a line ending can be useful, but it is about exploration. Whatever happens with these line endings if you do take a suspension at the end of the line it does throw emphases to the front of the line.

Don Wiest, Utah University: Thank you for your healthy skepticism of rules. I noted your preference to begin with folio punctuation.

Block: I go to it because it is lighter than most modern punctuation and it encourages flow. I think it might because to the way Shakespeare writes. If Hand D was Shakespeare and in the midst of un-punctuated flow there are two commas and then in another speech there are many commas as if to indicate someone who is really distraught.

Michael Henry a classicist from Staunton: With Euripides you can date the plays without the external dates because of the way the meter works. Can you do that here, is it linear?

Rokison: With Haywood there was an increase in the use of shared lines, but not in lines that were just sort.  I’d love to do more looking at Shakes contemporaries.

Peter Holland: When I was relineating Coriolanus there were many places where someone relineated the lines because compositor could not stand to have “And” at the end of a line, but that is part of what makes Shakespeare great. This morning with the actors I kept hearing different internal rhythms in their speeches.  I think these rhythms matter.  Shakespeare wants us to notice.

Block: I agree with what you are saying. I love the stuff we can’t give voice to. There are lots of words that are repeated in those speeches.  It is all very subjective.

Holland: I think I want the actors to find more of the complexities rather than fewer.

Rokison: Perhaps we should go back to giving rhetoric classes.

Dr. Ralph Cohen of the OCS and Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare and Performance program: What we are more and more interested all the time here is studying prose, and remember that these people knew a hundred to a hundred and twenty figures of speech.  It offers the actor a way to hear what Peter is hearing. It isn’t at odds with it.

Dr. Matthew Davies of Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare and Performance program: I would add the rhetoric of sound is very important, scan and don’t stop there, note the sounds, the repetitions.

Rokison: I have my students take away the consonants and just use the vowels. I think the danger in this business is with inexperienced actors and you point out a figure of rhetoric and then that is all that gets stresses.

Virginia Vaughan, Clark University: I was interested in Block’s back-story about Lord and Lady Macbeth and I think it is interesting to find out the physiology behind the story.

Block: In Hamlet there is the back story of what went wrong with Old Hamlet and Gertrude, and in Lear, why does he love Cordelia best? I sometimes think Macbeth is like Hitchcock; just when you think everything is alright you hear an owl screech.

Stephanie Howieson, Rouge Shakespeare/Mary Baldwin MFA: Just because Lady Macbeth says he swore about something he could have said “no I didn’t,” so there may not be that story before the story.

Block: I think in a play that you have to take everything as literally as you can, Shakespeare takes us to extremes in small ways or in big ways, like how many times words like “all” or “never” appear as the first word in a line. There is no wastage in Macbeth. I think she says “you swore to me” and I think he knows he has.

Frances Cooper, independent scholar: What about long lines?

Rokison: A few. Sometimes they are what Peter Holland just said, it is hyper long because a compositor changed them, or pronunciation changed, or mistakes were made and a crossed out words got in, but there are some really long lines. Like in  Richard II you go from regular rhymed lines and then finished with a hyper … Bolingbrook cuts the whole thing off with a hyper metrical line.

Block: I think frequently longer lines happened in the latter plays. Just feel where the five stresses are even in long lines, in the actual speaking of it the extras don’t count.

Joe Stevenson: There are people out there who will almost refuse to speak the verse I feel that I have an answer to this. Macbeth: They have tied me to the stake I cannot fly.” Many people say “they have” but if you scan it should be “they’ve.”

Block: I think verse is speech, that’s all.

Stevenson: the “ion” ending, “They say the lark makes sweet div-is-ion,” do we add the extra syllable ?

Rokison I think an actor should hear it but not say it.

Iska Alter, independent scholar: You were talking to the actors about repetition of the “S” sound in listening to the speech there are different types of “S” sound. Is there a way to make a distinction? Because they register quite differently.

David Landon, Sewanee: The University of the South: I worked with Marion Richland, she always said the verse is like the trellis, and the speech is the vine going through the trellis, and every now and then there’s a flower.

Rokison I use a musical bars metaphor to explain that not every musical bar has quavers and crotches… do you call them that here? No?

Block: I think nine times out of ten people say the line and they get it right, and that’s because Shakespeare wrote it right.

Spottiswoode: Perhaps we should have a moment of silence for the people who brought verse to us.  Thank you for all of you for contributing and thanks to Giles and Abigail for helping us to look with our ears.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — The End of Shakespeare’s Verse?, Part 2

Hi, I’m Charlene V. Smith and I’ll be taking over the live blogging from Molly for part 2 of The End of Shakespeare’s Verse?, from 10am-11am, specifically Giles Block’s section of the presentation.

While listening to the Patrick Spottiswoode’s introduction, it struck me that the word ‘end’ has several meanings within the question Giles Block and Abigail Rokison are asking. What is the end of Shakespeare’s verse, i.e., what is the purpose of Shakespeare’s verse? Where is the end of Shakespeare’s verse, i.e. what does lineation tell us about theatrical delivery? Is Shakespeare’s verse ending, i.e., are we losing Shakespeare’s verse in modern performance, or even, perhaps, should we lose Shakespeare’s verse in modern performance?

Block opens by admitting that it is difficult to describe to people what he does. Mark Rylance calls him, “the ear on the play.” Block will work with American Shakespeare Center actors René Thornton, Jr., Allison Glenzer, John Harrell, and Benjamin Curns to reveal what he does in the rehearsal room.

Block asks, what do we do with enjambments, when a thought runs over from one line of iambic pentameter into the next? He says there are three ways, using some example text from The Merchant of Venice.

1. with the punctuation: When I told you My state was nothing, I should then have told you That I was worse than nothingBlock notes that this is not how Shakespeare wrote the line.

2. a thought and a breath goes together, delivering the line in a single breath, without any pauses. Block notes that this doesn’t sound like spontaneous speech, like us coming up with words as we speak.

3. Block suggests following the form. We acknowledge there is a single thought, but it is expressed in three parts
When I told you
My state was nothing, I should then have told you
That I was worse than nothing.

He believes this replicates the way we speak and achieves clarity of expression, and also opens a window onto how the speaker is feeling. He argues that the more a speaker is feeling something, the more the speeches get enjambed.

In Macbeth, the enjambments aren’t necessarily associated with moments of high joy or sorrow, but just the way people are speaking all the time. As an example, John Harrell performs a Malcolm speech from 4.3 of Macbeth: “It is myself I mean.” Block points out that most of the lines do not have a punctuation mark at the end. This speech is about comparison. Macbeth and Malcolm. Black and pure as snow. Block asks Harrell to deliver again, following the verse structure more. Block feels that the line ending is never arbitrary, and can help bring greater emphasis to the first stress of the next line. Block asks for the speech a third time, using the “my” in the final line a bit more (“With my confineless harms.”). Block notes that he never wants to know what an actor is doing at the end of the line – he doesn’t call it a pause. Block notes that enjambment are a hallmark of an active mind when engaged in speaking.

The next example is “Cure her of that,” performed by Thornton, Jr. Block says that this speech has a different sound; the speaker’s mind is not busy formulating persuasive arguments. Instead we hear deep longing and Macbeth’s need to disburden himself of this knowledge. Blocks asks Thornton, Jr. to think about the sounds of the speech. We go from ‘m’ sounds to ‘r’ sounds to ‘s’ sounds: minister, mind, memory; raze, troubles, brain; some, sweet, cleanse, stuffed, bosom, stuff. Block says the m’s sound like longing, s’s sound like secrets, whispering. Using Block’s adjustments, Thornton, Jr. gives a moving reading of those lines.

Block says the problem with Macbeth is that we know it too well. We all could be saying these words along with the actors. Block says this is too bad; if only we could forget it, because he feels there is something about this play that makes it stand out. The original audience would have been less familiar with this story, unlike other Shakespeare plays many of which had a preceding theatrical version (Other early modern plays exist about Richard III, Henry V, King Lear, and Hamlet, for example). The play is actually quite weird and enigmatic. It takes until the seventh scene of the play before we hear the first major speech which says the things that haven’t been said up unto this point. Block characterizes this speech as exposition happening deep within the play.

Next Block works with Allison Glenzer on Lady Macbeth’s speech at the end of this same scene. In this speech we learn the back story. Macbeth has sworn to kill the king, which we don’t see during the play. They’ve talked about this and made a pact before the play begins. Blocks says this information helps everything fall into place. Lady Macbeth’s behavior makes sense. The vagueness of their previous conversations makes sense. Block says Macbeth is already guilty when the witches talk to him. The baby that is mentioned is the topic they never talk of, because it is too painful. Block asks Glenzer to make “time” and “place” sound different and to use the “know” more. He asks her to find little phrases which he characterizes as “pop-up thoughts.” He points out “whilst it was smiling in my face” as an example of this. Glenzer’s powerful performance is met by ‘ooo’s by the audience. Block gives Glenzer a couple more notes, and she performs the speech again. The dynamic result seems to leave the audience breathless.

Next Block returns to the top of this scene, to the “If it were done” speech. He has given the actors the speech broken up into thought units, which they read unit by unit. Block is interested by soliloquies and to whom they are spoken. Yes, they are spoken to the audience, but to which part? Block has a feeling that the early part of this speech isn’t for the groundlings. Block argues that Macbeth is saying the first lines to his non-present wife. Perhaps practicing for the conversation they planned to have later: “we will speak further.” The actors demonstrate, with Glenzer representing the absent Lady Macbeth. Harrell says this exercise has made him see this first line in a new light: “If it were done, WHEN ’tis done,” i.e. “if the leaves get raked… WHEN the leaves get raked.”

This is no time in Macbeth, that is what makes the story work, and that is why there is no early exposition: there is no time for it. Block suggests the speech shifts on “This even-handed Justice.” Now it is less about talking to Lady Macbeth; perhaps Macbeth is speaking to the gods, looking for answers. The actors continue working the speech in this manner. Curns makes a fOCSinating choice to take back to Lady Macbeth the line about being Duncan’s host. For the next step, Block asks where we should place Lady Macbeth since we can’t actually have her on stage. Block points out that there’s something about how the imagery moves upwards: heaven, angels, etc. He points that out and also asks the actors to use the intimacy of this space in their delivery.

In the final moments, Block looks at Macbeth’s speech “Within this hour.” In his example text, Block has marked all the pop-up ideas with parentheses. Curns reads the speech, leaving those marked thoughts out. The sense and story is still clear. Block notes that Macbeth has all these add-ons and it is in the add-ons where the character resides. Curns does the speech again, this time with the add-ons. Block lists two ways to do an add-on: either drop them down, or make them more important than the surrounding text.

The End of Shakespeare’s Verse?: Blackfriars Playhouse, Sunday 10/27/2013 Blackfriars Conference

Good morning everyone –

This is Molly Zeigler, I’m live-blogging this morning the first hour of the final presentation of the 2013 Blackfriars Conference.

Today’s presentation is “The End of Shakespeare’s Verse” at the Blackfriars Playhouse on Sunday 10/27/2013.  The presentation is being introduced by Patrick Spottiswoode, Director of Education for Shakespeare’s Globe with presenters: Abigail Rokison and Giles Block.

Participating Actors: Ben Curns, Allison Glenzer, John Harrell, and Rene Thornton, Jr.

Patrick Spottiswoode took the stage to introduce the symposium and today’s presenters.  Today’s symposium is part 3 of 5 of the program “The End of Shakespeare’s Verse” being presented in cooperation by the American Shakespeare Center and Shakespeare’s Globe (and co-sponsored by the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon).

The idea of the presentation is to explore verse and its role in performance and Shakespearean studies.  This symposium is not intended to present a unified front, but rather it is intended to explore a variety of angles regarding this topic.

When, for two examples, script writer Julian Fellowes says he had to cut the verse in Romeo and Juliet to accommodate modern audiences and when major theatrical enterprises spend time organizing  prose editions of the plays – the role of verse needs to be addressed.

Abigail Rokison presented first.  She is exploring some contemporary and popular assertions regarding particular approaches to verse.  These attitudes, approaches, and assertions are expressed  in the  work of Cicely Berry, Patsy Rodenburg, Peter Hall, and John Barton (to name a few). Such assertions can be traced to the work of, among others, William Poel.  Poel’s attempts to incorporate Early Modern theatrical and textual elements into active artistic expression have influenced enterprises for decades.

Poel’s work has been taken and expanded upon by the contemporary scholars and practitioners mentioned.  However, it is not easy to draw direct correlations between Poel and modern efforts.

Shared lines, short lines, ambiguous presentation, and punctuation are of concern.  Furthermore, the canon can be divided in time periods which helps locate trends and issues.

 Shared lines are seen in three major configurations:

1) Linking short lines

2) Linking a shorter and longer line

3) Linking two longer lines

With shared lines we can see a variety of performative options.

In Macbeth there is a considerate number of shared lines.  It is with these shared lines that a sense of heightened emotions and shared intensity can be seen,

Short unconnected verse lines are prominent in the middle tragedies.

In the later (post 1600) works, the number of scenes ending in short lines increases.  To end a scene with a short verse line, rather than with a rhymed couplet, provides a sense of speed, urgency, and suddenness.  It is often seen that the final short line follows a  rhymed couplet, perhaps offering a demand to continue or move on after the satisfying couplet.

Shared lines: There is a marked increase in the number of shared lines in later plays such as The Winter’s Tale.

Of course, there are elements of subjectivity here, and considerations (regarding pauses and actions) depend on theatrical intent, purpose, and choices.  There is no hard and fast rule, but the breaks in lines and the use of shorter and shared lines is a physical fact within the text and should be given attention.  Pauses and breaks and the manipulation of lines are representative of rhetorical structures such as aposiopesis (Greek for’becoming silent’).  Aposiopesis is the deliberate breaking off of a sentence and leaving it unfinished.  The ending of the sentence, of the thought, is meant to be supplied by the imagination.  Aposiopesis can give an impression of unwillingness or of the inability of a character to continue.

Lineation & Punctuation:  There are a number of theories about the role of lineation and punctuation in the deliverance of verse lines.

Peter Hall (and others) insists that each distinct line of verse is a single entity and breath comes only at the end of the line.

In contrast, the likes of Berry, Rodenburg and Donnellan suggest that the meaning take precedence over the line structure and that an actor should follow punctuation in relation to breath (but, whose punctuation?).

Stops in punctuation traditionally include the comma, the colon, and the period with the related pause increasing with each stop.

To avoid ambiguity different delivery methods can be explored.

Rokison suggests that a strict adherence to any one method of delivery is reductive.

It is necessary to explore the role of verse in performance.  These works were constructed purposefully, after all.

Abigail Rokison and the actors presented moments from the canon, primarily from MacbethGlobe symposium – Macbeth – handout

The presentation today is set to continue with Giles Block.

——————–

It has been my pleasure to blog portions of this wonderful conference,  I hope one and all have enjoyed these last few days as much as I have.  It has been a truly wonderful experience.

Blackfriars Conference 2013 — Plenary Session X

Welcome back to the 7th Blackfriars Conference. I’m Cass Morris, and from 2:15-3:30pm, I will be live-blogging Plenary Session X, moderated by Tom Delise of the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory. This is the final Plenary Session of the 2013 conference.

Dorothy Todd, University of Georgia — “‘We’ve Got Blokes in Dresses’: Cheek by Jowl’s As You Like It and the Challenges of Drag”

Todd opens by commenting on the “stir” created by Cheek by Jowl’s 1991 presentation of As You Like It, which featured an all-male cross-dressed cast (the first since 1967), and that even the director experienced discomfort on opening night — “What were we thinking? We’ve got blokes in dresses!”. Why, Todd wonders, did audience members have so much trouble putting aside the actors’ corporeality? Todd comments on many of the other strange conditions of early modern theatre which we as audiences are willing to accept, including deaths, storms, and exotic locations. She notes that the audience’s responses to the Cheek by Jowl show were “rooted in the physicality of the actors’ bodies and the gender significations they adopt”. The audience could only understand the cross-dressing as camp — noting that that hinges on specific signifiers as belonging to only one gender (gender itself not necessarily corresponding to sex). To move away from campy drag, the actors had to find different ways to signify femininity.

The production “asks that the audience see the world of the play, and all the world,  as a stage rife with possibilities”. By opening with Jacques’s famous monologue, with the actors in plain dress, the production created the division of male and female characters visually at the start, despite that all the actors were male-bodied. Todd then notes that the epilogue also reminds the audience of how slippery the typical gender code can be — whether that epilogue is spoken by a male- or female-bodied actor, interweaving “the factual and counter-factual” — but that it has peculiar resonances in an all-male cast. Todd then questions the strength of the automatic identity of “the lady” with “the epilogue”. She notes “Rosalind’s employment of the ‘if’ trope” as another marker that she “stands not for what is, but what can be.” This holds true both for the things which are true as for those things which are contrary to fact. Todd concludes by noting that these conditions of ambiguous gender identity made  As You Like It perfect choice for Cheek by Jowl to perform with an all-male cast.

Bob Hornback, Oglethorpe University — “Shall we have a play extempore?”

Hornback begins by exploring the probability that early modern clowns necessarily had improvisational abilities, noting that while some may have, others may have been scripted to sound improvisational. “Extemporal wit” was noted in the period as a rare quality, not a usual trait. He notes a critic from the period who lamented the lack of improvisational skills present in clowns at the time of his observation, and relates that to lines in Hamlet which “suggest a waning” of extemporal clowns. Hamlet also skewers “the spate of bad improv” present on the stage. Hornback then quotes from Nashe regarding the war between the extemporal clown and the authority of script and cues. Hornback then cites examples of scripted improvisational idiom, “seeming extempore” rather than genuinely spontaneous.

Hornback moves to considering the instances of Kemp’s true improvisation versus seeming improvisation, particularly in the role of Falstaff. “Kemp’s improvisation made him uniquely suited for the role, not ill-suited,” particularly due to the character’s potential for improvisation. He notes that Falstaff’s lines are “opposite to sparse lineality”. Falstaff is, himself, an improviser. Hornback also examines the possibility of connected repetitions indicating a mimicry of improvisational idioms. Falstaff also, he notes, cues his own jesting with questions.

Nashe and Shakespeare, Hornback argues, would have seen both successful and unsuccessful improvisational clowns and would have known what it was that created that success. They did not, in their plays, aim at eliminating the real thing. Instead, having delighted in it, they sought to re-create it in script. Robert Armin, Hornback says, was an even more famous improviser than Kemp. He concludes by noting that the conditions of the early modern stage, including those re-created at the Blackfriars Playhouse, encourage “improv with a script”.

Celestine Woo, SUNY Empire State College – “Isabella in Measure for Measure: Discovering the Pleasure of Performance”

Woo begins by thanking her actors, Scott Campbell, Patrick Harris, and Amy Simpson Grubbs. She begins by saying that Measure for Measure is more satisfying if there is some intimacy developed between Isabella and her various auditors, particularly the Duke. The actors first present the “too-rehearsed first appeal” of Isabella (Grubbs) to Angelo (Campbell), encouraged and amended by Lucio (Harris). Woo argues that Isabella’s “use of the second person is perfunctory” and that she does not really see or acknowledge Angelo. In her second attempt, she re-assesses her audience — and Woo notes that, after Sarah Enloe’s workshop on audience contact, she now thinks this could include the theatrical audience as well as Angelo. As she goes on, warming both to her theme and to her auditor, her vehemence and persistence earn Angelo’s attention and pique his interest. Woo’s staging has Isabella move to Angelo and touch him on the arm as part of her appeal. Woo notes that, once she drops her self-consciousness, “she’s good at this! Her rhetorical eloquence is a bit of a surprise to her.”

Woo then notes Isabella’s several oratorical strategies: imagining a reversal of roles, as well as pointing out the pattern of pronouns (from I to you to a hypothetical subjunctive I, then to third-person hypotheticals regarding Angelo and Claudio). Woo considers this reminiscent of Portia’s rhetorical strategy. Woo thinks that Isabella “falls in love with performance”, and that that leads to her ultimate success. Woo next looks at the moment where Isabella and the disguised Duke plot Angelo’s downfall through the bedtrick, noting that she has “always heard some glee” in Isabella’s speeches there. Isabella is “wryly amused at Angelo’s eagerness”. In baiting Angelo himself, though prompted by others in action, “she finds her lines herself” and “highlights her own cleverness” regarding some details of the bedtrick.

Woo believes that viewing Isabella as overly reactive, rather than possessing agency of her own (via the power of improvisation) is problematic. Her newfound love for improvisation can help to ameliorate the otherwise problematic ending of her silence. Grubbs demonstrates by offering, in that moment, an Isabella who takes a moment to consider, then gives Angelo her hand with a beaming, theatrical smile.

ETA: A question regarding Isabella; Woo notes that she has no desire to “negate the seriousness or the pain of what Isabella has to go through”, but that she still thinks that Isabella’s lines also convey a sort of joy in the limelight. She thinks that, since some Isabellas can seem “overly flat”, this interpretation could offer nuance.

Larry Weiss, Independent Scholar: “‘Ha! Ha!’ Ophelia’s Tell”

Weiss comments that, “early in the nunnery scene”, Hamlet realizes that Ophelia is not quite what she is presenting herself as at that moment. He notes that Hamlet’s behavior is, from Ophelia’s perspective, unexpected and unusual — but how, he wonders, has Hamlet come to be suspicious? Weiss discusses the extratextual solutions that directors have invented, generally involving some sort of unintentional reveal of the men behind the arras, which he believes are “contrived” and thus unsatisfactory. He argues that Hamlet’s “obnoxious behavior towards Ophelia is explicable” by examination of what is present in the play itself.

“When no other cunning solution presents itself, I like to look at the text.” Weiss walks briefly through the action of the scene in question, noting that, when Hamlet rejects the returned gifts, Ophelia mistakes his meaning, interpreting it as part of his madness. He notes the shift from courteous to discourteous as occurring at “Ha ha, are you honest?” He does not believe the “Ha ha” is a laugh; “Hamlet has no reason to laugh here”. Weiss thinks that this line instead indicates that “Ophelia has slipped and put Hamlet on notice”. But this does not explain what alerts Hamlet to Ophelia’s disloyalty. Rejecting any extratextual possibilities, Weiss looks at Ophelia’s previous lines: “My honour’d lord, you know right well you did; / And, with them, words of so sweet breath composed / As made the things more rich: their perfume lost, / Take these again; for to the noble mind / Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. / There, my lord.”

These lines, Weiss argues, sound more like Claudius than they do like Ophelia, and he believes that that reading “can convey the idea” of Ophelia having been coached so that it works in performance. Celi Oliveto (Ophelia) and Jordan Zweick (Hamlet) present the scene. Oliveto’s Ophelia becomes stilted as she tries to remember the “script” given her by Claudius, then rushes through “There, my lord,” eager to have the business over with. This moment, Weiss notes, “is easy to miss. It has been missed for 400 years.” He claims knowledge of no productions and only one editor to have commented on this possibility. He concludes by noting that this idea connects to Polonius’s instructions to Laertes; that Hamlet’s comments on beauty and honesty are then placing an immediate timeframe on his “now” in those lines; and that Ophelia’s response, if delivered in quavery tone, can reconfirm Hamlet’s suspicion; and finally, that Ophelia’s closing half-line opens up opportunities, perhaps originally suggested by the actors.

Lars Engle, The University of Tulsa: “Shame and Contempt in Montaigne, Tomkins, and The Tempest

“Actors are frequently accused of or credited with shamelessness,” Engle opens. He examines Montaigne’s commentaries on personal shame, both those which he dismisses and those which he invokes in regards to cruelty. Shakespeare, he argues, finds personal shame harder to cast off. He quotes Tomkins’s belief that shame is accompanied by a number of gestures which close off the shamed person from the shaming, perhaps in an attempt to reclaim some space.  “Shame turns the attention of the self and others” to the visible resonance of self in the focus, outward or inward, of the eyes. These are the negative affects attached to positive emotions or desires such as admiration or love. That which ties the self to the object (of love or affection) also ties the self to shame. He seeks to draw a distinction between shame-humiliation (which ties) and contempt-disgust (which unties). The former relates us to those we still seek the good opinion of; the other precludes any equality or mutuality of relationship. Tomkins notes that, in unequal relationships such as master-servant, teacher-student, parent-child, or conqueror-conquered, there is then a choice as to whether to base disapproval on shame-humiliation or contempt-disgust.

Engle applies this to Prospero. Rebecca Hodder (Caliban), Rebecca Wright (Miranda), and Michelle Johnson (Prospero) present part of 1.2 from The Tempest. Engle posits Caliban as child in one of the above relationships, but also as a former sovereign who was formerly a sovereign. In his lines, Caliban attempts to use shame-humiliation on Prospero. Prospero then attempts to recast himself in a contempt-disgust relationship. Engle explores the strange relationships that these three have had on the island in isolation, particularly with regard to the fact that “something shameful happened between Caliban and Miranda”, something sexual and something recent — and that this incident was interrupted, but that we do not know how or by whom. This leaves the relationship between all three in need of clarification. Miranda then, too, tries to turn shame into contempt.

“We deal here in imponderables,” Engle notes, and we do so because it matters to us, as scholars and audiences, what happened in these relationships. He relates this to socio-political issues regarding the colonizer and the “Other”. To conclude, Engle notes that Prospero “attempts to expunge the shame that he and Miranda feel with regard to Caliban … by transforming it into contempt, and by transforming Caliban from a son-pupil into a monster-slave.” This fails, however, and shame overwhelms contempt.

Catherine Loomis, University of New Orleans — “Bringing Justice to Bear: An Unusual 1609 Trial”

Loomis begins by thanking Adrienne Johnson and an anonymous actor for their help, and invites the auditors to “bark along at the appropriate moment”. She then comments on references to bears in early modern England. She relates a story of merchants who came late to an inn because they had been hunted by a bear during their travel. The innkeeper mocked them, claiming that he would slay ten bears if they should pursue him. An overhearer, Scoggins (or perhaps Scroggins?) decided to play a prank: went out, bought a bearskin, propped it up on sticks and and stuffed it with straw so it would look alive, and then stuffed its mouth with two children’s shoes. In the night, Scoggins convinced the merchants to call for drink; the innkeeper sent his maid, who saw the bear, thought it had killed her master’s children, and killed herself. Loomis notes that this story may have been based on the real event of a captive bear killing a child in 1609. This bear then was to be put to death by lions, but they inexplicably refused to fight, so it was chained, staked, and baited with dogs on a stage.

Loomis then stages the death of our very own Blackfriars bear. Many scholars, tormented by the bear during the past four days, applaud.

Loomis then describes the typical staging of a bear-baiting, highlighting its cruelty as well as the utter impossibility of survival for the bear in question. Though the 1609 bear execution likely did not occur at the Globe, but it was not long thereafter before The  Winter’s Tale  featured a bear pursuing Antigonus off. Was this, perhaps, Shakespeare’s retribution for the bear?

ETA: In the Q&A, William Proctor Williams questions that, if you kill the bear off in your paper, can you continue talking forever? We conclude that Loomis may have set a dangerous precedent for future bears.

Blackfriars Conference 2013–Special Panel

Hello everyone! Sarah Martin here to liveblog Saturday afternoon’s Special Panel in the Blackfriars Playhouse. Today, we will hear two presentations: Tiffany Stern from the University of Oxford’s Why Der Berstraffe Brudermord Might Be a Puppet Play (you can see Der Berstraffe Brudermord performed as a puppet play courtesy of Beth Burns and the Hidden Room theatre this evening at 9:30pm in the Blackfriars Playhouse) and The Complete Works presented by Paul Menzer from Mary Baldwin College, Jeremy Lopez from the University of Toronto, Andrea Stevens from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Genevieve Love from Colorado College.

Tiffany Stern, Oxford University

Why Der Berstraffe Brudermord Might be a Puppet Play

Stern begins her presentation with a brief explanation of Der Berstraffe Brudermord saying that it is an “eighteenth-century play of extraordinary awfulness”. She says that Der Berstraffe Brudermord is probably not a puppet play, but that this possibility is certainly there. Stern’s interest  in the play began with research about puppet plays and the discovery of a puppet Hamlet. She explains that the text of the Der Berstraffe Brudermord is very close to the Quarto 1 Hamlet.  This informs us that Q1 Hamlet must have been circulating in Germany at some point before Der Berstraffe Brudermord was written. Stern notes that the first mention of the possible puppet Hamlet was in 1779. She explains that Germany experienced a period of fOCSination with Shakespeare’s works during the eighteenth century. She gives a brief history of English players in Germany. She explains that the same English players also performed in the Czech Rebublic. A Czech account of the English players’ performances states that the actors, “alternately performed an actors’ and a marionette repertoire”. Stern gives an example of an Italian puppet Hamlet called Amleto from the 1660s that informs us that Shakespeare’s plays were circulating on the continent before the plays were available in good translations.

As evidence for why Der Berstraffe Brudermord might be a puppet play, Stern notes that the Prologue requires four women, but the play only has two women characters. When the character of NIGHT enters, she does so in “flying machinery”–much easier for a puppet to accomplish rather than a person, obviously. The play also includes a lot of violent moments that occur from behind. All action in puppet shows takes place from behind and this contributes to why Der Berstraffe Brudermord might be a puppet play. Stern notes that Der Berstraffe Brudermord has several moments of fireworks–another hallmark of puppet shows. She points to the “Closet Scene” moment when the Hamlet character sees the ghost of his father and fireworks go off. Including fireworks at this moments seems odd and contributes to the “absurdity” one expects in puppet shows.

Sterns contacted Beth Burns about the possibility of the puppet show performance and Burns jumped on the idea. Stern says that she was nervous about the actual performance, and said “what if I’m wrong, oh but what if I’m not” and that led to tonight’s production.

Paul Menzer, Mary Baldwin College; Jeremy Lopez, University of Toronto; Andrea Stevens, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and Genevieve Love, Colorado College

The Complete Works

Paul Menzer begins his presentation by having the Mary Baldwin College MFA students pass out sheets of paper that contains lists of words all beginning with the same two letters (I have “ex” words). He then asks the audience to read aloud all of the many words on their pages as he does the same. As the reading comes to a close, Menzer notes that the OCS will produce Timon of Athens this Spring and will at that point, have performed all of Shakespeare’s words. He then points out that we have done just that in a matter of a few minutes. The papers contained all of the words found in Shakespeare’s works. Menzer points out that our performance, in claiming to have performed The Complete Works of Shakespeare, represents a “scaling fallacy”. He notes that the “Complete Works” idea has the problem of scale. He explains that Shakespeare’s Complete Works is large in comparison to Marlowe, but not compared to that of Thomas Heywood.  Menzer then goes on to note that “Shakespeare’s Complete Works is not bigger than Marlowe’s, there’s just more of it”. He points out the problematic idea of “Complete Works” is that it implies a finishing point. He explains that scale is a measure not just of size, but of form as the agent doing the measuring is part of it. We, as those agents, contribute to Shakespeare’s Complete Works–and contribute to what that term means exactly.

Jeremy Lopez begins by telling the audience that the word “disappointed” occurs only once in all of Shakespeare’s works. Lopez gives several examples of word counts throughout works of great literature. Lopez argues of such “word counting” exercises are only applied to iconic authors and plays. He argues that we only decide to look for the instances of the word “blood” in Macbeth, for example, because we already know the play. Giving examples of several such instances of repeated words in plays that do not really have anything to do with those words, Lopez argues that repetition does not equal emphasis or meaning. He notes that though his paper, “is about disappointment, the word “disappointed” appears only once.”

Andrea Stevens begins her presentation with an explanation of the use of the term “invulnerable” in Shakespeare’s plays. She explains that it is the “vulnerable” bodies that are the victims of violence. Quoting Judith Butler, Stevens notes that our bodies are never exclusively our own. Our bodies also always have political value. She argues that Shakespeare’s tragedies are explorations of how characters discover that they are, in fact, vulnerable and that their bodies are not their own.

Genevieve Love begins with a discussion of the “vulnerable”. She talks about how characters with missing limbs and other physical disabilities give important bibliographical and textual history as well. Prosthetic bodies, Love argues, represent the incomplete articulation of the plays themselves. She points to Dr. Faustus–a play with both “A” and “B” texts as an example of how the disability of the body also represents the disability and deformity of corrupt texts. She argues that the dismemberment and multiplication of one, whole body into diverse incomplete parts is a reflection of the corruption and mutilation of early modern texts.