As a circus performer and director, Doyle Ott is interested in how much abuse plays may take, and if it gets a laugh, let it rip. Ott explains that circus and Shakespeare have a habit of feeding off each other.
Starting in the 1800 across Europe and America there were clowns who had solo Shakespeare and performance acts. Acts were introduced to by short speeches and full of physical comedy.
In the 1800 circuses would mount versions of Shakespeare histories and battles.
Audience would have been familiar enough with the plays to recognize the verbal parody of the Shakespearean clowns. Most circuses would boast a Shakespearean Clown or Jester.
The scenarios in which Shakespeare’s language was used were often little related to original scenario, for example “to draw or not to draw” referring to a tooth ache.
One clown was referred to as “the Shakespearean Jester” and another “the Touchstone of the circus”
The repartee of Shakespearean clowns was influenced by Shakespeare’s description of York in Hamlet.
The clown evokes Shakespeare’s name to lend himself authenticity as a fool.
Dan Rice was a prominent Shakespearean clown in the United States. His costume recalled Uncle Sam, and he didn’t wear clown white, he was more jester than buffoon.
Another famous Shakespearean clown, Wallace, once worked with Rice on short notice, Wallace played high status fool, and Rice took the place of the lower status clown, playing off of Wallace’s pretensions.
In 1849 the Rose Olympic Circus was built where Othello, and Richard II were performed by actors described as second rate actors but first rate clowns.
Shakespearean clowns had to have enviable knowledge and experience of Shakespeare’s works in order to parody them so effectively.
Lack of documentation leads many to discount them but relevant to Shakespeare performance tradition.
Iska Alter and William Long
Sidestepping feuds over who wrote what in Romeo and Juliet Alter and Long examine a few key important storytelling differences between the First and second Quarto publications.
First seven scenes of Q1 and Q2 are similar, but the variations they have are very import and inform context and content that inform audience about the play. Differences abound even in title pages and in the opening Chorus. In Q1 the prologue starts out “Two household, both friends in dignity” which sends a very different opening message than the version in Q2 “Two households, both alike in dignity.”
Servants and their conduct differ slightly in Q1 and Q2. The space they occupy is quite different because the servants dominate action in Q1, which suggests that comic action dominates the scene whereas Q2 is bawdier and the action shared more among the servants the young men of the family and the Lords. Q2 also names 3 out of 4 servants who appear.
In Q1 “I” is used more in this scene and in Q2 “we.” What might this mean?
In their entrances in Q1 Benvolio and Tybalt don’t speak, but in Q2 we immediately are given clues to their characters by what they say. In Q2 Benvolio has a better idea of how fight affects city and the families. In Q1 everyone just stars fighting, in Q2 we get to know the characters a little better. Q2 folio presents citizens entering fight led by officer.
When Lord Capulet and Lord Montague join the fight with their wives resistance are we meant to laugh at the sight of old men attempting to use their long swords?
In Q1 the Price’s speech after the brawl is shorter than in Q2. However, it is not merely the length of the respective speeches, but prince’s condemnation is fiercer in Q2.
Q2 folio gives us are presentation of the destabilizing effects of the feud.
Plague, Playing, and Printing
A new narrative about Shakespeare’s writing history.
Ms. Boyer points out that gaps in the publication history of Shakespeare’s plays coincide with outbreaks of plague.
Most quartos boast of diverse and sundry performances, which could only happen out of plague time.
What if the plays weren’t published because they weren’t being performed? Plague interrupts playing, which in turn interrupts publication.
Playing and plague shared a relationship, opponents blamed theater for plague infection partially because they believed that theaters offend god.
For plays to resume totally mortality rates in London would have to stay under between 30 to 50 people a week for 20 days depending on the date.
Privy Council was so anxious to ward off infection would often close theaters at the smallest risk.
1603 1 in 5 would get the plague that finally ended in late 1609. Shakespeare wrote some of his darkest plays during this period, not knowing when they would be performed.
Quarto publication followed performance between 18 months to two years on average. But if plague interrupted performance for too long this formula was shaken and if plague lasted even longer we have to wait for folio for the publication of the play.
Shakespeare moved companies during first plague of 1593.
During the long 1593 closure Shakespeare wrote Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece.
Only Lear, Pericles and Othello were published in quarto out of nine plays written in plague the 1603-1609 plague years, Pericles may have been sold by co-writer because of hard financial times.
Julius Creaser and As You Like It are thought to have been written in 1599 but not published until folio, even though there wasn’t a large plague outbreak during this time. However, anything that interrupts performance influenced publication. In June-October 1599 Henslowe records no income, but plague was virtually unknown. This is one of the only instance where not all playhouses closed and opened together, it may have been financial difficulty at Rose or may perhaps improvements to the playhouse. In times of unrest a crowd could turn violent quickly State and city were on edge all summer long, it is possible that this was the reason that the theaters were closed down.
Closures continued through 1613 on and off.
The one thing Early Moderns new about plague was that it spread in crowds, so playgoers may have been staying away, which might have deterred publication.
Nothing is so funny as a man in drag unless you’re the butt of the joke.
Changing the spelling of Epicene’s name changes the emotional feel of the play
2008 edition of Johnson’s work limited the stage direction of the elaborate clothing removal.
Epicene means sexless or neuter in Geek.
Epicene was a common name for sexless characters so Early Modern audiences would not have been as shocked by the twist ending
Not one character in Epicene is meant to be taken at face value.
At one point an editor decided that removal of clothing was unnecessary and to just removing the wig.
The revelation in act V exposes the men as the fools that they are. Removing clothing is more shocking than removing a wig to show definite proof of gender, this is a pivotal scene for nocking men off their pedestals and destroying their social position.
While the men are acting effeminately towards everyone the women are acting mannish. Epicene is the only women who acts the way that a character earlier in the play defines as “womanish.”
Considering the lack of stage directions from this time, it seems unjust to remove this one.
Plays of the Queen’s Men influenced Shakespeare’s writing style as well as content.
Queens’s Men were designed to divide to reach the most places possible.
Playwrights would not have been able to write for specific actors.
In order to make performance cue parts easier developed strategy of longer speeches and easily recognized cue lines.
The demands of a company that broke and came back together made playwright focus on structure.
By pairing plays with later Shakespeare history plays we see same speech percentages.