Hello! It’s Mary Finch one last time to blog this Halloween morning plenary session, going from 9:00-10:15am and moderated by Terry Southerington from Mary Baldwin College.
Danielle Rosvalley, Tufts University
Before the Circus Came to town: Big Data, Barnum, and the Bard
Rosvalley began by calling to mind the classic images of circus attached to the name “Barnum.” However, Rosvalley was surprised to find that Barnum boasted of producing Shakespeare, namely The American Museum and Lecture Hall, purchased in 1861. The largest exhibit was the “Moral Lecture Room”—a theatre—which presented performances twice a day. Barnum attracted crowds that normally disdained theaters for their moral depravity.
When the museum caught fire in 1868, Barnum came under attack, specifically for the moral depravity of the Lecture Room. In a defense of his not-theater, Barnum asserted that when he performed Shakespeare he did it with the utmost care, and removed all vulgarity.
From this account, Rosvalley has since reconstructed the performances that Barnum put on at his theater. Data so far shows that only just over two percent of Barnum’s productions were penned by the Bard. Compared to other contemporary theaters, his claim seems absurd.
If Barnum was not producing Shakespeare, what was he producing? Rosvalley displayed a graph, where Shakespeare does not break the top 100 most common plays at Barnum’s Museum; at other contemporary theaters, one of Shakespeare’s plays does break the top twenty, and even top ten. By claiming the recognizable name of Shakespeare, Barnum claimed legitimacy without compromising morality.
This information about what production Barnum produced, Rosvalley is putting into a database where individuals can browse the plays and the evidence of their production. The Bear interrupted the production as Rosvalley was downloading an facsimile from the database.
Niamh O’Leary, Xavier University
The Ends of Sex: Bedroom Deaths in Jacobean Drama
O’Leary, for the sake of brevity, will be focusing on The Maid’s Tragedy looking at female agency within these bedroom death scenes. O’Leary asserts that these scenes can challenge the sexist and victimization of women in culture.
Contemporary performances can highlight women’s frustration with the sexual economy to reimagine the scene. Evadine is “a frustrating character but also a frustrated character.” She is surrounded by men—kings, mentors, and beyond—who have verbally and physically harass her sexually. In Act 3, scene 1, we see Evadine shyness might not be from the ideal of humble quiet wife but from a disgust and distaste for the male gaze. Nevertheless, Evadine is having an affair with the King. While men see it has women’s susceptibility to temptation, it might be a smart, ambitious, political move—a morally neutral move.
Most touchingly, Evadine is completely alone, surrounded by only serving women who are not confidants. By act 4, several men have threatened to kill her and she wonders at her isolation during her soliquoy. With all of this, her decision to use her body to gain control. But beyond just a body, she uses her logic, her reason, and her will to carry through her intention to kill, despite the King’s protestations.
Looking back to the mask from the second act, we can see a parallel between the events later on in the play. O’Leary was interrupted during her final remark s by the Bear.
Zoe Hudson, University of Kent
The Everyday Life of Shakespeare’s Earliest Document Reader
In Richard Stonely’s diary, on Tuesday, the 12th of the June, 1593 he recorded his purchases including Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, making him one of Shakespeare’s first readers.
Looking at the diary from an interdisciplinary approach, Hudson has analyzed Stonley’s diary as a rich source for those trying to recreate life from 16th century London. Despite the dramatic events during Stonely’s life, his diary has not received much research or attention. During his work, Stonely interacted with the powerful and the average, making this a rare glimpse into Elizabethan life.
Within his diary, we can read about family dynamics, clothing purchases, and wedding traditions. When Stonely was imprisoned, he even recounts a brawl at the prison dinner table.
The diary entries combine the emotional, political, and social curiosity that surrounds our growing interest in historically informed theater practices. These manuscripts must be research holistically, as “relatable narratives” that can reveal meaningful information about Stonely’s England.
Thomas Ward, United States Naval Academy
Shouts, Slogans, and Political Consent in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus
The voicing ceremony is scene is part of the world of civic ritual that Coriolanus does not belong, but also reminiscent to parliamentary elections in Early Modern England. Coriolanus challenges this ritual and focuses on the practical force of martial law.
Accounts of EM election rituals recount the vehemence of the shouting for candidates. This “a [name]” construction was part of a war cry, making these interactions an intersection between the civic and the martial. For instance, in Henry VI part I we see soldiers call “A Talbot” in the wars as a war cry.
The overlap comes from the tradition of heraldry, which clarified social hierarchy: a main goal of elections. The danger existed that these cries might get out of control, challenging the power the elections were supposed to legitimize. Ward recounts several historical accounts of people denouncing or complaining about rioting and shouting. These cries revealed factions, and certain slogans were outlawed.
In some plays, such as Hamlet, we see crowds attempt to vote a king by shouts and riots: “Chose we Laertes shall be King!” The war cry and election shout are closely related.
Going back to Coriolanus, we see Caius cheered and shouted for after the battle as indicated by the Folio stage directions. In response, Caius asks “Make you a sword of me” again embodies the connection between war cry and election shouts.
Genevieve Love, Colorado College
The Crookbackt Prodegie
“Happy Halloween!” We might see scary things, such as bunchbackt toads. Where did these monstrous things come from? Why are they deformed and how?
Richard Gloucester reaches from a descendant uniqueness, saying “I am myself alone” even though he does have a brother. The metaphorical reading of Richard’s deformity renounces his devious acts, as well as the problems within the text. How are both the man and the text deformed?
The problems for Richard and True Tragedie reflect an issue with origins and accounts. Richard was born both too early and too late, unsettling his temporal situatedness. Not only was her mobile in time in Elizabethan England, but also in contemporary context as shown by the current modes of interpretation through the lens of disability.
The text itself also has a debated text, with varying narratives about how the text might have been “unfinished, sent before its time.” How does this text fit within the time narrative of publication?
True Tragedie contains more lines about the lack of a father, as one of the differences between the text and the Folio.
“In his likeness to his textual brother, Richard is never alone.”
Spencer K. Wall, University of Utal
Where is Leontes? Text and Stage as Sites of Jealousy
Wall presents the question about where the motivation for jealousy comes from within the text, which does not give much time or explanation for Leontes behavior. Drama has its own tricks for showing that more narrative time has passed than the stage time relates. Shakespeare uses Time to tell the audience that time has passed, but does not use such dramatic devices for Leontes’ fall into jealousy. There are no cues that more time has passed than the audience has scene.
However, there is a moment in the scene when Leontes’ appears to be absent. Although present in the scene, Leontes must ask how Hermione’s petition went. He is absent from the conversation, if not the scene, and must be staged.
One choice, could be to physically distance him from Hermione. This raises the question as to why he does not hear the conversation, and what is distracting him. MBC Shakespeare and Performance MFA actors presented the scene (Patrick Harris, Molly Harper, Maria Hart). This difference in Leontes’ attention makes him afraid of either what he saw, or what he missed.
The scene could also be staged with Leontes’ remaining near the conversation and still raises the question about why he is distracted. The choice to distance Leontes (physically and mentally) changes the character’s fall into jealousy.
— Mary Finch
MLitt Student at MBC Shakespeare and Performance