Good Morning! This is Tessa Zimmerman, reporting on Paper Session VI.
The moderator is Ty Buckman, Mary Baldwin University Provost and Professor of English.
Caroline Latta, Professor Emerita Columbia College Chicago, presents Shakespeare’s Auditory Worlds: Sight and Sound, Absence and Silence- Margaret in Much Ado about Nothing.
In the Early Modern Period, the ear was thought to provide the clearest pathway to the soul. According to Latta, playing to the ear is critical to understanding Shakespeare.
Latta calls to our attention “the importance and unreliability of speech, speechlessness, and the sound of silence” in Much Ado about Nothing. (We don’t know why Don John is hostile or what Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship was.) These ideas are best embodied, however, in the character of Margaret. She is witty and sharp when she speaks, but she is often silent. She has only 76 lines, but her presence is seen or felt in much of the play. Latta defines Margaret as a symbol of the plays division between the happy community of sound and the exclusion of others, and examines Margaret’s role in the auditory landscape of Much Ado about Nothing.
Latta observes Margaret’s sharp humor when she does speak, and how she is sometimes unheard, as in 3.4 by Hero and Beatrice. She calls to attention her one line reply to being asked to fetch Beatrice in 3.1, and the fact that Ursula plays a larger role in rest of the scene. Lata suggests that Shakespeare, realizing that such a sharp and outspoken character like Margaret could overshadow a companion, maybe have curtailed her part by writing her out of the scene.
Margaret’s silent presence is felt even when she is not heart, for example, between 3.2. and 3.3. during the discovery of Hero’s perceived infidelity. Latta points out that Margaret’s presence is implied but not specific in several scenes, including the opening scene where all of Leonato’s house is implied to be present, and the wedding ceremony. For Margaret, the wedding is a “moment of complex hearing,” a moment in which a character hears but cannot respond. Latta imagines Margaret’s fear and horror at Leonato’s rage, and her reasons for remaining silent. Lastly, Margaret is absent in 5.3- a scene in which modern directors often add more characters to Claudio’s funeral procession for Hero. Latta defines 5.4 as a hybrid of the aforementioned “silent categories.” (Here, Margaret’s guilt and absolution is announced by Leonato).
Latta feels that Margaret’s role in this final scene is “a painful and silent reminder that all is not resolved,” especially compared to the happy dance that ends the play. She suggests that Margaret might be staged apart from the other non-participants (Leonato and Don Pedro). The three outcasts could serve to make the audience aware of the juxtaposition between “happily ever afters and if onlys” Latta comcludes by calling Much Ado about Nothing a “comedy with tragic overtones.”
Holly Pickett, Washington and Lee University, presents Jaques: Sincere or Cynical Convert?
In this paper, Pickett analyzes the moral conversion of Jaques in As You Like It.
She questions if this talkative character is really ready to listen and learn- if his new philosophy is actually in keeping with his throughout the play, and if he doubts the sincerity of the reformed Duke.
Pickett discusses Jaques as a figure of pastoral solitude, which derives from classical and Christian traditions. She suggests that Early Modern audiences would have been skeptical of Jaques withdrawment, because he is withdrawing to focus on his own ego and not to worship God. By this logic, Jaques is a talkative and opinionated character who is just projecting his own human emotions onto nature.
Pickett gives more background on the pastoral themes, including that Oliver’s descriptions of himself in the third person echoes medieval artistic depictions of Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist. Duke Frederick’s interaction with the old religious man imply that he is converted in the Roman Catholic tradition, in that he is persuaded to leave the world and take up religious orders.
Oliver’s conversion is simple. (“I do not shame to tell you what I was since my conversion so sweetly tastes…”)
In examining critical view on the spiritual in Shakespeare, Pickett argues the plays concluding conversion is both profound and perfunctory. According to Pickett, “The conversion is legible and illegible to those experiencing it.”
Jaques’ lines on conversion could help to show a happy end or “too tidy to be believed”
A short excerpt from 5.4 of As You Like Itis played two different ways with actors John Harrell and David Anthony Lewis; once sincere, and once cynical. In the second reading, certain lines are delivered with clear sarcasm and snark, such as “meeting with an old religious man…” and “from convert types there is much to be heard and learned”
Pickett concludes by asking if Shakespeare is implying by the play’s title that this is a “meta comedy for a genre hungry audience” or more genuinely intentioned. She quotes St Jerome, who invites brothers to the desert so that “you might learn what you do not know”
Emily MacLeod, The George Washington University, presents Fair and Foul Faces: Spectacles of Otherness in Arden of Faversham
Macleod reminds us of the assassin Will in Arden of Faversham,a character who spends much of the play covered in blood. ( “gore that cleaveth to my face….”)
Fake blood on the Early Modern Stage included sheep’s blood and red paint- materials that were highly staining. Will’s face remains bloody due to this reason- and because he does not manage to kill Arden until near the end of the play. Marking his face associates him visually to other painted faces in the Early Modern repertory: characters who symbolize racialized otherness and villainy. “Black Will” is not the only marked character in the play- Alice Arden also has a painted face. Mosby calls her “a raven not a dove,” and references the makeup that covers a foul face. (Conversely, Alice calls Will “fair”). MacLeod suggests that “beauty is to blackness as fairness is to foulness.” She continues to draw conclusions about blackness in performance on the Early Modern stage as it relates to these characters. Black Will’s foulness is in open view, revealing inward evil, but Alice’s makeup obscures her evil. When he shields his face, he is protected physically and hiding his identity. When Alice cleans Arden’s blood, it cleaves to the floor as it does to Will’s face. Now her cosmetics do not serve her; Will can conceal his identity, but Alice cannot show the proper response to her husband’s death. The two character’s use of face paint marks them as both fair and foul, and bring up questions of race and gender.
Matthew Davis, University of Virginia, presents Strange Ways to Die: Some Meditations on Non- Biological Causes of Death in Shakespeare.
Stabbing is the most common cause of death in Shakespeare’s play, followed by poisoning. Actors John Harrell and David Anthony Lewisdepict these two methods, making for a lively start to the presentation. Davis directs our attention to Antony and Cleopatra’s Enobarbus, who seemingly dies of shame. He points out that shame is a mental state, while death is brought by physical conditions like stabbing or poisoning. Shakespeare was interested in non-biological causes of death, also seen in Gloucester’s death by shock in King Lear, which is brought on by the mental states of joy and grief. Kent, also of King Lear, is on the verge of death from his own grief.
Mental states kill or endanger all of these characters. Davis suggests that Shakespeare was not inspired by his source materials, but wrote non biological causes of death in a thought process that was more premodern than early modern. The ideas of grief and shame and loss of purpose contrast with Liberalism, which calls for advancement, autonomy, and self-realization. (When Enobarbus tries to find autonomy, he dies of shame.)
Donovan Sherman, Seton Hall University, presents The Philosopher’s Toothache: Performing Stoicism in Early Modern Drama
Sherman opens by telling us that “This is a paper about Seneca and Renaissance drama.” He clarifies that he is interested in Seneca’s philosophy, stoicism, and not how it is represented on stage, but rather, how stoicism is itself, theatrical. One should live a philosophy, but how does one do this? This is an essential question to stoicism, as philosophy is in a lived life, not ideas alone.
An actor performs as Pandulpho from Antonio’s Revenge, who does not show emotion at the death of his son, and directly contrasts his stoicism with acting. The actor them performs Seneca’s letter 88, which Shermon compares to a theatrical and conversational monologue.
The goal of stoicism is to extirpate the passions to follow reason and fully realize one’s nature. Stoicism lives in the how, not the what.
For Sherman, the stoic of the early modern stage is an exaggerated caricature. If we consider those struggling to purge themselves of their passion, we will see many stoics on the early modern stage, who question themselves.
The true stoic is “less Horatio than Hamlet”, “less Seneca than Lucilius”. If we train on eyes on the stage, not on the sage, we find that Hamlet is not a failed stoic, or he is, but failing stoicism was in a way, being a good stoic. Sherman concludes by arguing that feeling and registering sensation in a struggle to attain sage hood is closer to practice than the actual imaged sage.
Chelsea Phillips, Villanova University presents “I’ll make thee think thy swan a crow”: Rivaling Juliets on the mid-18th Century London Stage
Phillis begins by introducing several women that made a claim to the role of Juliet on the mid-18th Century London Stage: Jenny Cibber, Susanna Cibber, George Anne Bellamy, and Hannah Mary Pritchard. Philips tells a lively and vivid story of the unique circumstances that brought each actress to the role, and what kind of performance they gave. She is aided by three actors Alex Stroud, Annabelle Rollison, and Danielle Festa, who take on the roles of the various Juliets.
We begin in the Fall of 1744, when TheophilusCibber announced a revival of Romeo and Juliet, which took place at a Haymarket Theatre, and starred his daughter, Jenny. She played Juliet, to poor reviews, though this production showed how Romeo and Juliet could serve as a vehicle to showcase the actress playing Juliet. Philips draws comparison between Juliet and Jenny as playing the role of the dutiful child.
Next, Philips introduces Susanna Cibber, the estranged wife of Theophilus, an experienced performer, cast as Juliet. Her status as a gifted actress and a tragic wife brought a different gravitas to the role.
George Anne Bellamy took over the role next. Philips describes her as embodying Juliet’s impulsive and passionate nature, and recounts an anecdote of Bellamy running off with a lover during a performance. For Phillips, Bellamy’s Juliet invites the archetype of the “wild young girl.”
In 1756, Hannah Marie Pritchard played the role of Juliet across her mother as Lady Capulet- inviting the idea again of the desperate daughter, and real emotion on stage.
Phillips suggests that through these “many iterations of a battleground character in a battleground play” audiences can celebrate Juliet’s “infinite variety.”
The session concludes with ten minutes of audience questions.