Scott Maisano, University of Massachusetts Boston: In a Berowne Study: Daydreaming of Love’s Labour’s Won and in Love’s Labour’s Lost
Scott Maisano argues for the use of another definition of the word to study, referring to the idea of daydreaming. By starting with a passage for the play Love’s Labour’s Won, Maisano reminds the audience that we can only daydream about the play, calling on this idea. He poses the question why have we not reconstructed the lost plays of the Early Modern Period. Looking at how we as scholars can study a play that does not exist and what we can learn about writing in verse.
Maisano cites instances within the play Love’s Labour’s Lost where the idea of the phrase a “Berowne Study” can be applied, and calls upon the use of the phrases importance when discussing the character of Berowne. Noting that this character studies instead of daydreaming. With actor’s performing pieces from both Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won, Maisano argues that using daydreaming within Love’s Labour’s Lost can allow for scholars to study and find Love’s Labour’s Won.
Stacey Jocoy, The Library of Congress: ‘His better tune remembers’: Edgar’s Mad Song, heard but not seen, in King Lear
Stacey Jocoy argues that Edgar introduces the discourse of madness within King Lear as he alludes to the famous figure of the “Mad Tom of Bedlam.” He contemplates disguising himself as a “Bedlam Beggar,” which was a presence in Early Modern England—at the time of the writing of King Lear, concepts of melancholy and madness had become part of England’s everyday life. These Tom’s were men, permitted to beg, and thus, as Poor Tom, Edgar is granted the invisibility they had, as long as he kept up the commitment to the part. “Edgar’s performance is meant to depict Tom’s narrative, providing Lear with a form of madness.” This madness was furthered with the use of song.
Madness, which is known as the lack of a sound mind, in this play, perhaps is the only road to sanity. Edgar displays madness in a different way than that of other characters in the play. For example, Edgar’s madness is more reminiscent of the supernatural madness of possession and is “put-upon,” whereas the madness of Lear is feminine and natural. That said, this reference to the “bedlam beggars” and “Tom of Bedlam” is one that is not actually spoken in the play. Edgar refers to “Poor Tom” but never claims the reference. After the presentation, there was a demonstration of monologue and song.
Abraham Joyner-Meyers, Yale School of Drama: Wind and Rain: Shakespearean Music, Oral Transmission, and Contemporary Performance
Abraham Joyner-Meyer’s argues that melodies lost during the Early Modern period could be found in American folk music. They cite Feste’s final song in Twelfth Night, “O that I was” as a song that does not have a melody that has been found or attributed to it. These songs have arrived to the audience without melodies, which might have been passed down through oral tradition. Through their research Joyner-Meyer’s has found a American folk song that could be used as the melody for Feste’s song. The “Wind and the Rain” a folk song in the Appalachian region of America, has similar lyrics as well as similar if not the same metrical length of Feste’s song.
Joyner-Meyer’s raises the question: Why is Feste’s song placed at the end? Is it to mimic the irreslution of the play’s ending or is it supposed to be joyous. They share with the audience that this American folk song has a melody that is not reach a resolution, much like the play. Lastly, Joyner-Meyer performs the song with the lyrics to Feste’s song, showing the audience the melody and the lyrics together. Posing the question that we might have to look elsewhere for melodies that might have been lost.
Sid Ray, Pace University: “[A]voiding rheum”: Stage Spitting in the Intimacy Direction and Pandemic Eras
Sid Ray presents the issues with spitting in Shakespeare, specifically studying a stage direction for Lady Anne in Richard III. Phlegm is known as one of the four central humors, coming from the lungs and brain. Spitting is thus known as one of the ways to relieve melancholy, which applies to Lady Anne as she is grieving. “By spitting, Lady Anne is performing a non-oral act of defiance.” In this way, she is known as “spitting mad.” This is an important discussion to have now, as we live in a post-2020 world – where we as a society have experienced the Covid outbreak and social movements, such as Black Lives Matter and Me-Too. After a worldwide pandemic, staging spitting is much more complicated, with the ethical nature of this stage direction coming into question. This is also complicated by the fact that with the push for diverse actors when theatres opened up, with Richard played by people of color, there is also a racial element that is placed into this narrative.
How do we fix this problem? As theatre practitioners, we need to advocate for actors, so what is the best practice in staging this scene and spitting in general? It is always fair to take out stage directions, especially as they are often textual variants, but then, it is hard with Richard’s response referring to the spit in question. That said, it has historically been proven that the spit can be taken out or, at the very least, modified. In 19th-century performances, spitting wasn’t involved – it was replaced with a contemptuous look or other actions to tell the story. In Mid-20th-century performances, spitting returned, taking on a new meaning as an occasionally erotic exchange of fluid. Anne’s spit often told the story of something sexy, all the way up until today, in which intersectional forms of activism and sickness have stopped that.
In answering the question “to spit or not to spit,” there are a few more questions that need to be investigated. Does the spit advance the story truly being presented? How far apart should the actors be? Should Anne spit elsewhere and perform a sort of trick? Should there be a fight call for the action? Is it full-on and vengeful or ladylike and demure? What does Richard do with it in response? We saw three different examples, with actors’ portrayals of the scene, of what the spit could look like, with varying distances apart, and even a fake liquid used as a form of spit.
In conclusion, Ray encourages practitioners to be safe, noting that audiences will believe that pretend spit is real if you ask them to. Does it serve the story? That is the question we should be asking.
Jack Earlenbaugh, Trinity College: ‘Edgar I nothing am”: Performative Madness and Bedlam in King Lear
In his paper, ‘Edgar I nothing am”: Performative Madness and Bedlam in King Lear, Jack Earlenbaugh discusses the performative aspect of madness in Edgar. His goal, as a part of his Master’s thesis, is to decenter the character of Lear for the discussion of madness within the play and look to Edgar. He poses the question: How mich of the insanity on staged is felt by the character and how much of it is real? This allows for a deeper undertsading of Edgar’s sane choice to disguise as Poor Tom. This disguise would have been known to the audience themselves as it would have been a part of Early Modern culture. Earlenbaugh ends with the idea that to play acting being mad is to ask what it means to be human.