English 431B: Advanced Shakespeare

A survey of the works from the second half of William Shakespeare's career

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Antony & Cleopatra Notes

March 27

Staging of first scene
Center door of the Tiring House was larger and might be more suitable for the entrance of Antony, Cleopatra and the train.
How important are Demetrius and Philo? Also, where are they going to be on the stage?
No front curtain in Shakespeare’s time so audience sees the characters entering the stage.
Very different from all the plays so far in this course. Shakespeare is never content with the status-quo.
Antony provokes arguments.

Philo: “Nay, but this dotage of our general’s / O’erflows the measure.”
Dotage has a slightly negative connotation. Feeble/childish state, but can also be used in a romantic context. Excessive of the quality of their devotion.
This term in this context is of disapproval. The word “O’erflows” leads to ambiguity about Antony’s dotage.

Philo “Look where they come: / take but good note, and you shall see in him / The triple pilar of the world transformed / Into a strumpet’s fool.”

Cleopatra “If it be love indeed, tell me how much.”

Antony “There’s beggary in the love that can reckoned.”

Line 26 Cleopatra speaking. Antony rejects the messengers.

Lines 33-40 centerpiece to the scene, well written. Cleopatra doesn’t believe a word of Antony’s speech.

Scene leaves us simultaneously informed and perplexed. Hints that no ones words are entirely true.

Demetrius “… I will hope / Of better deeds tomorrow.”

No events, but opinions/voices are given in this first scene.

For a renaissance tragedy there is little in the way of decisive action. Scenes are typically short. Everyone judges everyone else.

Act 1, Scene 4 line 45 Ceasar. No absolutes in this world.

Language of liquids/water/sea. Action takes place on or near the sea. World of this play is unstable, constantly changing. Creatures of mood and impulse.

Act 3, Scene 1 often cut in performance. See Antony & Cleopatra through Ventidius’s eyes.

Plutarch wrote about all the important characters in ancient Greece and Rome and finds  parallels between them.

Sir Thomas North translated Plutarch’s book

Shakespeare makes us feel that these characters are not fixed in history. Future of these characters is open and unsettled. The knowledge of them is incomplete.

March 29

Conflict of civilizations in Antony & Cleopatra in second scene of Act 1.
Roman values: Fortuna (roman deity), mental toughness/stoicism
Egyptian values: prose, longer speeches, sexuality, “party animals,” life of Egypt is the life of the body

Is this play tilted in the direction of Egypt or Rome?

Antony exchanges Egypt for Rome.
Act 1.4 Caesar says Antony is no longer manly

vir = man

Antony is being criticized for taking up Egyptian values. Whenever his past is brought up it serves as a contrast to his current status. This is the only unquestioned ideal in the world of the play.

Plutarch’s work, however, talks about a number of his failures.

Antony decides to marry Octavia, Caear’s sister
Act 2.2 The decision is meant to strength the bonds between Casear and Antony

Act. 2.6

Act 3.4

Cleopatra’s past is not always spoken about in complementary terms. She says she was a “morsel for a monarch” for Julius Caesar.

Act 2.2 Enobarbus’s speech is taken from Plutarch. Plutarch: prose history in 3rd person vs. Shakespeare: blank verse poetry
Barge serves as a metaphor of Cleopatra, deified by Shakespeare’s description. Speech is in the same scene as Antony agreeing to leave Cleopatra. This indicates he will go back to her.

External observations replace internal conflicts. No soliloquies to keep the characters at a distance.

April 3

Antony appears not to want the power that was thrust upon him in the past from his military conquests.

Does the play favor one culture over another?

Act 3, Scene 7 line 27 “We will fight with him by sea.”

Enobarbus thinks this choice is wrong.

Line 34 +

Seems that Antony is drawn to the sea.

Scene 10

Scene 11

Scene 13

Act 4, Scene 2, Line 10

Scene 3

Scene 5

Scene 6

In Act 5, Scene 2 Shakespeare is pulling out all the stops as a poet. Her death leaves her beauty preserved, while Antony’s is bloodied.


The New York Times Review of Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’

Notes for Thursday, March 1

Macbeth Staging & History

All’s Well That Ends Well‘s & Othello’s respective protagonist and anti-hero leave the audience guessing as to their motivation as the action unfolds.
King Lear does not have the complexity of the double plot.

In 1603 the death of Queen Elizabeth finally appointed a successor
– Advisers had hoped she’d pick someone sooner
Her pick was James III of Scotland

James became King James I. His transition to power was peaceful. He remained the monarch for the remainder of Shakespeare’s career (1603 – 1625).
Jacobean is a term often associated with James.
King James authorized his own version of The Bible. He did not directly contribute anything to the text. In 1611 the new version was adopted by the Church of England. Different versions of The Bible were floating around during this time period and so his version created a standardization.

William Tyndale produced translation in early 16th century. It is considered the greatest translation of The Bible. A large portion of James’s translation was used – 90 percent.

Accession of King James I was a boon to Shakespeare’s career. He changed the name of Shakespeare’s company from Lord Chamberlain’s Men (1594) to The King’s Men (1603-1638). He conferred a new and enhanced status on Shakespeare’s company.
From 1603-1604 the theaters were closed due the outbreak of the plague.

In 1599, “As You Like It ” was performed at Hampton Court (one of the King’s palaces). Several other plays including his dramas like Macbeth were performed there. Other palaces included White Hall and Greenwich. The performances at the palace were important because it was an indoor stage, unlike the open-air Globe Theater. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth with the indoor performance in-mind. Shakespeare’s night scenes are harder to stage at the Globe. With the indoor theater you can shutter the windows and dim or extinguish candles/lighting.

The sound effects were better in an enclosed theater as well. Reed instruments were used to impact the drama of the play – especially oboes (known as HAUTBOYS). Bell tolls were used to symbolize death. In Act 3 there was a trumpet call and music during the banquet scene.

Shakespeare’s company performed for King James I more than Queen Elizabeth – 187 times in all. This meant money and prestige for Shakespeare. Right-wing religious extremists – the Puritans – did not like the theater and eventually got it shutdown.

Macbeth was written with many of James’s beliefs in mind. James was convinced early on that there was a coup d’état against his life, but it was not politically motivated, but rather driven by supernatural forces – especially witches. He attended witch confessions/trials which only confirmed his suspicions and reaffirmed his notions of the power of witchcraft.

James I wrote The Daemonologie in 1599, which is about witchcraft. He fancied himself something of an amateur theologian. Witchcraft and female sexuality are invariably linked in the world of Macbeth.

James I was publicly “attached” to men and boys. He married only to produce an heir to the throne. He was a known homosexual.

In Act 4, around line 88 when Macbeth and the witches are on stage there is an apparition that says “Beware Mcduff.” The apparition descends which leads to ambiguity about the motivations of the supernatural forces that exist within the world of this play. The apparition ascended thru the trap door beneath the stage suggesting and evil element.

The second apparition, a bloody child, was meant to symbolize C-Section birth and the statement [not direct quote: “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”] in effect give Macbeth the impression he is invincible.

Around line 111, a show of eight kings, was an example of a convention of Shakespeare’s stage. This was part of what is known as a Dumb Show, a pantomime/silent action. This scene was used for dramatic effect in order to compress a larger concept into a single scene. It was also for symbolic purposes. There was a looking glass (mirror) on stage which may have been facing King James I so the eighth King would have been him and brought him “into the world of the play.”

The witches were costumed in wild attire because they represented gender ambiguity and supernatural forces. They “vanished… into thin air… into the wind,” which added to the mystery of the play. Their stage exits were unusual. Witches may have also had a prop resembling horses, something they are often associated with. They may have also used “flying machinery” to raise and lower them to the stage. The ceiling above the stage was typically where supernatural forces entered and exited. Witches and their horses could fly because they would perform a spell that included burning a baby’s fat.

The play wasn’t especially popular then. No paperback editions existed during Shakespeare’s lifetime. An account of the play by Simon Forman, an educated, wealthy and professional astrologer described the irony of the staging of the audience seeing the ghost of Banquo before Macbeth in April 1611.

Hecate was added to the play after it had already been performed without him. Psychological emphasis was the action and thoughts that took place in Macbeth’s mind. Costumer/playwright Thomas Middletonwho was the only dramatist to be invited to revise a work of Shakespeare’s. He wrote a play called “The Witch.”Macbeth was played by Richard Burbage who also played Othello and Hamlet. He was the senior actor in Shakespeare’s company and was the most revered during his time. Lady Macbeth and Lady Mcduff were played by boy actors. The role of the witches were enacted by MEN with beards to add to the unnaturalness and to add to the drama. During King James I’s reign there was approximately 11 performances per year at court, while there was only about three performances a year. Shakespeare wouldn’t have written Macbeth if James I wouldn’t have been named King.

In 1642 theaters (which were highly-regarded by the public) were closed by Puritans. The theater was closed for 18 years. Then civil war errupted and James I’s son was killed. Oliver Cromwell ruled briefly. In 1660 the monarchy was restored and the era was known as The Restoration. Theaters were new, actors were new and women were acting (in part due to a change in attitudes of theater).

William Davenant revived Shakespearean work. He claimed he was Shakespeare’s illegitimate son and also claimed to be the father of English Opera. Davenant cut characters of low standing. Diabolical effect of the characters and drama was down-played in his version. He also modified the language to make them more of a conversation style of gentleman. He introduced instrumental music. The witches danced and sung. Only version for next 80 years.

In 1681 Nahum Tate remade King Lear in the image of his day. There was a love match between Edgar and Cordelia. Persisted well into the 19th century.

Macbeth was played by David Garrick. He tried to honor both Shakespeare’s vision as well as Davenant’s updated edition. The play was often remade based on the Temper of the Times which means societal changes are reflected in the new editions.

John Philip Campbell was an actor in Macbeth. Sarah Sittens played Lady Macbeth. In 1840’s Verde made an (Italian) Macbeth, which was very different. It was opera themed.

In 1936Orson Wells made an American version. The Works Progress Administration was being initiated by Franklin Roosevelt. The play showed in New York for 12 weeks. His version incorporated voodoo and an all-black cast. The setting was the Caribbean in 19th century Haiti. It was the first time black actors portrayed classical drama. The interpretation of the drama was that violent men were manipulated by evil forces. In 1957 there was a film version made.

In 1960 Tushiro Mufoni played Macbeth in Throne of Blood in the Japanese Kurosawa version. The Japanese version was based on Koh dramatic style, which was very stylized and incorporated more stillness than action.

In 1971 Roman Polanski along with John Finch and Francesca Annis made a version of the play that emphasized sexuality.

Hecate: a vengeful goddess of death and the afterlife
The actor who played Hecate wore a wig, looked similar to dreadlocks or the snakes donned by Medusa. The actor would have also been carrying a torch and accompanied by the sound of barking dogs. The sight of her added to the drama of the play.

Midterm Exam Study Guide

King Lear & Macbeth Study Guide

Click here for a Study Guide for the test. Keep in mind that Part One on the test will only have about eight quotes and you will pick four. For Part Two there will be about 20 terms and you can choose 15. As for Part Three there will be about 12 questions and you will choose 10. The essays are just pure speculation, I am not sure what Dr. Kiefer plans to put on the exam, so study a wide-array of themes and be prepared to defend your perspectives.

ENGL 431b Study Guide (Midterm)

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