Thursday, July 5, 2012

The name of Hamlet's mommy is Gertred? Editing Shakespeare's Texts

We were ready to roll after an eventful day in DC for the 4th of July.  I went to the American History Museum (cried at seeing the Star-Spangled Banner), the Natural History museum, and unexpectedly ran into the AIDS quilt on the National Mall (cried again).

Morning Lecture:  Margaret Maurer "Duplicity in Comedy of Errors"

Margaret presented us with a great lecture (and informative handout) about the doubling in Err. She went into several examples about the doubles in the play and how the play should "encumber your mind."  Here is what I found fascinating:  she believes that the roles of the twins should be played by one person and that NO distinction should be made.  That the confusion of the audience is necessary and exactly what is needed for a production.  What a great concept!

I have only seen a production of the Menaechmi (which we christened the Menaech-mess and in which my husband had a bit part), and remember that it was done with elaborate make-up to disguise BUT distinguish the characters.  Perhaps if this director had followed Margaret's advice, it would not have been a flop.

Biographical anecdote:  My husband was in two plays in college, but was a Chemistry major.  We met in the Theater Department!  Oh, and we did NOT like each other at all when we met.

Seminar:  Extended discussion on Comedy of Errors

Our seminar group discussed the use of time and the incompatibility of time in Err.  For instance, the Abbess at end of the play says she has been searching for 33 years for the twins.  Strange considering they are only 23!  Hmm, Shakespearean gestation times must have been quite different.

Lunch Talk with Erin Blake: Curator of Art and Special Collections

Erin took us through how to search through Hamnet and Luna for special items such as engravings, etchings and woodcuts.  Here is the epiphany:

All of these are available to you in your classroom for FREE!!

So, ANY teacher can access pictures of the Folio or Quarto and show it to your students.  You can also look at all kinds of cool maps of the area for the plays.  I will post a "how to" at the end of my time here.  But, they are quite easy to navigate.

Performance Workshop with Caleen Jennings

More about this later as we are split in groups and I don't want to spoil the other groups experience.  Let's just say you can do more with your kids that doesn't involve the "A" word..

ACTING (not assessment)

Lecture:  Barbara Mowat:  Editing Shakespeare

Do you know who Barbara Mowat is?  Look at the front of any Folger edition of Shakespeare and her name is on the front.  She is THE rock star of the editing world and responsible for most of what you and your students read (and believe) about Shakespeare's plays.

Barbara had us look at copies of the Folio and Quarto edition of Othello because that play is not a single text play (Err. and Pericles only appear in one edition).  So, just looking at the first line of Othello, there is a different word.  Barbara told us how she makes the decision to use one or the other.

The greatest thing was that I finally know how to read the emendations in the Folger editions.  I plan on using this skill with my students.  For example:

  • Hamlet's mother's name is Gertred in the originals, but everyone knows her as Gertrude.  What does the editor use:  Gertrude (but puts a note in the back).
  • The correct line in R&J is "a rose by any other word" but everyone is used to  " a rose by any other name"
I finally got to ask a burning question about Macbeth:  why do they still have those scenes where it says "not written by Shakespeare" included in the play.  Answer:  because it is in the Folio.

I also wanted to know if she had any scandalous editing that she had done that perhaps had caused controversy.  But, alas, no everyone pretty much accepts her editing.  

One line in Othello bothers her though:

  • Quarto version:  That I did love the Moor  (past tense Desdemona?)
  • Folio version:  That I love the Moor
 What if we showed this to our students and had them debate which one is more effective and why?
And now that anyone can access Hamnet, it is easy to do.  

That's all for today!  Tomorrow we finish our study of Err. and begin to do our Research Projects.  Saturday will involve us going to the Reading Room and pretending we know what we are doing.

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