Sunday, December 11, 2011

Responses to more Stratfordian Questions - 3 of 3 - Bacon Theater Acting

Responses to more Stratfordian Questions (Continued)  Part 3 of 3

Thank you again for your comments.  Again, I’ll use bold for your original words so other readers can keep up with the conversation.

“….Elizabethan theatre, far from being the start of a process was in fact the culmination of a tradition that led back to the mystery plays and included “Interludes” that were popular during the early 16th century.  Scenes in Shakespeare follow the format of Interludes hence the completeness that I had felt. “

I’ve heard of the idea of the genre of mystery plays are their evolvement. Francis Bacon was likely also familiar with them as he was with “interludes”. What I take from this is that “Shakespeare” was well acquainted with the history and nature of plays. And here is a quote from Bacon on this: "There be certain Pantomimi that will represent the voices of Players of Interludes so to the life as if you see them not you would think they were those Players themselves, and the voices of other men that they hear" ( Natural History).

1) the companies performed a huge number of plays per year (150 according to Henslowe’s diary for one year; 33 plays over a 37 week period) and
2) that the players were working from cue scripts only and had no access to the entire play. 

Yes, I often marvel how, when so many plays were created so rapidly and ran their course in so short of time, why a dramatist like Shakespeare would put so much time into each one. To me, that’s an indication of someone who did not seek to churn out plays in quick succession for a short run in the theater. Rather, each appears to be carefully crafted over a lengthy period so that each would or could become a classic.

That the players worked from cue scripts shows to me that the playwright likely had experience in directing or producing plays, as we know that Bacon did.

The link for me finally was the Plot Sheet which is almost identical to the Plot Sheets used by the Comedia del Arte troupes. 

And Bacon understood the usage of something like a Plot Sheet or prompt book as he called it, as shown in this statement of his:

   "…speaking of the Queen Dowager as having the personal grievances against Henry with regard to the treatment of her daughter, and none could hold the booke so well to prompt and instruct the Stage-Play, as she could."    Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh. 

These indications can only be included by someone who is familiar with the realities of being on stage. 

As Bacon certainly was as indicated in his many references to the craft and his known experience in producing dramatic works. See answers #20 and #45 in the “Exposing an Industry in Denial” rebuttal.

"Will be ready to furnish a Masque" (Bacon in a Letter to Burleigh).

In this quote it’s apparent that Bacon was the ‘go to’ guy to see a Masque prepared for court.  Obviously his skill in planning such productions was recognized at the highest, or next to the highest, level of the government, just as it was at Gray’s Inn.

They are inherent in the way the verse is structured and – again as an actor – the difference between acting Jonson and Shakespeare is remarkable.  Shakespeare “directs” the actors in ways that no other playwright has ever achieved, through his use and specifically misuse of Iambic Pentameter. 

Okay, but if “no other playwright has ever achieved” then please consider that his skill came not from being a professional playwright.

The verse is massacred - all for acting reasons.  How could anybody who was not an actor himself achieve that?  And of all the playwrights of the period, only Shakespeare does this. 

Personally, I’d think that only a master rhetorician could massacre such verse and have it serve a higher purpose successfully.  Also, an actor may not be the best to analyze how to create such overall effects between all those playing parts. A couple more quotes from Bacon:

"A looker on often sees more than a Player" (Bacon in Advancement of Learning).

Bacon also studied and thought about the earliest forms of theater. Compare this from Hamlet to the following quote

Bacon also studied and thought about the earliest forms of theater. He gives an example from Tacitus of a player who: 

“…in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his whole conceit
That, from her working, all his visage wann’d.
Tears in his eyes, distraction in ‘s aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
To his conceit.”

Compare to the story that Bacon wrote:
“Vibulenus, formerly an actor, then a soldier….
Wereupon Vibulenus getting up to speak, began thus;
“These poor innocent wretches you have restored to light and life;
But who shall restore life to my brother, or my brother to me?   [this resembles “What is he to Hecuba or Hecuba to him”]
Then Bacon comments that “With which words he excited such excessive jealousy and alarm, that, had it not shortly afterwards appeared that nothing of the sort had happened, nay, that he had never had a brother, the soldiers would hardly have kept their  hands off the prefect; but the fact was that he played the whole thing as if it had been a piece on the stage.

Bacon’s De Augmentis

There is also this Shakespeare speech:

"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you,
trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of
your players do, I had as life the town crier spoke my
lines. Nor do  you not saw the air too much with your hand
thus, but use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest,
and (as I may say) whirlwind of passion, you must
acquire and beget a temperance that may give it


And then compare to:
"It is necessary to use a steadfast countenance, not wavering with action, as in moving the head or hand too much, which showeth a fantastical light and fickle operation of the spirit, and consequently like mind as gesture; only it is sufficient with leisure to use a modest action in either."
 Bacon Short Notes for Civil Conversation

"The colours that show best by candlelight are white, carnation, and a kind of sea water green, and ounches and spangs) (Essay of Masques).

"Naked and open daylight....doth not show the Masques and Mummeries half stately and daintily as candle lights." (Essay of Truth).

Firstly the lack of evidence or people remarking on Shakespeare as a personality in the period. Plays were not literature.  Nobody read them and the only contact people would have had with them was in the mouths of the players.

You don’t think any of them were ever printed and sold as quartos? It’s looks like there were 18 of the plays printed and sold before 1623, many of these being printed multiple times.

Since they actually seem to have been very popular even outside of the theater, it looks like they very well could also be accepted as literature to some portion of the public.

I firmly believe that, at the time, nobody realised just how brilliant these plays were.  Except maybe the players but that’s not even sure. 

I think that a minority of the Literati, and some of Bacon’s friends, realized their brilliance. I’ve posted quotes here by Tobie Matthews strongly suggesting this.

Heminges, and Jonson realised that Shakespeare’s were worthy of posterity but it was not a generally held notion.  Nobody had ever published a collection of plays before.

Didn’t Jonson publish many of his Works in a 1616 Folio?

I have a copy of the Norton Facsimile and quite frankly it’s a mess.

I have a copy too. I wish I had the time to read all the plays in it in their original style.

I insist it is not a question of social snobbery but academic snobbery. This is how I perceive it.  I have been lambasted for making the comment but I still have the feeling that, among certain members of the academic community, there is a  feeling that these plays could not have been written by someone who did not have their academic level.  That a mere “player” could never have achieved such works.  Personally I hold players in higher esteem than academics.  I would say a mere “academic” could never have written like that.  That goes for aristocrats too.  Now I’m being snobbish, I admit. 

Well, I’m glad you admit it and are self-conscious about it. Most of us with strong views based on experience or learning may have some amount of snobbery in us. It’s the extreme, habitual, unconscious, and self-serving snobbery that is ugly and distasteful.

I do feel that much of the “anti” argument revolves around the artistic merit of the plays.  As someone who has studied the period in great depth, I feel that this is a modern projection which can lead to false conclusions.  Plays were of no more artistic merit at that time than the scripts of Sex and The City are now. 

My sense is that plays generally, as you say, were not regarded as having much artistic merit. I’m also aware of the opinion of them by Sir Thomas Bodley. Interestingly, Sir Thomas made a rather odd comment about Francis Bacon, saying  “Bacon had wasted many years of his life on such study as was not worthy of him.”  Bodley could hardly have been thinking of Bacon’s philosophical works, or his Essays, or his writings on Natural History. But if he knew of his practice of penning plays, then his comment makes perfect sense.

Yet it was Bacon, who complained about this too, and saw the potential for plays to be more esteemed. Here’s another quote of his:

“Dramatic poesy, which has the theatre for its world, would be of excellent use if well directed. For the stage is capable of no small influence, both of discipline and of corruption. Now, of corruptions in this kind we have had enough; but the discipline has, in our times, been plainly neglected. And though in modern states play-acting is esteemed but as a toy, except when it is too satirical and biting, yet among the ancients it was used as a means of educating men’s minds to virtue. Nay, it has been regarded by learned men and great philosophers as a kind of musician’s bow, by which men’s minds may be played upon. And certainly it is most true, and one of the great secrets of nature, that the minds of men are more open to impressions and affections when many are gathered together, than when they are alone.”

Bacon was surely one person at that time that could use plays as a kind of musician’s bow. Again he says:

“It is a thing indeed, if practiced professionally, of low repute; but if it be made a part of discipline it is of excellent use. I mean stage playing – an art which strengthens the memory, regulates the tone and effect of the voice and pronunciation, teaches a decent carriage of the countenance and gesture, gives not a little assurance, and accustoms young men to bear being looked at.”

So, I would think that you can at least appreciate that Bacon’s views on the potential usages of the theater and the benefit that plays can be to actors and the public, to be similar to your own, whether or not you would ever believe that he actually was involved in writing the Shakespeare works. And I would think that this shows that someone who wasn’t one of the actors in an acting group might very well have been able to understand what’s necessary to write for all the various actors involved.

Take care,

No comments:

Post a Comment