SHAKESPEARE IN THE THEATRE

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    the compliment of this august ancester that, according to theBradley-

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    effects are not possible on it; but there should be room for un-meretricious theatrical effects of decor, costume and lighting.The trouble with many Shakespeare productions, as KennethMuir says, is that theatrical display is rarely controlled by anyconsistent interpretative purpose; but the answer does not lie inremoving the display, rather in correlating decor, lighting, cos-tume, movement and music into a significant whole, the thea-trical experience, which shall not only illustrate the text butvivify and illuminate it. To achieve this, the primary imagina-tive construction, die text, must come into contact with thesecondary imagination of the interpreter.

    It seems to me that you cannot avoid the presence of theinterpreter in drama. Between the reader and a novel or a poemthere stands nothing except his own sensitivity, knowledge andgeneral experience of literature and life, but between the audi-ence and a play there stand the actors, the producer, the scenedesigner, the costume designer and so onin fact the wholeapparatus of theatrical representation, including the nature ofthe theatre itself. A dramatic script resembles a musical score:it has to be brought to life by the interpreters. I take it asaxiomatic that in all interpretative artsacting, dancing, musicit is the function of the interpreter to recreate by an act ofimaginative identification what he supposes to have been theintention of the creative artist, and that in this act of imaginativeidentification the interpreter must remain the servant of thecreative artist. But it is important to remember that identifica-tion can hardly ever be complete: there are those who cannotaccept Toscanini's Beethoven. Critics sometimes speak as ifthere were one 'standard' production of Shakespeare. But aproduction is bound to be the offspring of a union of twoimaginations, a spark ignited by the concussion of flint andsteel. That the spark often turns out to be a damp squib orturns into a pyrotechnic display is regrettable but irrelevant.Nor will you get the same kind of spark every time.

    Take the case of the witches in Macbeth. Professor Muir haswritten in his Arden edition of the play (p. lxxii):

    'The fact that we no longer believe in demons, and thatShakespeare's audience mostly did, does not diminish the

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    dramatic effect for us; for with the fading of belief in theobjective existence of devils, they and their operations canyet symbolise the workings of evil in the hearts of men.'

    But here is the capital difficulty. The truth seems to me to bethat we do not believe in demons or witches, and, with Hazlitt,we cannot take them seriously. Even if the Weird Sisters areto symbolise for us 'the workings of evil in the hearts of men',they must in themselves as symbolic figures on the stage suggestevil. The words alone are not enoughindeed I go so far as tosay that much of the poetry spoken by the Weird Sisters ispowerless to evoke feelings of horror, and that there is a dangerlest they succeed only in raising laughter. The producer mustfind a way of presenting them which for the twentieth centuryaudience has an emotional effect equivalent to that which theymust have had for Shakespeare's contemporaries. There mustbe some clear relation between the symbol and what it standsfor. If you want to symbolise purity and beauty, you don'tchoose as symbol a cake of soap. Similarly, if the Weird Sistersare to represent evil you must not choose figures such as weredescribed by Richard David {Shakespeare Survey No. 9) in anaccount of a recent production as 'one fishwife, one female im-personator haggish and falsetto, one ditto in ottava bassa andmade up as the Ugly Duchess'. You must choose figures that dosuggest the fuliginous atmosphere of evil which pervades theplay, and handle them in a way which harmonises with theirsymbolic function, that is, in a way that will suggest the mysteri-ous, terrifying, and timeless power of evil. The result may beun-Elizabethan, but it may be closer to the effect that Shake-speare was aiming at.

    What has happened is that our critical understanding ofShakespeare and our fashionable methods of production are outof step. The naturalistic approach was adequate when Shake-speare's plays were regarded, in Professor Kirschbaum's phrase,'as a kind of D.N.B. volume of life portraits'. But what iswanted now are productions which shall do justice to our'poetic'approach to the plays, where that approach is appropriate. Thisneed not mean purely symbolic interpretations such as the'Japanese' King Lear. But it does mean a new approach to the

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    speaking of the verse, to grouping, movement, and gesture.Professor Kirschbaum is quite right in pointing out that certaincharacters in Macbeth are better regarded as parts of a poeticpattern than as 'psychologically valid being[s]'. But what doesthis mean in terms of mounting the play on the stage ?

    Take the case of Ross. Ross is an interesting demonstrationof Shakespeare's ability to move on different planes simul-taneously. I ignore consideration of his inconsistency viewedas a 'whole man', rightly pointed out by Kenneth Muir (pp. cit.,p. lxxii), and refer only to the episode (IV.iii) in which hereports to Macduff the murder of his wife and children. At thebeginning of this episode, from his entry, it is reasonable to takea naturalistic view of Ross and to assume that he is on the wholea decent man, opposed to the tyrant Macbeth and ready to allyhimself with Malcolm and the forces of good, He is thereforeunderstandably and humanly loth to be the bearer of such un-pleasant tidings. So much is established by his beating aboutthe bush before coming out with the news:

    Your castle is surpris'd; your wife, and babes,Savagely slaughter'd: to relate the manner,Were, on the quarry of these murther'd deer,To add the death of you.

    As a decent man, would he not break this news gently, try tosoften the blow, use some restraint in the delivery of the lines('throw them away', perhaps), possibly avert his face from Mac-duff? This, or something like it, is a valid interpretation on anaturalistic plane. But once we view Ross as a speaker onanother plane, as a voice, a part of a poetic pattern, anotherdelivery becomes possible in which the actor will seek to give hislines the maximum poetic effect. In this case he will spit themout with all the brutality he can muster, however much sucha delivery may be 'out of character'. The purpose now is not tocharacterise himself but to define as clearly as possible the con-tent of his thought, the savagery of Macbeth. There are manysimilar instances of this kind or effect in Macbeth : the speechof the bleeding Sergeant, the 'poetic' account of evening by thethird murderer, and most of the speeches of those recognised

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  • C R I T I C A L F O R U M 3 2 9

    choric personages which are simply not 'in character' at all,because their speakers have no perceptible characters. Has itever been pointed out that Angus, Menteith, Caithness, andLennox are, from the point of view of the audience, entirelyanonymous ? They are never identified at all on the stage. Theyare voices in a dramatic poem. Jonson's 'Language most shewesa man: speake that I may see thee' is inappropriate to them.These 'characters' require a new approach from the actor. In-stead of saying to himself something like this: 'Here are somewords to be spoken; what kind of a man am I that would usethese particular words and not others?' he should say: 'Hereare some words to be spoken; what is the most effective way ofgiving them their maximum value in the total poetic designof which they are a part?' This approach will demand carefulattention to poetic qualities as such, to rhythm and to vocalicvalues. In other words it demands a closer approximation tothe rhetorical delivery that Kenneth Muir rightly desiderates,and even to the kind of vocal orchestration in which WilliamPoel was interested, described by Sir Lewis Casson in an articlein the Listener of January 10, 1952.

    But such a treatment will inevitably advance any productionin which it is practised along a non-naturalistic path. We arebrought back to the hoary need to mount the plays on the stagefor which they were written, for one of the effects of the Eliza-bethan stage, obvious in a moment to anyone who has used it,is that by virtue of its open stage and upper acting level, it makesa non-naturalistic performance easier to accept. An upper actinglevel can be used naturalistically, for example as battlements;but it can also destroy naturalistic spatial relationships betweenactors. The effect can be to remove a scene into a kind of time-less dimension in which the 'symbolic' power of the words canreverberate. It may sound presumptuous to say this, but Ibelieve that this was the effect achieved in a recent productionof Macbeth at Magee University College, Londonderry (wherewe have as a permanent possession a stage which preserves someof the essential features of the Elizabethan stage, namely, anopen platform, inner stage, and upper level) and particularlyin Il.iv, where, by placing the Old Man on the balcony andRoss at the edge and to one side of the platform and directing

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    their colloquy not to each other but at the audience in a kind ofantiphonal chant, something of the symbolic and architecturalsignificance of the scene was captured which is usually lost byplaying it as a conversation between a doddery septuagenarianand a house prefect.

    But what can be achieved by one small voice crying in thecultural wilderness of the north-west corner of Northern Ire-land? What is needed is a Shakespeare Institute with its owntheatre.

    Magee University College, A. S. KNOWLANDLondonderry

    THE ART OF THE ENEMYI

    CHARLES WILLIAMS'S friends have done him a great dis-service. It is tactless, in the present state of literary opinion, toplug a poet so esoteric in subject and manner. The privatevocabulary of his work, when adopted by his admirers, givestheir praise the air of an invitation to join a private cult, and itis understandably irritating to most critics.

    But Mr. Conquest's article is another matter. His object isideological and not literary and, that being so, he does not playfair. It is not clear whether the enemy of his title is a Chester-Bellocian monster, part Williams, part Lewis, called the Anglo-Oxford School (though Williams was only at Oxford at the endof his life, and Lewis is not an Anglo-Catholic), or, behind themonster, the brutal fascism of the Nicene Creed. If the latter,is theological polemic really the province of Essays in Criticism ?More importantly, Mr. Conquest deploys his attack from anambush of non-committal, although he is as much the creatureof his own attitudes as Charles Williams was of his. Mr. Con-quest is concerned with literary, not with philosophical values,and will not be so irreverent of human experience as to mix withmetaphysics and defined principles, for there is an absolute valuein experience which dogma and definition, by limiting, destroy.But this is itself a principle, and not withstanding his own viewsMr. Conquest accepts the Freudian explanations of human be-haviour; more than that, he attaches to certain kinds of action

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