Academic journal article Style

Shakespeare's Projected Persons

Academic journal article Style

Shakespeare's Projected Persons

Article excerpt

What skills did Shakespeare need to acquire in order to create the illusion of inwardness, the sense that his characters are "round" or multidimensional or that they reveal self-consciousness or "interiority" or "subjectivity" or that emotion and thought seem to be "internalized" in them? By what agency are such flat, apparently one-dimensional figures as Julia and Talbot and Titus reinvented within a decade as Juliet and Hotspur and Hamlet?(1)

Shakespeare employed a variety of imaginative means to create illusions of such sophistication. A leading device was to describe and depict characters from mor than one point of view: so Richard of Bordeaux is "landlord of England"(2) to Gaunt, a shooting star falling from the sky to Salisbury, a gentle soul patiently enduring grief to York, and, to himself, at one moment "a deputy elected by the Lord" (3.2.57) and at another a fooling "Jack of the clock" (5.5.60). The increasingly resourceful playwright also discovered that an illusion of depth was created when stock figures were fused or confluted. Falstaff appears to develop an inner being because he is a canting Puritan as well as Riot, fool, and miles gloriosus. Shakespeare even learned to pretend that his characters might have a past: "Then was Jack Falstaff, now Sir John, a boy, and page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk" (2 Henry IV 3.2.22-24). In addition, Shakespeare augmented the stereoptic illusion by allowing the interplay of realistic, allegorical, and supernatural elements within the same character: Iago is simultaneously an ambitious soldier rebuffed in his quest fo position, a machiavel, and even ("I bleed, sir, but not killed" [5.2.289]) an embodiment of demonic forces. Moreover, Shakespeare inventively explored the resources of language and rhetoric. His characters appear to simulate introspection by engaging in soliloquies of debate. Shakespeare learned to tailor linguistic registers to specific characters and he eventually discovered that he could endow a selected few of his creations with unique patterns of imagery and metaphor. As he progressed as a playwright, Shakespeare seems to have placed increasing importance on the engendering of inwardness. The Henry V plays are so rich in event and so thick with drums, excursions, and declamation that they leave little opportunity for reflection, while Richard II and the succeeding histories offer much thinnet plots and consequently conserve space for their major figures to discuss and display emotion (Turner 28).

To this incomplete list should be added still another illusion-sharpening technique, one that is well known to actors and audiences but that does not see to have been formally discussed or named. Sometime during the 1590s, Shakespear mastered what might be called invention within invention, or second-order creation. By this technique, one character projects or invents a second character who does not appear on stage and for whom no casting is necessary. These second-order creations, or projected persons, although often vivid in themselves, are not autotelic but instead serve to add dimension to the action proper and, particularly, to the character who invokes them. They may be as dar and mysterious as the "wild Half-can that stabbed pots" (4.2.16-17)--or "Potts''(3)--who is mentioned by Pompey in Measure for Measure, or as colorfull elaborated as Mercutio's Queen Mab in Romeo and Juliet. Once Shakespeare graspe the idea of the projected person, he discovered that it was a technique that could be adapted to suggest that there is more to his characters and more to hi culture than could possibly be represented on the stage.(4)

The utility of this device may be illustrated by a scene in The Merchant of Venice when Shylock suddenly acquires new dimension. Jessica has run off with Lorenzo, and the Venetian bystanders badger Shylock about his loss. Shylock first hears tidings that cause him to rejoice and at the next moment is the unwilling recipient of information that plunges him deep into despair, so that his spirits are alternately elevated and then dashed. …

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