Benjamin Lee Stanford
Stephanie La Vardera
Voice & Text
Costume and Scenic Design
Production Stage Manager
Music and Sound
Stephanie La Vardera
ON WORKING WITH THE FIRST FOLIO
The Tempest and The Folio of 1623
At the heart of the Mercury Theatre Company’s production of The Tempest are Shakespeare’s text and the actor. Dee Evans and I have therefore paid particularly close attention to the First Folio (1623) which is the only authority for the play. As all later texts are derived from that source, we were eager to give the actors and ourselves choices with information gleaned from the original source.
The First Folio was published in 1623 by John Heminge and Henry Condell seven years after Shakespeare’s death. The two of them were principal actors in The King’s Men, the company which first produced the plays, and based the work on Shakespeare’s papers, playhouse (prompt) scripts and their memory of the productions. The Tempest was given the honor of being the first play in the collection and we know that at least five different hands were involved: the scribe Ralph Crane and four compositors who were responsible for the actual setting of the script on the page. As with all of the plays in the Folio this led to certain inconsistencies and mistakes; however, the text of The Tempest is considered by scholars to be unusually clean.
When reading the Folio, what initially intrigued me was the spelling and punctuation. Elizabethan English was some four hundred years younger than our present tongue and a much more malleable language; words were spelled and sometimes capitalized according to their context or for emphasis. The word “me” might be spelled me, Mee, or even Meee. Punctuation was more concerned with rhetoric than following specific grammatical rules; it reflected passion, argument and states of being. For example, in the plays there are generally far fewer full stops; characters (as in life) sometimes speak in run-on or incomplete sentences in order to express their thoughts and feelings. The Folio was compiled by actors and because of its rhetorical, theatrical base, the old texts are far more visceral than modern ones and provide vital clues as to the intellectual and emotional life of each character.
The editors of modern editions of Shakespeare’s plays follow a tradition started in the eighteenth century of tidying up the text; the spelling is modernized and the use of capitals follows the rules of grammar. Punctuation is similarly cleaned up and made more accessible to the reader. Verse structure is sometimes regularized to fit a more classic iambic pentameter, when in fact the irregularities are very likely expressing a heightened emotion. The modern texts have been consciously edited according to methods which were not even considered when the manuscripts were first written centuries earlier. The editors have based their work on that of several preceding editors, often with the literary content taking priority over the theatrical one.
To illustrate some of the differences between the Folio and a modern text, I have included Miranda’s first speech to her father Prospero after having witnessed the tempest:
Put the wild waters in this Rore; allay them:
The skye it seems would powre down stinking pitch,
But that the Sea, mounting to th’welkin’s cheeke,
Dashes the fire out. Oh! I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer: a brave vessell
(Who had no doubt some noble creature in her)
Dash’d all to peeces: O the cry did knocke
Against my very heart: poor soules, they perish’d.
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky it seems would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to th’welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. O! I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer. A brave vessel
(Who no doubt had some noble creature in her)
Dash’d all to pieces! O, the cry did knock
Against my very heart. Poor souls they perish’d.
In the Folio version there is only one full stop; Miranda’s speech pours out of her as someone who has just witnessed a vicious storm and horrific shipwreck. The modern text gives her six complete and grammatically correct sentences, but urgency is lost. In the Folio, capital letters emphasize “Art”, “Rore”, and “Sea”. The image of the sky is heightened as the word is given an extra e, becoming “the skye” pouring down “stinking pitch”. We get a more palpable sense of what she has experienced and how she feels. The Riverside’s exclamation mark after “Dash’d all to pieces!” gives her time to complete her thought before she reveals the feeling in her heart, whereas in the Folio the emotion explodes directly out of her previous thought and culminates with the realization that the creatures aboard the ship have died:
Against my very heart: poor soules they perish’d.
It is important not to condemn the modern editions or blindly accept the authority of the Folio texts as gospel. The modern editions are easier to read and are thus more accessible. They can also be of help in historical research, especially as to the meaning of obscure words and phrases, and in explaining literary allusions. They can offer guidance to alternative text readings, plus sound grammatical readings of difficult passages and clarification of obvious errors in the early texts. By using the First Folio and the modern script side-by-side, the company has been able to become more fully informed and make textual decisions based on knowledge and ultimately, upon what works in rehearsal. As a result, the journey from text on the page to language on the stage has been a particularly rich one.
We are indebted to Neil Freeman whose individual versions of the Folio scripts (Applause Books) present the early texts in a very readable format, utilizing a modern font while maintaining the original spelling, punctuation and line settings. The notes illuminate the choices available to the actor with helpful cross-references to modern editions. His work in using the first printings of Shakespeare’s texts in performance, on the rehearsal floor and in the classroom has been truly groundbreaking.
The central idea behind the music may spark from Prospero's magic, as presented in Act 1, Scene 2:
They are both in either’s powers: But this swift business
I must uneasy make, lest too light winning
Make the prize light. One word more: I charge thee
That thou attend me: Thou do'st heere usurp
The name thou ow'st not, and hast put thy selfe
Upon this Island, as a spy, to win it
From me, the Lord on't.
If the ill-spirit have so fayre a house,
Good things will strive to dwell with't.
Speake not you for him: he's a Traitor: come,
Ile manacle thy neck and feet together:
Sea water shalt thou drink: thy food shall be
The fresh-brooke Mussels, wither'd roots, and husks
Wherein the Acorn cradled. Follow.
I will resist such entertainment, till
Mine enemy ha's more pow'r.
Make not too rash a trial of him, for
Hee's gentle, and not fearful.
My foote my Tutor? Put thy sword up Traitor,
Who mak'st a shew, but dar'st not strike: thy conscience
Is so possess'd with guilt: Come, from thy ward,
For I can here disarm thee with this sticke,
And make thy weapon drop.
Ile be his surety.
Shall make me chide thee, if not hate thee: What,
An advocate for an Impostor? Hush:
Thou think'st there is no more such shapes as he,
(Having seene but him and Caliban:) Foolish wench,
To the most of men, this is a Caliban,
And they to him are Angels.
Are then most humble: I have no ambition
To see a goodlier man.
Thy Nerves are in their infancy again.
And have no vigour in them.
My spirits, as in a dream, are all bound up:
My Father’s loss, the weakness which I feel,
The wrack of all my friends, nor this man’s threats,
To whom I am subdued, are but light to me,
Might I but through my prison once a day
Behold this Mayd: all corners else o'th' Earth
Let liberty make use of: space enough
Have I in such a prison.
This is where Prospero shows to be at the center of the world–the island; his daughter and Ferdinand; the rest of the nobility and subjects that survived the crash and are now also on the island. But this, is also a 'time-based' center, so to speak, if different perceptions–or scales–of time were to be conceived at once (what is happening at this very moment–Ferdinand and Miranda about to fall in love; what has happened in the past–Antonio and the loss of the Dukedom, also Alonso's trip to his daughter Claribel's wedding; the redemptive future, etc.). Somehow, Prospero is able to see all of these time-scales at once, as if they were in a map, and he uses it as a blueprint on which to exercise his magic. From this center–and this vision–everything else in the play flourishes (forwards & backwards).
All the natural elements are much present in the play, but they're all in the grip of a majestic, forceful, and yet merciful and flowing quality, which should be reflected in the music as well.
There is a melodic through-line that it’s at the core of and carries itself throughout the play, which is of a timeless and even (almost) a bucolic essence, like an ancient celtic tune, or some famous lullaby, or a drinking song: something that anybody can hum, like Beethoven's Ode to Joy, for example.
The Tempest is about transformation, and otherworldliness: an island, a dream, and it’s a journey that takes us–one could see it two ways: 1) from the ‘here and now’ (as in our ordinary state of irresolution) to ‘there’ (that moment when everything will be resolved); or 2) from our re-living the past or projecting our future, to a pure now. This journey happens through the elements, and they can be perceived through sound and rhythm and melody–it is the music that’s made up of “sounds and sweet airs” which takes on the form of the elements and the humors they influence (see below). These sounds, they’ll change with them, and they’ll enchant; and they’ll make up any harmonies, counter-melodies, sound textures, and rhythms that sprinkle around a simple melodic core.
The music may not be based in leitmotifs per se (as with Wagner or John Williams), but nonetheless the musical elements will resemble the natural elements and they will move with the characters as the plot progresses–again, not in any ‘Mickey Mousey’ sort of way, but rather following the intention of each scene, whenever/wherever music is called for.
The characters will change their humors depending on the circumstances, so their elements are not to be taken too literally either–it’s not a fixed idea; nonetheless, their overall constitution is represented by one or a few elements combined.
THE WORLD OF SHAKESPEARE’S HUMORS
The four bodily humors were part of Shakespearean cosmology, inherited from the ancient Greek philosophers Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen.
Organized around the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire; the four qualities of cold, hot, moist, and dry; and the four humors, these physical qualities determined the behavior of all created things including the human body.
In the human body, the interaction of the four humors explained differences of age, gender, emotions, and disposition. The influence of the humors changed with the seasons and times of day and with the human lifespan. Heat stimulated action, cold depressed it. The young warrior’s choler gave him courage but phlegm produced cowards. Youth was hot and moist, age cold and dry. Men as a sex were hotter and drier than women.
- Humor: Black Bile
- Element: Earth
- Season: Winter
- Age: Old Age
- Qualities: Cold & Dry
- Organ: Spleen
- Planet: Saturn
- Humor: Phlegm
- Element: Water
- Season: Autumn
- Age: Maturity
- Qualities: Cold & Moist
- Organ: Brain
- Planet: Moon
- Humor: Yellow Bile
- Element: Fire
- Season: Summer
- Age: Childhood
- Qualities: Hot & Dry
- Organ: Gall Bladder
- Planet: Mars
- Humor: Blood
- Element: Air
- Season: Spring
- Age: Adolescence
- Qualities: Hot & Moist
- Organ: Heart
- Planet: Jupiter
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