British Shakespeare Association
10th Anniversary Conference
24-26 February, 2012
Panel 39: ‘Clowning’ Workshop and paper (2.00 pm – 3.30 pm, Studio A29 LICA Building)
Chair: Steve Longstaffe
Placing and Spacing the Clown: Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Elizabeth Ford, Cardiff University.
It is generally accepted that the clown role of Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona was added to the play for the actor Will Kemp. Kemp/Launce operates chiefly in the intermediate space of the on-stage area identified by Robert Weimann as the ‘platea’, and is associated by most critics with the residual features of festive ‘clownage’ still at large in the early 1590s. But along with his ‘cur’, Crab, Launce also acts as a burlesque parallel to the themes of love and friendship in the wider play. The role, therefore, explores but also joins the liminal space of performance between stage and yard in popular Elizabethan theatre, providing Shakespeare with a ludic prototype for a host of clowns and fools to come. Kemp’s Launce instils Shakespeare’s first comedy with an experimental performative edge – one which shines through Ralph Crane’s literary mediation of the play for inclusion in the First Folio. In this paper, I will show how the only early extant text of the work captures Kemp’s performance, and how the transitory and evolving spaces of clown and author can be glimpsed behind the Folio’s static textuality.
Panel 24: Shakespeare and I (10.00 am – 11.30 am Conference Centre Room 1) Chair: Ramona Wray
Panel leaders: Will McKenzie (Birkbeck, London) Theodora Papadopoulou (University of Cyprus)
Participants: Simon Palfrey (Brasenose College, Oxford University) Richard Wilson (Cardiff University) Phil Davis (University of Liverpool) Paul Edmondson (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust).
The aim of this panel is to bring together for discussion some of the contributors to the collection of essays Shakespeare and I (in press to be published by Continuum in early 2012).The book, part of Continuum’s innovative, provocative Shakespeare NOW! series, strives to advance a new, active, self-invested critical writing; it challenges its contributors and readers to explore their deepest, most intimate responses to the plays and poems. Shakespeare and I argues passionately that critical writing must assay the difficult task of articulating life-forging, life-changing effects of literary art: that these irreducibly personal, formative (and transformative) experiences are a legitimate, if not essential, object for critical writing.
The BSA conference provides an ideal forum for discussion of the book and the living, breathing kind of critical thought and practice it presents. The contributors to the book assembled here do not only consider how aesthetic experience’s fierce energy mocks feeble boundaries of ‘subject’ and ‘object’, ‘inner’ and ‘outer’, ‘play’ and ‘playgoer’, ‘text’ and ‘reader’; they have also, much more riskily, turned themselves ‘inside out’ by publishing in this avowedly autobiographical critical text something of their own sense and intuition of themselves. The panel seeks to explore the consequences of such a step. After presenting a small extract from their essay, the contributors will each be asked to reflect on the difficulties, lessons, even pleasures, of writing it. How did the exercise change their perspectives on Shakespeare, criticism or, indeed, on themselves? In the general discussion which follows, we would hope to stimulate a thoughtful discussion on the value of self-investment in any literary consideration of Shakespeare, and the new formal shapes for criticism that this might necessitate and entail.