Day: February 21, 2017

Booke of Plaies

Source: Simon Forman, Booke of Plaies, extract reproduced in E.K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), vol. II, pp. 339-340

Production: Unknown author, Richard II, Globe theatre, London, 30 April 1611

Text: In Richard the 2 at the Glob 1611 the 30 of Aprill ♂ [Tuesday]

Remember therin howe Jack Straw by his overmoch boldnes not beinge pollitick nor suspecting Anye thinge: was Soddenly at Smithfeld Bars stabbed by Walworth the major of London, & soe he and his wholle Army was overthrowen. Therefore in such a case or the like, never admit any party without a bar betwen, for A man cannot be to wise, nor kepe him selfe to safe.

Also remember howe the duke of Gloster, The Erell of Arundell, Oxford and others, crossing the kinge in his humor, about the duke of Erland and Bushy, wer glad to fly and Raise an hoste of men, and beinge in his Castell, howe the d. of Erland cam by nighte to betray him with 300 men, but hauinge pryuie warninge ther of kept his gates faste, And wold not suffer the Enimie to Enter, which went back Again with a flie in his eare, and after was slainte by the Errell of Arundell in the battell.

Remember also, when the duke and Arundell cam to London with their Army, king Richard came forth to them and met them and gaue them fair wordes. And promised them pardon and that all should be well yf they wold discharge their Army, vpon whose promises and faier Speaches they did yt, and Affter the king byd them all to A banket and soe betraid them And Cut of their heades &c because they had not his pardon vnder his hand & sealle before but his worde.

Remember therin Also howe the ducke of Lankaster pryuily contryued all villany, to set them all together by the ears and to make the nobilyty to Envy the kinge and mislyke of him and his gouernmentes by which means he made his own sonn king which was henry Bullinbrocke.

Remember also howe the duke of Lankaster asked A wise man, wher him self should ever be kinge, And he told him no, but his sonn should be a kinge. And when he had told him he hanged him vp for his labor, because he should not brute yt a brod or speke ther of to others. This was a pollicie in the common wealthes opinion. But I sai yt was a Villains parte and a Judas kisse to hange the man for telling him the truth. Beware by this Example of noble men, and of their fair wordes. & sai lyttell to them, lest they doe the like by thee for thy good will.

Comments: Simon Forman (1552-1611) was an Elizabethan astrologer, whose manuscripts include the ‘Booke of Plaies‘ with Forman’s impressions of four plays that he saw in London 1610-11, three of which were productions of Shakespeare. the fourth was this production of Richard II, which covers events earlier than those in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Though some have argued that the Forman document is a forgery, it is generally accepted as authentic.

Links: Copy at Shakespeare Documented (image plus modernised and exact transcription)

Journal 1935-1944

Source: Mihail Sebastian (trans. Patrick Camiller), Journal 1935-1944 (London: Pimlico, 2003, orig. pub. 1996), pp. 188-189

Production: Mihail Sebastian, Jocul de-a vacanţa, Comoedia theatre, Bucharest, 17 October 1938

Text: Monday, 17 [October 1938]

Sunday evening’s performance was the last performance. They’ve played the dirty trick of putting Ionescu G. Maria back on for the last two days before the tour, yesterday and today. So now the impression is given that I’ve been taken down from the boards and replaced with an old play – as if it would have been such a disaster to keep me on for another couple of days! For a moment I was quite indignant. But then it passed. In the end, I don’t want to make a tragedy out of anything that’s happened to me at the theatre.

It’s been an adventure – and now it’s over. I didn’t gain a lot from it, nor did I lose much.

On Saturday evening, at the last performance but one, I watched the whole play for the first time since the Sunday immediately after the premiere. I’ve seen bits of each act at various times, depending on when I dropped by the theatre on my way back from the cinema or to see Leni. But I have only twice seen the play from beginning to end. I’m used to it by now, and it is almost impossible for me to judge it. The image of this production has almost completely covered the image I originally had of it. At first the differences between my conception and the stage performance were quite glaring. Little by little, however, the actors’ gestures (even if they were wrong) and their tones of voice (even if they were false) substituted themselves for what I had imagined at the time of writing. Sometimes I’d have liked to protest, to get them back on the right track, to restore my original text, to force them to act the play I actually wrote – but it would have meant too great an effort, and I wasn’t even sure it was worth it.

On Sunday evening I again watched the third act – for the last time! I was in the balcony, from where the stage appears far off and for that very reason somehow magical, and sometimes I shut my eyes to listen the words. Maybe it was the thought that this really was the last time, that none of these words would be spoken again, that they would remain in a typewritten file or, at best, in a printed book – maybe all these thoughts, with their sense of leave-taking, made me listen with emotion for the first time. I said to myself that something was dying, departing forever, breaking loose from me. Never again will I see the audience’s heads turned toward the stage, in the silence of an occupied auditorium, in the darkness broken only by the footlights, listening, taking in, echoing, answering the words written by me. Never again will I hear that laughter rise in warm animation toward the stage.

Next to me a girl was crying. She is the last girl who will cry for Jocul de-a vacanţa.

Comments: Mihail Sebastian (1907-1945) was the pen-name of the Jewish Romanian playwright and noveliest Iosif Hechter. Sebastian’s journal, not published until 1996 – when it gained huge acclaim – records the rise of Fascism in Romania through to the Second World War, the fall of the dictator Ion Antonescu’s fascist government on 23 August 1944, and Romania joining the Allies. Sebastian suffered from anti-Semitic persecution, but survived the war, only to die in a motor accident in May 1945. Jocul de-a vacanţa, or Holiday Games, was his first play. He was romantically involved with actress Leni Caler, who appeared in the production.