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  • Title: Additional Footnotes to An Humorous Day's Mirth
  • Author: Eleanor Lowe
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-513-1

    Copyright Digital Renaissance Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Eleanor Lowe
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    Additional Footnotes to An Humorous Day's Mirth

    40Above Space

    Scene 9 is inserted between the two parts of continuing action of which Scene 8 is comprised. The characters onstage at the end of Scene 8 part one (of which there are at least six) either have to clear the stage for Scene 9, or Scene 9 occurs elsewhere. Various locations of these over-lapping scenes on the physical space of the stage can be suggested. The action at the ordinary could be manipulated so that the one scene is interrupted by Scene 9 whilst the characters physically occupy the discovery space, the intervening action occurring on the main stage. McMillin’s study of the ‘raised space’ and ‘curtained enclosure’ used by Rose plays suggests this might be possible. However, the comparatively small size of the Rose stage suggests that its discovery space might not comfortably accommodate six to eight actors. Jean Wilson approximates the stage’s total area as a maximum of 500 square feet, compared with the Fortune’s 1,600 square feet (without accounting for the tiring house).[24] Another possibility involves the use of the discovery space by Lemot and the Countess for Scene 9 while the other actors remain on the stage proper, frozen, quiet, or silently interacting.

    More convincingly, the short dialogue of Scene 9 could be exchanged in the ‘above space’ of the Rose, for which McMillin provides substantial evidence in other Rose plays. The actor playing Lemot could use the remaining ten lines dialogue of Scene 8 part one to run upstairs to the above space and appear with the Countess. This suggestion finds textual support in the Countess’s first line of this embedded scene: ‘What, you are out of breath, methinks, Monsieur Lemot?’. It is also more convincing that this scene takes place away from the larger number of actors occupying the stage proper. Thomas Marc Parrott, editor of the play’s 1914 edition, very simply summarises the proposed locations of various actors: ‘This scene is laid at the house of Count Moren. It was probably played on the balcony while the other actors remained seated on the main stage representing Verone’s ordinary, to which Lemot returns in the next scene’ (693).

    McMillin’s study of Rose plays catalogues in detail those containing one or more raised scenes as referred to by the text. Some of these plays have provided interesting comparisons with The Comedy of Humours and the time in lines allotted to characters who have to descend from above and appear immediately upon the main stage. For example, in Chapman’s The Blind Beggar of Alexandria, Elimine enters Scene 2 ‘above on the walls’ for a sixteen line soliloquy, but only has three lines during which to descend before entering the main stage space. Elimine then has a gap of sixty-one lines before speaking, possibly to allow the actor to get his breath back.

    The text of The Two Angry Women of Abingdon (1598) causes confusion due to a possible misplaced stage direction. At l. 1432 the direction reads ‘Enter Mall in the window’.[25] Mall’s exit direction is placed above another of her lines, but before she seems to appear on the stage proper. This suggests either that the actor must speak the line whilst descending the stairs, or that the direction is misplaced (due to error or lack of space on the correct line), and that Mall should exit after her line. Without including Mall’s odd line, the actor has eight lines of dialogue in which to descend from above and appear on the stage. Garland editor Marianne Brish Evett and Nottingham Drama Texts editors Michael Jardine and John Simons disagree over where to place the stage direction, the former moving it after Mall’s disputed line, the latter favouring the quarto reading.[26]

    In Titus Andronicus, 5.2, Titus leaves his study and exits above at l. 69, entering the stage proper in time to begin his next speech eleven lines later. Maria Clara Versiani Galery suggests that Tamora is allotted eleven lines in order to give the actor playing Titus enough time to descend from above.[27] Therefore it would appear from other evidence of plays performed at the Rose that the ten lines allocated to Lemot in which to descend from above are reasonable and realistic. One additional possibility involves staging the scene on another part of the stage, for example, downstage of other characters. However, the textual evidence of the Countess’s ‘out of breath’ line strengthens the suggestion that Scene 9 occurs in the above space.

    45If the other characters remain onstage, they could be miming action, or freeze. In her commentary to Every Man out of His Humour, Helen Ostovich describes 3.1 as a scene requiring expert choreography which she likens to a dance: ‘Clove and Orange have been strolling together, without overhearing the other men’s conversation, since 42. It is understood that each group of strollers mimes private chat when not delivering lines, and overhears only snatches of other conversations in passing’ (3.1.168-70n). So it is possible that characters in The Comedy of Humours continue miming while Lemot visits the Countess. Similar miming could occur during Scene 8 amongst those participating in the card game, while Lemot and Catalian discuss them in private.