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Conclusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2011

Michael Dobson
Affiliation:
Birkbeck College, University of London
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Summary

chudleigh My dear father –

dunscombe (working himself into a passion) See what Shakespeare – himself a player – thinks of the amateur actor. Look at him in the Midsummer Night's Dream – the Weaver Bottom – a conceited, pragmatical, imbecile idiot!

chudleigh And see how Shakespeare rewards him! Who falls in love with this idiot and imbecile? Titania, Queen of the Fairies.

dunscombe Yes, sir. And do you know why? Because Puck, before he shows this broken-brained weaver to Titania, raises him in the scale of intellect from an amateur actor to a donkey. Shakespeare knew that as a donkey he was presentable at the fairy court – as an amateur actor the thing was too impossible.

(T. W. Robertson, M.P., 1870)

For all the popularity of the contemporary outdoor productions chronicled in the previous chapter, the amateur performance of Shakespeare continues to inspire embarrassment, anxiety and derision – much of it, like that of Dunscombe Dunscombe, MP, claiming to take its cue from Shakespeare's own depiction of amateur performance in A Midsummer Night's Dream. For Dunscombe, acting is a socially degrading pursuit, inappropriate to the status of his son: public exposure to the stares and critical opinions of an audience is a humiliation which ought to be reserved for members of the untouchable caste of professional players. But the passing of the Victorian social attitudes which make Dunscombe oppose his son's favourite hobby with such vehemence seems to have done little to rehabilitate the pursuit among the literati.

Type
Chapter
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Shakespeare and Amateur Performance
A Cultural History
, pp. 197 - 217
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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  • Conclusion
  • Michael Dobson, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Book: Shakespeare and Amateur Performance
  • Online publication: 05 December 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511801259.006
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  • Conclusion
  • Michael Dobson, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Book: Shakespeare and Amateur Performance
  • Online publication: 05 December 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511801259.006
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Conclusion
  • Michael Dobson, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Book: Shakespeare and Amateur Performance
  • Online publication: 05 December 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511801259.006
Available formats
×