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Opening Closure TERENCE HAWKES Since we speak of roles and masks, perhaps I should begin by referring to my own designation here as "discussant." The term makes me sound like a patent medicine with analgesic and laxative qualities. So permit me to reassure you: I hope to encourage the former propensity and discourage the latter. This, despite the evident commitment of my colleagues to fundamentals. For it seems to me that each speaker in his or her own way has quite properly taken up a basic issue on which all drama depends and on which we can therefore reasonably expect the dramas of Pirandello and Shakespeare notably to dwell: the matter of closure. Closure's various modes constitute the means whereby the persons in the auditorium are persuaded to connect with, and so complete, the dramatic initiative taken by the persons on the stage. In effect, the point at which the actor who enters the theatre from the rear and the audience who enters it from the front actually and creatively meet or "close" is the point at which any play comes into existence. Naomi Liebler has ably raised this issue, pointing to a number of complexities it fosters in Pirandelio and Shakespeare. Maurice Charney has drawn attention to the degree to which both our playwrights tend to confront it head-on. As he has said, its fundamental nature admits of no merely historical priorities. In this respect, "How Pirandellian was Shakespeare?" is just as appropriate a formulation as its reverse. It follows that Hamlet's question concerning the actor's act of closure with his part 0 , what a rogue and peasant slave am I! Is it not monstrous that this player here, But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, Could force his soul so to his own conceit That from her working all his visage wanned, ... ... And all for nothing! (II,ii, 555-62)1 354 TERENCE HAWKES - is a Pirandellian question directed at an Elizabethan audience. I would simply comment that the nature of that audience's response to it, the mode of its own closure with the actor at this point, will of course have been conditioned by specifically Elizabethan factors. The deictic sign "here" includes a larger area (the whole theatre perhaps) when Hamlet utters it from, say, the front of the Globe's greatjutting stage, than it would ifit came from behind the proscenium arch of a more recent model. It makes players of its audience. The effect is compounded by the audience members' own knowledge and experience of other plays, frequently as participating actors themselves. The gigantic "Carnival" or "Festival" commitment of a large proportion of the Elizabethan year, during which members of all communities were called upon to play a variety of parts (A Midsummer Night's Dream offers, with Bottom and his "rude mechanicals," Shakespeare's own commemoration of the tradition), is a highly relevant factor here. It ensures an active sense ofa "player's" experience sufficient to determine a particular "participating" mode of closure on the audience's part. All forms ofclosure are surely specific in this way. In the other version of Hamlet to which Professor Charney refers, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the audience is invited to close with the play in quite another capacity: that of the knowledgeable, even bookish "student" who has already encountered or noted Hamlet as a "great" art-work. As a result, the mode ofclosure is radically changed, from that ofparticipant to that ofobserver, or spectator. The change hints, ofcourse, at a larger shift in the culture as a whole, from a pre-industrial to a post-industrial ideological structure at the least. Jill Levenson rightly points out that the backgrounds of both Pirandello and Shakespeare encouraged them to dwell upon the nature of theatre itself, its "Globe"-like potential, and I would suggest extending slightly one of her most interesting points, which also involves the question ofclosure. She refers to the role of memory in the play, and to the theatre's standing as a kind of monument to that faculty; its ultimate function one of almost ritualized anamnesis, whereby the fundamental principles on which a way...


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pp. 353-356
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