Yesterday was scheduled to be a day to go over specific monologues our characters have. Specifically by way of analyzing the scansion of the verse. I was again able to change my Monday plans, and attend. Unfortunately, not many other were there. Only four members of the cast in fact. I got the impression attendance was expected to be higher.
However, for those of us that were there, the director gave a refresher course on scansion and verse, which I probably needed. I was aware of most of what she covered, but it had been quite a while since I applied it directly to anything. It came back to me in short order.
I will confess that I don't usually do a lot of work with scansion of Shakespeare directly. I am aware of meter, and do in fact make use of it as a guide. But when meter strictly followed makes the line awkward or nonsensical, I tend to rely on contest and vocabulary when delivering the line or speech. I have found in fact that doing so will more often than lot lead to an acceptable approximation of the technical scansion anyway.
Unconventional? Probably. Yet I fear that what inspiration or edge I have once I "crack the code" of a Shakespeare character I am playing can be muddled if I wade too long in the science of iambics and trochaics and such.
It is worth noting, however, that Buckingham has what we call a "feminine ending", (that is to say in this case, an 11 beat line ending with an unaccented syllable) in almost every speech of any size he gives. The feminine ending can indicate any number of things, according to those who study such things. I myself am not yet wholly convinced that the motivation of every line in Shakespeare can be deduced simply by counting its syllables, but a feminine 11 beat occurring with such frequency may indeed have some meaning behind it.
As does the fact that when Buckingham comes back as a ghost, he has no feminine endings. In fact, as far as I have been able to tell, it is one of the few times he speaks in near perfect iambic pentameter. Could it mean something? Again, perhaps. He is the only ghost to do so in that scene.
Buckingham also has what the director believes off hand is the only 13 beat line in the play. (Even she was unaware of it until I pointed it out.)
Thou art sworn as deeply to affect what we intend...
This is part of a line I deliver to the character of Catesby. I've determined that if there is a reason, (and in this case the line is so unusually long that even I concede there probably is), it would be because Buckingham is anxious or excited to get Catesby's view on the issue. He speaks fast and in a long rolling sentence as a result. I am going to try that the next time I run that scene. (Though that little speech has given me some trouble.)
So I have a like/hate relationship with detailed study of scansion. I realize its scholarly importance, and it can be quite interesting to a point. Yet I have found that beyond that point, delving into it too much has the potential to blunt my performance. So I try to maintain that perfect balance of using it when I need help, but not leading it bludgeon me.
We did more than scansion, though. After a while the small gathering transformed into a general discussion of some odds and ends aspects of the show that we otherwise don't often have a chance to discuss. I for example learned that unlike most of the Dukes, who will be in military garb, Buckingham will be wearing a suit. I also asked permission to follow through on an idea I had. For a while I have wanted to see how it would feel for Buckingham to have a talisman, or touchstone in his hand sometimes. I find many contemplative people, myself included, tend to play with such items when idle, or when thinking. I don't have a consistent item that I use for such purposes, but I felt that Buckingham would. I envisioned his being the white rook of a chess board.
In my mind, Buckingham probably plays a lot of chess. Literally when he can, symbolically when needed, such as his plans to help Richard ascend to the throne. Having a chess piece would not only remind the homesick (as I am playing him) Buckingham of more comfortable times, it could also serve as a symbolic conduit for his "stratagems" as he calls them in Act 3. At sometimes a worry bead sort of function as well.
The director consented, liking the idea. I asked if she would prefer it black or white, and she agreed white was the way to go. There was brief discussion as to what piece, but I have as I said before always thought rook, both practically and symbolically. The former, because for whatever reason I see Buckingham's style of chess play making use of rooks until the very end. There is a certain flare to rooks, and there ability to shut down a whole row or column at once that makes winning a game with them memorable. The latter, symbolic reason being that having a king chess piece is too obvious, and that a knight is too militant. He is more than a mere pawn, and he is certainly no bishop. The queen would just be weird to carry around, I think. So the rook it is. Now I must secure said rook from a chess set that is large enough to make it clear what I am holding, but small enough to fit easily into pockets.
Finally, there was a brief discussion about Buckingham's apparent esteem for Catesby. he always refers to the character as "Gentle," or "good". He seeks out his opinion on matters. It could be coincidence, just as the scansion could be, but I'm choosing to conclude that there is some indication of esteem in the way Buckingham addresses Catesby in the few times he does so.
In our version of the play, Catesby plays a somewhat larger role, what with the need for double casting and such. Some smaller roles were consolidated. The nature of the character is also somewhat different in this production, but I won't get into that now. Suffice to say, he has a different dynamic than he would in most productions I dare say, and this too can be tapped into for the brief but meaningful Buckingham/Catesby dynamic. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.
There is no rehearsal again until Thursday.