Response to Jeffrey Kahan's "Reassessing the Use of Doubling in Marston's Antonio and Mellida" (EMLS 2.2 [1996]: 4.1-12).
Richard Fotheringham
University of Queensland

Fotheringham, Richard. "Response to Jeffrey Kahan's 'Reassessing the Use of Doubling in Marston's Antonio and Mellida' (EMLS 2.2 [1996]: 4.1-12)." Early Modern Literary Studies 4.2 (September, 1998): 29.1-4 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/04-2/rf_foth.html>.

  1. I would like to make a brief comment on Jeffrey Kahan's article "Reassessing the Use of Doubling in Marston's Antonio and Mellida," published earlier in Early Modern Literary Studies, which criticised a section of my earlier "The Doubling of Roles on the Jacobean Stage."   Kahan has suggested that I am wrong to suggest that Antonio and Mellida can be played by fourteen boy actors. I believe that my original analysis is defensible; here I shall do so briefly (readers may need to check my comments here against both articles and also W. Reavley Gair's 1991 edition of the play for Manchester UP).

  2. One small query I would make about Gair's fine edition of the play is that he proposes an extremely unusual staging of a section of the first scene (I.i.99-140), and it is partly on this that Kahan bases his belief that the play requires 19 actors (3; chart 1). Gair translates the Quarto stage direction following line 99, "Exit Piero tantum" as "Exit PIERO only" and then takes it to mean "Only Piero exits."  However the stage direction which immediately follows, concerning the entrance of a new character, Galeazzo, has "PIERO meeteth him," while none of the other characters who were in the scene prior to line 99 has any subsequent dialogue. Gair imagines a staging in which the gentlemen on stage line up as "two ranks of courtiers" (76 fn. 91.I.-116.3), remaining silent for the next 41 lines before their exit, and where Piero, as Duke of Venice, leaves the stage only to re-enter immediately to greet Galeazzo, son of the Duke of Florence. To achieve this Gair is obliged to change the Quarto stage direction to "PIERO [enters,] meeteth him."

  3. Gair's justification for not interpreting the earlier stage direction as "Exit [the courtiers.] PIERO [remains]" -- the usual reading -- is that Piero's "earlier withdrawal from the stage was, presumably, to stress his superior rank to that of Galeazzo" (76 fn. 91.I.-116.3). Possibly, and there is some evidence in both subsequent stage directions ("The rest stand still") and dialogue (I.i.99-100: "Mellida. What Prince was that which passed through my father's guard?") which could support this staging, but it remains highly speculative. Courtiers are not guards, while Galeazzo enters "with attendants" who probably are guards, and who could stand still on the main stage during the subsequent dialogue "above." If the courtiers remain, then the play does require a much larger number of actors, as Kahan argues; if they leave, then fourteen is a plausible cast size, and one which I have found echoed in the number of actors on stage in the largest scenes of other plays attributed to this company.

  4. Where Gair and I agree is on the interpretation of a moment in the play's last scene which is Kahan's other piece of evidence in favour of a larger cast size with minimal doubling. Duke Piero says: "The room's too scant. Boys, stand in there, close" (V.ii.75). In my original article I took that to indicate an exit by some actors, freeing them to double other roles, but Kahan argues that "Piero is saying that the room seems empty and he wants to fill it with bodies and activity" (5). I can not find any usage in the OED or elsewhere to support Kahan's interpretation of "scant" (or "room"?), and as Gair points out in his footnote to this line, Piero's comment is only one of several about the "restricted size of the Paul's stage" (152). Although I argued in my article that Piero's request might be to make doubling possible rather than a real lack of space (25), that is immaterial here. Some actors leave the stage; no other interpretation seems possible.

Works Cited

[http://asgard.humn.arts.ualberta.ca/emls/EMLS footer.html]

(RF, RGS, 17 September 1998)