Character in the cue space: an analysis of part scripts in shakespeare's Coriolanus and Julius Caesar
This paper aspires to perform an analysis of Early Modern character by thinking of character as a formative process, spanning playwriting to part-learning to dramatic performance. My analysis, which will focus on Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Julius Caesar, dismisses any notion of the Shakespeare play as holistic or complete text. I draw from Tiffany Stern and Simon Palfrey's Shakespeare in Parts, which establishes a methodology for the analysis of "part" or "cue" scripts, texts that feature a single character's lines amputated from the larger play. In the Early Modern period, an actor's "part" or "side" would have included his own lines and the cues he needed to know to enter the scene or begin speaking. The part would have been learned in isolation, so the actor would have relied on cues to understand how his role fit into the larger play. I argue that the function of isolated parts and cues, or the last three to five words of any character's lines, is currently underestimated in critical analysis of Shakespeare texts, especially in literary close readings that focus on "character." The textual space that Palfrey and Stern label the "cue space" continues to be underestimated, I imagine, because critics still view this space as an overly speculative construct. It is true that we cannot speak concretely about what an Early Modern actor would or would not have done, but we can highlight the implications of a potential performance decision. Cues, sites of stability surrounded by malleability, are ripe with potential performance decisions. By drawing from a methodology grounded in an understanding of parts and cues, we may more clearly contextualize the combative collaboration between actor and playwright through which character is formed.