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Table ronde sur The Winter’s Tale et Arcadia

Dominique Goy-Blanquet, Monique Le Roux, Yan Brailowsky, Graham Saunders et Liliane Campos

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Dominique Goy-Blanquet, Université de Picardie

De l’excès de chaleur à la pompe à feu

1Rapprocher sous un même chapeau pastoral les univers du Winter’s Tale et d’Arcadia semble à première vue pure acrobatie rhétorique. Pourtant, sans être jamais nommé, Shakespeare joue un rôle essentiel dans la pièce de Stoppard où il n’apparaît qu’en filigrane, tel « a cipher in rich place », par le biais d’un exercice très en vogue chez les humanistes de la Renaissance, la double traduction du célèbre portrait de la reine d’Egypte dans Antony and Cleopatra. Septimus affirme qu’au fond rien ne se perd, « we shed as we pick up », mais l’exercice prouve le contraire, la poésie a disparu dès le premier passage, si l’on en croit Thomasina qui n’a pu reconnaître l’original dans le latin laborieux de son professeur. Cette disparition de la poésie correspond exactement à la perte de chaleur dans la machine de Newcomen, la pompe à feu comme on l’appelait en France, « the penny for the author’s thoughts ».

2Objets ou êtres perdus, retrouvés, déformés ou transformés, c’est donc un des thèmes communs aux deux pièces que nous aborderons, la part irréversible du désordre, qui dans The Winter’s Tale se traduit par la mort – définitive celle-là – de Mamillius, un cas unique dans le canon shakespearien, dans Arcadia par l’incendie où mourra Thomasina, hors du cadre de l’action. Le désordre, l’entropie, a au fond la même origine dans les deux pièces : du « Too hot, too hot » de Leontes, au « heat exchange » d’Arcadia, l’excès de chaleur imaginaire va détruire l’harmonie du jardin d’Eden sicilien, tout comme « the attraction that Newton left out » vient perturber les lois de la physique newtonienne.

3Autres voies possibles de rapprochement :

4L’art et la science, du jardinier, du physicien, contre la nature. Chaque jardin a son serpent, ou son araignée. En témoigne le débat opposant Bernard l’oiseau vaniteux à Valentine l’éleveur de grouses, qui fait écho aux fleurs sauvages de Perdita face aux plantes hybrides cultivées de Polyxenes.

5Et in Arcadia ego. Nostalgie de mondes disparus, de l’innocence perdue dans The Winter’s Tale, de l’ordre idéal classique dans Arcadia, « the decline of thinking to feeling ». Quelle est la plus pessimiste des deux pièces, ou la plus volontariste dans l’optimisme ?

6La recherche de la vérité, quête illusoire ? Les erreurs d’interprétation, les fausses pistes font sinuer les deux actions. « Truth is the daughter of Time », conclut le Conte, mais elle reste insaisissable et constamment réécrite au présent à Sidley Park, où le jardin est à lui seul toute une bibliothèque d’Alexandrie, « It’s wanting to know that makes us matter » affirme Hannah.

7Le « feuilletage du temps ». Le temps vectorisé des tragédies historiques insistait sur l’irréversibilité du temps, sa force destructrice. C’est une idée très neuve, chez Shakespeare et pour son époque, de faire du temps un créateur, voire un agent du progrès. La mort de Mamillius marque pour Leontes le début d’un itinéraire de repentir et de réparation. Chez Stoppard, la mort de Thomasina enferme Septimus dans une longue réclusion obsessionnelle et stérile.

8« Motiveless playfulness ». Les stratégies linguistiques de Stoppard : ses personnages sont-ils « in danger of fortuitous wit ? »

Monique Le Roux, Université de Poitiers (chronique dramatique de La Quinzaine littéraire)

Le Conte d’hiver, quelques repères de réception théâtrale

9Le Conte d’hiver ne connaît pas la fortune théâtrale d’autres pièces de Shakespeare. Peut-être cette situation tient-elle en partie à la tendance des metteurs en scène à privilégier les œuvres déjà très célèbres qui leur permettent de rivaliser entre eux et qui, censées être familières au public, peuvent constituer un « matériau » à retravailler : Au moins j’aurais laissé un beau cadavre, création de Vincent Macaigne au Festival d’Avignon 2011 d’après Hamlet, constitue l’exemple récent le plus représentatif de cette tendance. Quelques spectacles servent néanmoins de repères, dont certains restent en mémoire grâce à des choix marquants.

10Au XXème siècle Jacques Copeau a ouvert la voie en 1920 au Vieux-Colombier par un texte français écrit avec Suzanne Bing, Louis Jouvet interprétant Antolycus. Cette pratique fréquente et contestable d’une nouvelle traduction, signée par le metteur en scène, se retrouvait de la part de Jacques Osinski et Marie Potonet à Istres en 2008. Elle correspond à la recherche de la nouveauté, ce qui n’était pas le cas du recours à une version bien oubliée, celle de Claude-André Puget ( 1905-1975), par Muriel Mayette en 2004 au Studio-Théâtre de la Comédie-Française. Ce texte avait déjà été illustré en 1980 par Jorge Lavelli, dans un spectacle créé au Théâtre de la Ville et repris au Festival d’Avignon dans la Cour d’Honneur du Palais des Papes, avec Roland Bertin (Leontes), Anny Duperey (Hermione), Jean-Claude Jay (Polixene), Nathalie Nell (Perdita) et Maria Casarès en une inoubliable incarnation du Temps, déployant autour d’elle les plis d’un vêtement blanc à immense traîne.

11En matière de traduction, Luc Bondy a le plus innové avec un texte – d’écrivain plus que d’angliciste – dû à Bernard-Marie Koltès, l’auteur célébré par Patrice Chéreau aux Amandiers de Nanterre. Le spectacle avait été créé dans ce théâtre en mars 1988, avant quatre représentations au Festival d’Avignon, avec Michel Piccoli ( Leontes), Bulle Ogier (Hermione), Roland Amstutz (Antigonus), Nada Strancar (Paulina) et Laura Benson (Perdita), au milieu d’autres jeunes comédiens formés à l’Ecole de Nanterre. Michel Piccoli, lui, fréquemment distribué aux Amandiers dans cette période, correspondait, par son âge, plus au roi repenti de la seconde partie qu’au futur père jaloux seize ans plus tôt. La production bénéficiait de l’apport, à un très haut niveau, des collaborateurs réguliers de Patrice Chéreau, en particulier Richard Peduzzi pour la scénographie et Daniel Delannoy pour les lumières.

12Pierre Pradinas a repris le texte de Bernard-Marie Koltès en 2002 à Chatenay-Malabry, puis au Centre dramatique national de Limoges, qu’il dirige, et en 2003 à la Tempête. Chef de troupe, il avait distribué des acteurs familiers de ses spectacles pour plusieurs rôles : Gérard Chaillou (entre autres Camillo) ou Thierry Jimenez (entre autres Antolycus). Mais il avait innové pour les protagonistes : il avait confié à Romane Bohringer, Miranda dès sa seizième année sous la direction de Peter Brook, les deux personnages de la mère et la fille, Hermione et Perdita, ce qui l’avait obligé à trouver une solution scénique au dénouement ; il avait pris le risque de choisir, pour son premier rôle au théâtre, Roschdy Zem, interprète à peau sombre, en écho au jaloux Othello ou à l’exotisme du royaume sicilien ? Celui-ci était connoté par les costumes et l’espace scénique recouvert de sable, remplacé dans la seconde partie par une pelouse, plus proche de la campagne de la pastorale que de la sombre Bohême, surtout évoquée par un ours. Un technicien revêtu d’une peau brune très crédible ne poursuivait pas Antigonus hors scène, mais le déchiquetait sur le plateau en une vision mémorable, conforme au goût de Pierre Pradinas pour les spectacles sanglants.

Yan Brailowsky, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Synchronicity and palimpsests

13When taken together, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale can be taken as two works which entertain a peculiar relationship with time and intertextuality, or more precisely with synchronicity, on the one hand, and palimpsestic writing, on the other.

14Both plays contain different temporalities which cannot be reduced to the apparently binary opposition between two periods separated by 16 years (and a bear) in the case of Shakespeare’s romance, or between the early 19th and the late 20th centuries in Stoppard’s Arcadia. Rather, it seems that both plays continuously refer to a set of different temporalities which blur the diachronic unfurling of the plot, as characters constantly shift between past, present and future. They can speak in the present of a literary or personal past while having the future in mind (Bernard Nightingale studies and speaks about Lord Byron in his efforts to secure his future fame; Polixenes recalls his childhood days with Leontes all the while speaking of his wife-to be). In addition, there are proleptic utterances which give us a glimpse into an unexpected future, that is, into a future which the characters are unaware of: in The Winter’s Tale, Archidamus and Camillo speak of Mamillius growing into a young man (a future unfulfilled), while the Delphic oracle promises that Leontes’ new-born child is legitimate and that though it is lost, it can be found (a prophecy fulfilled two acts later). Similarly,we realize in Arcadia that Thomasina’s experiments foreshadow scientific discoveries unheard of in her time, but we also understand this is due because she did not live to see her discoveries recognized by a wider audience.

15Despite these multilayered temporalities, both plays also work towards reaching a state of synchronicity. Thus, one can argue that The Winter’s Tale ends much as it began, with Hermione, Leontes, Polixenes and Camillo in a happy family gathering in Sicilia. Despite the characters’ recognition that time has taken its toll, in dramatic terms, Hermione’s “resurrection” has momentarily brought back the audience to the world depicted in the first three acts, sixteen years previously. Likewise, Stoppard’s Arcadia works towards synchronicity, firstly by eliminating character dichotomies, establishing that the hermit and Septimus Hodge are one and the same character, and that the obscure botanist was also Ezra Chater, the mediocre poet. Dramatic synchronicity is achieved when modern-day characters appear dressed in period costume. As indicated by Stoppard in his stage directions, the audience must wonder, if only for a passing moment, whether the character who appears on stage is Gus or Augustus. Both characters are appropriately played by the same young actor, as may be the case with Mamillius and Perdita in Shakespeare’s play.

16As if to suggest that a certain degree of harmonious synchronicity has been achieved, both plays end with music playing in the background: Paulina wakes Hermione with music (“Music – Strike!”), and Septimus and Thomasina waltz together until the curtain falls. This may also soften the blow of our knowledge that a death will or has occurred (Mamillius and Antigonus have died offstage; Thomasina will die on the eve of her 17th birthday, shortly after the end of the play).

17The tricks played with temporality by Shakespeare and Stoppard, in which the audience momentarily loses its footing, can be compared with the manner in which both playwrights rewrite literary history, providing their own palimpsestic versions of Greene’s Pandosto, in one case, or of Byron’s biography and English garden history, in another. One can argue that when Shakespeare rewrote Greene’s romance by famously introducing Autolycus in act 4, the rogue’s jests and ballads discreetly mocked Greene’s cony-catching pamphlets, while Hermione’s “resurrection” revived an otherwise staid narrative. The play may then be considered as a palimpsestic jab at a former rival who had allegedly mocked “the upstart crow” from Stratford in a 1592 posthumous pamphlet. Similarly, if Stoppard does not seek to make a fool of Byron, he certainly ridicules academics, as shown when Bernard Nightingale’s pedantry is quickly ridiculed not only onstage, but offstage on public television, or when one realizes the witty tutor from Oxford turned into a mad, anonymous hermit. Needless to say, the garden in the background is a natural (albeit offstage) illustration of the literary palimpsest enacted by the characters.

18Arguably, the staging of the plays may help underline the manner in which synchronicity and palimpsest work dramatically. Stoppard does this consciously as the table placed in the center of the room accumulates objects used in several temporalities, sometimes at the same time. The effect produced is that in which the audience can both distinguish temporalities intellectually, while experiencing them simultaneously. Shakespeare’s dramaturgy does not rest on such visible parallelisms, as there were far fewer props in Jacobean drama, but the stage’s relative bareness did allow audiences to experience different temporalities in a single locus, and the appearance of a metadramatic Chorus in the middle of the play helps us bridge several worlds: past and present, onstage and offstage, diegesis and mimesis, “realism” and “fairy-tale”.

Graham Saunders, University of Reading

On reversing entropy

19The idea that an Arcadian state is one based on a process of regeneration seems contradictory when considering the fate of Septimus in Tom Stoppard’s play, both through the death of Thomasina as well as the retreat of Septimus Hodge into madness and self-imposed exile within the self-consciously constructed hermit’s cottage within this man-made garden state. This in turn seems part of Stoppard’s conception of arcadias and entropy – of heat exchange only moving one way and of the earth’s eventual end – not in conflagration but through the entire universe cooling down to the point where regeneration is impossible.

20Yet in The Winter’s Tale Shakespeare manages to thwart the very same processes that Stoppard asserts are inevitable. Here I mean specifically the turning back of time – of reversing entropy. While it has become commonplace to point out that Shakespeare never used the cinematic device of the flashback in his work, yet The Winter’s Tale is full of motifs that not only refute the laws of entropy laid down in Stoppard’s Arcadia, but do so through the manipulation of time itself: winter moves to summer; a seemingly cold statue is imbued with the warmth of living flesh and a chorus, simply known as ‘Time’, relates the passing of the years – a piece of stagecraft interestingly enough, that Shakespeare was never to use again in his drama. In all these respects The Winter’s Tale defies the set of mathematical laws set down by Thomasina Coverley when she predicted the nature of the universe whilst simultaneously stirring jam into her rice pudding. Arcadia allows “the coexistence of past and present on stage, even if some degree of separation is maintained”, as Susan Blattes puts it in her paper. In The Winter’s Tale, like the irreverent mixing of tragedy and comedy, Shakespeare in defiance runs his play backwards and restores to life those who were previously thought dead.

21Looking at points of connection between Arcadia and The Winter’s Tale, one is immediately drawn to Shakespeare. Stoppard famously began his career in his reimagining of Hamlet via Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1953) in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1966), and although in his playwriting to date there has never been such an obvious response to Shakespeare, allusions have continued throughout his work, culminating in Stoppard’s major contribution to the screenplay Shakespeare in Love (1998).

22Listening to Professor Richard Wilson’s eloquent and witty keynote presentation earlier this afternoon and the idea of New Place as ‘the haunted house’ I was also struck by the uses that Sidley Park is put to in Arcadia. Just as Richard argues that Shakespeare’s drama is a charnel house where the dead are only ever partly buried, in Stoppard’s play the house itself is a repository of secrets – sometimes ludicrously so, as in the all- important drawing of Septimus and his tortoise Plautus by Thomasina Coverley residing in, of all places, a bidet. Like Shakespeare, Stoppard of course, also breaks the very same rules he has initiated – he does indeed run the play both backwards and forwards like a piece of video tape; yet this is now an unremarkable narrative device that features in a great deal of contemporary plays. However, it is Shakespeare’s reversal of entropic laws in The Winter’s Tale that seems to me to be one of the noteworthy things about that play. Whereas in Arcadia, like the occupied graves Professor Wilson speaks about with Shakespeare, the past is represented as a series of palimpsests that are slowly revealed by the unearthing of a number of documents and also the audience seeing the early nineteenth-century occupants of Sidley Park as revenants.

23Although Arcadia and The Winter’s Tale are very different plays other similarities can also be found – both Leontes and Bernard are in their own ways obsessed with a single goal – Bernard in proving that Byron killed Chater in a duel in order to win academic plaudits and Leontes with his altogether more damaging sexual jealousy over Hermione’s chastity. Things are resolved for Leontes who moves from spiritual winter to the opportunity of being granted a second chance with Hermione, whereas Bernard retreats to a scholarly wilderness, his authority fatally undermined by his rash assertions.

24See also how both dramatists attempt to make order in their plays. As Liliane Campos mentioned in her paper, Stoppard attempts to do so through the invocation of mathematics; and whereas Shakespeare uses the restorative, if forced, conventions of the fairy tale Stoppard shows that mathematics is the chief ordering mechanism that anchors the fates of all the characters in play whilst simultaneously showing his audience that mathematics also confirms our extinction as a species.

Liliane Campos, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III

Unwelcome machines and eternal recurrence

25The first remark I would like to make is about the key role played by machines in both Arcadia and The Winter’s Tale. As Pierre Iselin reminded us this morning, the discourse that surrounds the statue in The Winter’s Tale contains many metatheatrical elements: it echoes various contemporary conceptions about art and particularly the art of theatre. The statue can be seen as a metaphor for the actor, and links the art of acting to the deceptive practice of artifice. These questions are strengthened by the pastoral setting of the play, since it is one of the paradoxes of pastoral literature, as a highly conventional mode, that it tends to combine the evocation of nature with self-conscious artificiality.

26Artificial nature is also central to Arcadia, in which, as Oscar Wilde would put it, life imitates art much more than art imitates life. Self-conscious artificiality recurs frequently in the play’s depictions of the English garden, and indeed in some of Tom Stoppard’s remarks about his characters and his writing:

  • 1  Tom Stoppard interviewed by Stephen Schiff, “Full Stoppard,” Vanity Fair, 52, n°5 (May 1989), repr (...)

“... most of my characters appear to have been brought up in the same house, have gone to the same school, and have lived together for years before they were released into my plays, so they all have each other’s speech rhythms and vocabularies. The whole thing is an artifice”.1

27In Sidley Park, machines are not welcome: Lady Croom cannot bear the ceaseless thump of the Newcomen steam-pump, and the modern Lord Croom refuses to read typewritten letters. Yet they are inevitably present in the Arcadian landscape, and their role is both destructive and creative. While Noakes’s engine disrupts the pastoral tranquillity of the garden and rings in the age of industrial Britain, it is only thanks to Valentine’s computer that Thomasina’s iterated equations can be carried far enough to recreate the shape of a leaf. In the “islands of order” of fractal geometry, nature can only be reproduced through mechanical repetition.

28My second point is a brief answer to Richard Wilson’s analysis of the gothic or pre-gothic aspects of The Winter’s Tale and particularly his remarks on the uncanny moments of the play. There is one moment in Arcadia that has always seemed uncanny to me, and that is Gus’s final entrance in Scene 7, when we cannot decide (until he speaks) whether he is Gus or Augustus. But although the past and present share the same space in Arcadia, and one could expect many more occurrences of the unheimlich, it seems significant that Thomasina’s memorial is set firmly outside, and not inside the house. It belongs to the park and to its layers of memory, and is a decipherable monument (reminiscent of Poussin’s Arcadian Shepherds) rather than a tomb encrypted beneath the house. Despite the play’s thematic emphasis on loss and the irreversibility of time, Stoppard’s dramaturgy enacts presence and recovery much more than absence or lack. With each switch from the 19th- to the 20th-century scenes the past is taken away from us; but not only does it always return, it is always returned to us.

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Notes

1  Tom Stoppard interviewed by Stephen Schiff, “Full Stoppard,” Vanity Fair, 52, n°5 (May 1989), reprinted in Tom Stoppard in Conversation, ed. Paul Delaney, University of Michigan Press, 1994, 221.

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Dominique Goy-Blanquet, Monique Le Roux, Yan Brailowsky, Graham Saunders et Liliane Campos, « Table ronde sur The Winter’s Tale et Arcadia », Sillages critiques [En ligne], 13 | 2011, mis en ligne le 10 décembre 2011, consulté le 24 octobre 2014. URL : http://sillagescritiques.revues.org/2492

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Auteurs

Dominique Goy-Blanquet

Université de Picardie

Monique Le Roux

Université de Poitiers, La Quinzaine littéraire

Yan Brailowsky

Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Graham Saunders

University of Reading

Liliane Campos

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III

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