Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 26. Tuesday, 29 Jan 1991.
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 91 22:04:26 EST
From: Ken Steele <
Subject: Revision in Rehearsal
In reviewing the SHAKSPER member biographies, I am again struck by
the number of actors, playwrights, and directors in our midst. My question
is directed, I suppose, primarily to those who have participated in
rehearsals onstage, but anecdotes need not be first-hand to be helpful.
I have been looking at the variant texts of early Shakespearean plays
(e.g. 2H6, RJ, and 2H4) with an eye to possible evidence of revision.
Comments on the creative process written by twentieth-century playwrights
are not exactly analogous, but I have found them helpful. (For example,
I believe it is Tom Stoppard who draws attention to the considerable
effort it takes to get jokes just right on stage. Last-minute revision
often centres, for him, on improving the impact of such jokes. I think
some of the variants in the "bad quartos" look suspiciously like someone
tinkering with humour in that way... but never mind that right now.)
I'd like to hear from anyone (and everyone!) who has been involved in
performances, whether of Shakespearean plays or modern works, and has seen
revision at the rehearsal stage. I am curious as to the sorts of things
in Shakespeare, for example, which seem innocuous on the page but patently
wrong onstage. What kinds of alterations do directors or playwrights make
in the script? What are the usual motivations for revision, excision, or
interpolation? Does audience response contribute to the process of
And for the performance critics, what are the things most often overlooked
by "study-bound" scholars? What fundamental misapprehensions are easiest
to absorb from English Literature classes? And for those of us interested
in pedagogy, how can such misapprehensions be avoided in the classroom?
I hope that my questions generate some interesting discussion; please feel
free to distort a question if it gives you an opportunity to make an
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