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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Re: Act and Scene Divisions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0522  Thursday, 16 March 2000.

From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Mar 2000 11:40:46 -0000
Subject:        Re: Act and Scene Divisions

The conventional wisdom is that in the indoor theatres (at Blackfriars
after 1609 in the case of the King's Men) act breaks were observed and
music played during the breaks.  I am not sure about this earlier
period, but "act music" (or "act tunes") certainly survives from the
Restoration period, and lasts no more than 3 to 5 minutes.  The
assumption is that the breaks were only of this length and that the
audience did not leave their places (or to no greater extent than they
would have done at any other time!).  An off-list correspondent has
suggested that at least one reason for act breaks in indoor theatres was
the presence of candlelight.  She knows of references in contemporary
letters to listening to entr'acte music while boys trimmed the candle
wicks.  Music played in indoor theatres was probably of a different
character to that suitable for the open-air theatres.  Instrument were
characterised as "loud" (shawms, drums) or "soft" (violins, flutes),
with the latter suitable for indoor use.

John Briggs
 

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