The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0305 Monday, 4 February 2002
Date: Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 08:52:50 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0277 Re: Authorial Intention
Comment: Re: SHK 13.0277 Re: Authorial Intention
Marcus Dahl wrote,
> A few things to say about this thread:
> (1) Beware Stage Directions as indicators of
> authorial presence / not.
But this is precisely my point!
I'm not talking about stage directions like "exeunt pursued by a bear,"
but about ACTOR-SPOKEN LINES designed not only to move the plot forward
and keep the audience's interest, but also to give the ensemble a clear
idea of how the scene in question should (must!) be staged.
I think the problem I've been having getting my idea across here may
have something to do with the fact that I've referred vaguely to such
passages, rather than providing citations. So let me pull out my
Riverside and give you a few examples of exactly what I'm talking about.
OTH: Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. (OTHELLO I,
(How much sense will this line make to the audience if the Officers have
not drawn their swords before the line is spoken? None! So I would argue
that Shakespeare has here forced an intended "stage direction" on the
company by means of a spoken line.)
ARIEL: If you could hurt,
Your swords are now to massy for your strengths,
And will not be uplifted. (TEMPEST III,iii, 66-68)
(How much sense will this make to the audience if Alonso, Sebastian, and
the rest keep their swords out and motionless during this passage? None!
So I would argue that this passage, too, narrates movement that MUST
take place on the stage, and that Shakespeare in this instance "forced"
an intended "stage direction" on the company by means of a spoken line.
I mean to suggest that he wanted a SPECIFIC stage picture, namely that
of Alonso, Sebastion, and company lowering their swords in unison during
the speech, and that he used dialogue to make sure that stage picture
showed up in performance.)
GLOUCESTER: What paper were you reading?
EDMUND: Nothing, my lord.
GLOUCESTER: No? What needed then that terrible dispatch of it into your
pocket? (KING LEAR, I, ii, 30-33)
(How much sense would this exchange make to an audience if Edmund had
NOT attempted to conceal the letter by placing it in his pocket? No
sense at all! So I would argue that this passage "forced" an intended
"stage direction" on the company by means of a spoken line.)
BANQUO: You seem to understand me,
By each at once her choppy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips. (MACBETH, I, ii, 43-45)
(How much sense would this make to an audience if "each" of the Weird
Sisters did NOT lay a finger upon her lips? None! So I would argue that
this passage "forced" an intended "stage direction" on the company by
means of a spoken line.)
(Digression: Not to belabor a point from another thread too mercilessly,
but doesn't this technique remind us just a little of the dialogue from
There are dozens more of these examples, but you get the idea.
So what I want to know is this:
1) Do people agree that this strategy is likely to have been used by
Shakespeare to ensure that scenes were blocked *as he intended* them to
be, even during periods when he knew he would not be in attendance at
2) Do people notice, as I do, many more of these kinds of passages in
the later plays than in the earlier ones?
3) If the answer to 2) is "Yes," does that fact support the scenario
that, after the purchase of New Place, Shakespeare spent less time in
London during rehearsal periods for the Globe's productions than he may
have in earlier years?
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