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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: "Reading" the Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0307  Monday, 4 February 2002

[1]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 10:51:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays

[2]     From:   Karen Peterson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 08:37:07 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0284 Re: "Reading" the Plays

[3]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Jan 2002 19:32:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays

[4]     From:   James Fitzmaurice <
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        Date:   Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 15:18:53 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays

[5]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 22:33:38 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 10:51:24 -0500
Subject: 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays

> I think there have been a few discussions here about reading the plays,
> and problems that might be incurred when you read versus see them.  I,
> however, was wondering when the idea of reading play was introduced.  I
> like reading them but, as it has been repeatedly noted on this list,
> plays were originally written to be seen.  When did it occur to someone
> that Shakespeare's plays (or any plays) could be read for themselves, or
> that they were a publishable commodity.

> I put this odd notion up there with the first person to try rocky
> mountain oysters or put catsup on scrambled eggs.  The idea is not
> inconceivable, but what was the first person thinking when it happened?
>
> jimmy

The Roman dramatist Seneca could have been a start. Various other
writers, e.g. Shelley, wrote plays to be read rather than acted.

John Ramsay

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 08:37:07 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0284 Re: "Reading" the Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0284 Re: "Reading" the Plays

> Jimmy Jung asks,
>
> "When did it occur to someone that Shakespeare's
> plays (or any plays)
> could be read for themselves, or that they were a
> publishable commodity.
> . .  . [W]hat was the first person thinking when it
> happened?"

In addition to the several excellent replies given by list members, see
also David Scott Kastan's interesting (and brilliantly concise)
*Shakespeare and the Book* (Cambridge UP, 2001).  The first chapter,
"From playhouse to printing house; or, making a good impression"
discusses these very questions in detail.

Cheers,
Karen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Jan 2002 19:32:31 -0500
Subject: 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays

Jimmy Jung asks,

>When did it occur to someone
> that Shakespeare's plays (or any plays) could be read for themselves, or
> that they were a publishable commodity.

It would seem logical that by the time Jonson, Hemings, and the others
put together the First Folio, the idea of reading the plays must already
have been in the air (1623). A folio would be far too cumbersome as a
script.

Paul E. Doniger

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Fitzmaurice <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 15:18:53 -0700
Subject: 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays

Jimmy --

Presumably you refer to silent reading, but what about reading aloud?  I
know that Margaret Cavendish, her husband (William, duke of Newcastle),
Ben Jonson, and others (possibly Thomas Hobbes) read plays aloud for the
entertainment of small groups.  Aphra Behn seems to have read an act
from The Rover aloud in similar circumstances.  I wonder what other
records there are of amateur or semi-amateur readings still extant.

Jim Fitzmaruice

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 Jan 2002 22:33:38 -0500
Subject: 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0255 "Reading" the Plays

Jimmy Jung wonders "when the idea of reading plays was introduced."

I assume plays started to be read when the first script was presented to
literate actors. Directors and actors read plays all the time. In fact,
a play is read many times before it is performed. In preparing a play
for performance reading it is primary. When we say that "plays are not
meant to be read," we are apparently forgetting this process.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

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