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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Implied Stage Directions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0502  Thursday, 21 February 2002

From:           Brandon Toropov <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Feb 2002 06:12:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0498 Implied Stage Directions
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0498 Implied Stage Directions

Werner Broennimann wrote,

> At a
> time (the 60s) when academic drama criticism almost
> completely
> disregarded the theatrical and communicative
> dimension of dramatic
> texts, he insisted on the performance aspect of
> Shakespearean plays,
> emphasising that the text was a score that only
> achieved completion in
> performance (on the stage or--here he made
> concessions--in our heads, if
> the text was read aright).

I think the described physicalization of the action is one of the things
that makes Shakespeare work so well as radio drama. Paradoxically,
though, it may also encourage people who are comfortable reading plays
"cold" to fool themselves into thinking that the texts are self-standing
entities. (This because implied stage directions often make it easier
for the reader to picture the action, often without his/her realizing
*why* it's easier to picture the action.)

> He investigated the signs
> in the
> Shakespearean text that pointed to the stage,
> systematising and
> discussing words that in subtle or obvious ways
> duplicated non-verbal
> stage sights, sounds, movements. Terms like "gestic
> impulse" (deictics
> like 'thus')

"Thus" is a great (and flexible) theatrical tool! It offers an example
of how some of S's implied stage directions can be both specific and
vague at the same time. Antony's "The nobleness of life is to do thus"
(I,i) necessitates that *something* physical happen onstage between
Antony and Cleopatra... but what is it? An embrace? A kiss? A sensual
caress that profoundly shocks the observing Romans?

The sense I get is of an experienced director who knew when he wanted a
specific stage picture, and was willing to write it in -- and also knew
when he wanted *something* to happen visually, but was willing to let
the company work out the details.

Brandon

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