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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0209  Sunday, 27 January 2002

From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 17:50:20 -0000
Subject:        Authenticity

This is surely a subject that can get maximum co-operation from the
usually opposed "professors" versus "players" schism on this list, or
more accurately "objective" versus "subjective" points of view.

To achieve an "authentic" Shakespeare performance is desirable because
it most closely alludes to Shakespeare's own approval of good
performance.  But this assumption could be challenged in that subsequent
performances might be improved due to better acting, better
interpretation, etc.  However, 400 years later, in strict technical
terms, a true authentic performance is impossible owing to several
factors.  The first would be the incomprehensible accent of
Elizabethans.  No one in their right mind would present a play in that
way now.  The second is that the Elizabethan theatre did not have
directors - the leading actor arranged the play around himself.  That
must have had a big impact on the rest of the players who must have
arranged themselves as best they could.  Again, no one today would think
of using adolescent boys with tinny voices playing women - a very
influential aspect of playwriting in Shakespeare's day.  Another aspect
sometimes forgot is that some plays were written for a small, royal
audience.  Almost what we would call today a "studio" audience.  The
lines were written to be spoken softly to an appreciative, silent
audience.  A play written for the large, open, noisy Globe would be very

Perhaps list members know which plays were written for which stage.
When we think of the possible ways of performing Shakespeare, large
stage, studio stage, film, TV or radio - which medium gets nearest to
true authenticity?  For my mind it is TV.  What do others think?


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