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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: November ::
Cuts in Performance (was Taming of the Shrew Film)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2207  Wednesday, 6 November 2002

From:           M. Yawney <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 Nov 2002 08:03:11 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Cuts in Performance (was Taming of the Shrew Film)

Jim Slager <
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"I've rarely seen a live production of a Shakespeare play that wasn't
severely cut in order to shorten the play.  I wonder why it is believed
that modern audiences cannot sit through an entire play in our
upholstered seats in an air conditioned theater.  Why could
Shakespeare's audience sitting in uncomfortable wooden seats or even
standing in the heat or cold endure the entire play? It would seen that
Shakespeare, over his long career, must have carefully tailored his
plays to suit his audience.  Why have audiences changed so much?"

In truth there is much evidence that even in Shakespeare's time the
plays were cut. Some of the shorter plays we have (Macbeth for example)
show evidence of having been shortened from a longer version. (Most
editions of Macbeth discuss this issue, so it is a good place to start
if you want to investigate further. For other plays, this issue seems to
be disputed more.)

In the case of plays existing in quarto in addition to the folio, some
discrepancies between the text seem to be based on cuts or alterations
for performance.

There has been much interest in the size of Shakespeare's company and
the doubling involved and the boy actresses. Maybe length of performance
and the cushioning capabilities of the Renaissance bottom should be the
next hot area of scholarship.

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