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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: November ::
Empty Stage
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1939  Wednesday, 23 November 2005

[1] 	From: 	John Briggs <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 22 Nov 2005 18:16:20 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1923 Empty Stage

[2] 	From: 	Matteo Pangallo <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 22 Nov 2005 18:58:53 -0000
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1923 Empty Stage

[3] 	From: 	M Yawney <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 22 Nov 2005 10:21:15 -0800 (PST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1923 Empty Stage


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Briggs <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 22 Nov 2005 18:16:20 -0000
Subject: 16.1923 Empty Stage
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1923 Empty Stage

Christopher Baker wrote:

 >At the end of act four of The Tempest, the stage direction reads
 >"Exeunt."  Act five begins when Prospero returns wearing his magic
 >robes.  Is there thus a moment when the stage is literally empty?  How
 >frequent are empty stages in the plays? My understanding of
 >Elizabethan performance is that there was a fairly rapid and seamless
 >transition between scenes/acts which would seem to have prevented a
 >vacant stage at any point in a production.

By the time of "The Tempest", we have long left Elizabethan performance 
behind and are well into Jacobean.  "The Tempest" was written for the 
Blackfriars theatre.  The indoor theatres had act breaks between the 
acts. The outdoor theatres didn't (partly because they didn't have acts).

John Briggs

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Matteo Pangallo <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 22 Nov 2005 18:58:53 -0000
Subject: 16.1923 Empty Stage
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1923 Empty Stage

At the Globe and the other outdoor venues performances would indeed have 
been staged seamlessly, with little or not break between acts (and 
certainly none between scenes). However, "The Tempest" was probably 
written expressly for the Blackfriars Theatre, an indoor space that the 
King's Men had moved into in 1608-9. At the Blackfriars, and other such 
indoor venues (including the Banqueting House at Whitehall, where 
"Tempest" was also staged), lighting was provided mainly by candlelight; 
act breaks became the norm as the candles would need to be tended to 
(wicks trimmed, relit, etc.). During these intervals music would play, 
candles would be tended, and the stage prepared for the next act. Thus, 
when reading a post-1608 King's Men play (like "Tempest"), one should 
remember that it was probably initially staged with breaks between the 
acts. This would allow for Prospero's exit at the end of IV and re-entry 
at the start of V. The interesting question, of course, is what happened 
at this moment when the play was transferred to the Globe? The King's 
Men continued to operate both venues after Blackfriars opened, playing 
in the outdoor space in the summer and the indoor space in the winter. 
Of necessity, then, their plays were transportable. Christopher has 
raised an intriguing question!

- Matteo Pangallo

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		M Yawney <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 22 Nov 2005 10:21:15 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.1923 Empty Stage
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1923 Empty Stage

Scenes in English Renaissance drama almost always end with every 
character exiting. How much (if any) time elapsed before the entrance of 
actors at the start of each following scene is a matter of speculation.

The rarity of actors exiting and immediately re-entering suggests that 
there may have been some overlapping. (The effectiveness of this 
technique in modern productions also offers some support for this idea.)

However, it is not possible to give a definitive answer. Nor is it 
possible to know if the technique
for exeunt/enter was consistent.

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