The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0213  Tuesday, 27 January 2004

From:           John Reed <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 26 Jan 2004 22:47:27 -0800
Subject:        Julius Caesar

That is interesting you are trying to imagine with your students how the
plays were originally performed.  I am trying to do that myself much of
the time.  Of course, since there is hardly any written information in
"the text" regarding action, it is hard.  Another problem, maybe a worse
one, is that it is likely (to my way of thinking) many of the
conventions of performance were different then.  The modern staged
versions look much alike to me; since, probably, they all have the same
unstated, unconscious, unexamined, whatever conventions.

I have the idea certain parameters which are constants, or nearly
constants, now, were variables then.  For example it is usual to speak
of what a character says as "dialogue."  When that happens right away we
are slipping into the assumption that everything anybody said was
directed to another character (it was dialogue).  I'm not so sure.  The
intended "direction" of the line might have been to another character,
or it might have been to the same character who utters it ("He Speaks to
Himself"), or it might have been directed to the audience.  So we have
three values for Line Directionality.  Whereas in current performance,
usual performance, almost everything is delivered as if it were
dialogue, especially if it is a movie first (never went through a stage
phase).  It might have been different on the Globe stage, and if it was,
then the impact of the performance might have been considerably
different, just based on what is happening with this one parameter.  IF
we allow a larger percentage of non-dialogue on the original stage, then
it becomes suddenly another big problem to identify what lines (or
words) were not dialogue.

Another thing is costume. Nowadays a costume is a literal costume (what
somebody would wear in the situation being depicted) -- recognized the
same way by the characters and the audience.  But it might be that there
were costumes that signified invisibility (characters "see" costume
differently than audience).  If they had costumes signifying
invisibility, maybe they had costumes signifying nudity.  On the other
hand a nude lupercal sounds somewhat far-fetched, even to me.  I'm not
sure why that should be, though.

So it seems there are at least two things to be aware of: how the plays
would look on stage now, using current conventions, and how the plays
originally looked, which is dependent on their conventions (if any).

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