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Shakespearean theatre

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January 02, 2022

Shakespearean theatre

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aadams

January 02, 2022
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  1. English Renaissance Theatre The World of Shakespeare’s Stage Cross section

    of the Globe Theatre, courtesy of https://www.thinglink.com/scene/720305550264369152
  2. Tudor or Not Tudor? • Shakespeare is widely regarded as

    the greatest talent of English Renaissance Theatre. • Although many of his plays were written and performed during the Elizabethan era (when Queen Elizabeth I reigned), Shakespeare’s genius is not of one woman born. (Macbeth is a Jacobean play.) • The Tudor monarchy “set the stage” for the renaissance of drama in England: Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I were patrons who allowed the highly popular art to flourish. • A number of what we now term Shakespeare’s “history plays” echo the Tudor myth (which represented Henry IV’s usurpation of Richard II as the inauguration of a dark and barbaric era that was ended with the coronation of the first Tudor king). https://www.tes.com/lessons/siqBwCCDDfs8LA/tudors
  3. “Our jovial star reigned at his birth” • The relative

    peace and prosperity of the Elizabethan era is what allowed the Renaissance to flourish in England. • While Italy was experiencing a cultural “rebirth” in the 14th century, reviving Classical learning in the pursuit of knowledge, England was embroiled in seemingly endless conflict: the 100 Years War, followed by the War of the Roses. • Although the Tudors did not bring about the humanistic shift in thinking that would allow theatre to move beyond cycle and morality plays, they did reign during it fullest expression. Elizabeth I’s monarchy (1558-1603) is largely coeval with England’s literary Golden Age. Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/port rait/mw02070/Queen-Elizabeth-I
  4. “All the world’s a stage” • The resurgence of classical

    learning, including a renewed interest in classical drama, did not lead to the return of the amphitheatre. • Many of the dramatic productions staged during the Renaissance were performed outdoors, as medieval civic cycle and place-and-scaffold plays had been. A common site was the courtyard of a school or inn. • The first permanent theatre in England (the Red Lion) was rapidly followed by other playhouses that were also three- story-high structures surrounding an open space within which an apron stage jutted. • The theatre most associated with Shakespeare, the Globe, opened in 1599. Sketch of the Swan Theatre https://www.historyextra.com/period/elizabethan/at-the- playhouse-watching-shakespeares-plays-in-elizabethan-england/
  5. “I see that fashion wears out more apparel than the

    man” • Costuming was very important in Renaissance theatre. Colorful and lavish dress compensated for the the minimal backdrop and meagre props. • Because women were not allowed on the stage, female characters were played by male actors in what we now term “drag.” • Audiences watching Renaissance drama, where cross- dressing was a something of a trope, were often entertained by male actors pretending to be women who were pretending to be men. • Fun fact: the cross-dressing that concerned the Elizabethans was class, not gender, based, as these sumptuary laws attest. Role reversal in the 19th century: Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet https://www.flickr.com/photos/truusbobjantoo/27398395901
  6. “Out, vile jelly!” • Renaissance drama is far looser and

    arguably more populous than the classical drama that inspired it. • The plays are not neatly structured in five parts, and many do not abide by the Unities. • Instead of having a few individual characters interact with a Chorus that sings in unison, Renaissance dramas are filled with casts of distinct interlocutors. Central characters often express their thoughts to the audience via asides and soliloquies. • Violence is also explicitly rendered on stage, often in gory detail. Whereas Oedipus’ eye gouging occurs off-stage, Gloucester’s mutilation is graphically showcased for the audience of King Lear. (For a bloody treat, check out Titus Andronicus—just don’t eat the pie.) The blinding of Gloucester in King Lear https://260daysofshakespeare.wordpress.com/2 013/01/31/king-lear-act-iii/
  7. • Renaissance plays, like classical drama, used poetry as a

    medium of expression. Most of the famous lines in Shakespeare are blank verse in iambic pentameter. • Unlike classical works, Renaissance drama included prose alongside that poetry, frequently to signal the relative importance of characters or register comedic interludes. (Coriolanus uses prose to convey the concerns of individual citizens—citizens who would have been an undifferentiated Chorus in Greek tragedy.) • Renaissance drama freely blends elements of tragedy and comedy in ways that would not occur in “Unified” Greek dramaturgy outside of satyr plays. Shakespeare’s work is particularly fluid in terms of genre: most tragedies include comic elements and his “comedies” include romances and problem plays that can be melancholic or disturbing. The Disenchantment of Bottom by Daniel Maclise https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the- disenchantment-of-bottom-daniel-maclise.html “and the elements So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up”
  8. “For heaven’s sake let us sit upon the ground/And tell

    sad stories of the death of kings.” • When critics define ancient Greek drama, they utilize three main classifications: comedy, tragedy, and the satyr play. When they define Renaissance drama, the classifications are comedy, tragedy, and the history play. • Like the differentiation of comedy (a play that tends to end “happily,” usually with a marriage) from tragedy (a play with a “sad” or bleak conclusion, often ending with death) in Renaissance theatre, the designation of “history play” is a somewhat simplified overgeneralization: a work that dramatizes events from relatively recent history. • In Shakespeare studies, “history play” refers to works that dramatize events in British history from 1399-1485. (Macbeth, set in 11th Scotland, and the Roman plays are considered tragedies.) The Death of Richard III https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11098797/King- Richard-III-died-brutally-during-Battle.html
  9. “The play’s the thing/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the

    king.” • The history plays, which cover the reigns of English monarchs from King John to Henry VIII, may be too complex to serve as exemplars of the Tudor myth, but they do highlight historical triumphs associated with Tudor lineage. • Shakespeare earned his living as an actor and shareholder in a theatrical troop. Plays were rarely published for profit and copyright laws did not exist. Performance was what mattered. • The popularity of public performance did not keep it from being legally and morally suspect. Playhouses and theatres were relegated to the outskirts of London, and “playing companies” secured licensing and aristocratic patronage to avoid vagrancy. Detail “Shakespeare and His Friends at the Mermaid Tavern” (John Faed) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare%27s_writing_style#/media/File: Shakespeare_and_His_Contemporaries.jpg
  10. “This was the most unkindest cut of all” • As

    an actor who was also a playwright, Shakespeare knew how essential it was to unite the stage (production value) and the page (the quality of the written word) in theatre. • References to acting in his works invariably call for “realistic” performances that are effective at conveyance. (Perhaps seeing his own work imperfectly rendered on the stage inspired this famous line in Hamlet: “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it/to you, trippingly on the tongue.”) • Shakespeare’s interest in proper speech, though, does not mean that he, or any other dramatic practitioner of the era, considered written plays immutable or fixed. Scenes could be added or (more than likely) cut. Poor performance, not the deletion of specific passages, was bound to be a far crueler “cut” than script modifications. “The Death of Julius Caesar” by Vincenzo Camuccini https://www.wga.hu/html_m/c/camuccin/caesar.html
  11. O Folio, Folio, wherefore art thou, Folio? • Very few

    Renaissance plays were published, and those few (those happy few) were mostly in individual quarto format. • Seven years after Shakespeare’s death, John Heminge and Henry Condell published 36 of his plays in what we now refer to as the First Folio (1623). Many of the dramatic works included had never been previously published. • In 1709, Nicholas Rowe published the first illustrated collection of Shakespeare’s writing. In addition to supplying stage directions and a list of characters for each play, Rowe also divided the plays into acts and scenes. The choice of the five-act structure has more to do with the influence of the Roman critic Horace (who posited this structure as an ideal) than any inherent quality in Shakespeare’s drama. Title page from the First Folio https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/shakespeares-first-folio
  12. “Reputation is an idle and most false imposition” • Shakespeare

    was obviously a well-regarded playwright in his era. He would not have had the success he had during his lifetime, or been revived and published after his death, had he been an insubstantial or minor talent. • But Shakespeare has not always had his premier reputation. Had Bowdlers’ Family Shakespeare been published before the Romantic period, it might not have become a literary punchline. Unfortunately, the expurgated edition came out right as Shakespeare was being lauded as the greatest poet in English literature. • Fun fact: Shakespeare’s literary elevation occurred during the Golden Age of Gothic literature in English. Brutus encountering the ghost of Julius Caesar by William Blake http://www.shakespearemagazine.com/2014/12/gaze-in-wonder-at-visionary-poet- and-artist-william-blakes-spellbinding-paintings-inspired-by-the-works-of-william- shakespeare/
  13. If these slides have offended Think but of knowledge extended

    That you have become learnèd here While these visions did appear SF Ballet dancer Esteban Hernandez as Puck in Balanchine’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ https://riffmagazine.com/features/sf-ballet-a- midsummer-nights-dream-2020/