The Reconstruction of Stage Action from Early Dramatic Texts
“A play read affects the mind like a play acted.” Dr. Johnson’s remark has the weight of his good sense behind it. A reader will grasp the essentials of a play as surely as a spectator will: theme, plot, character, mood, will be equally clear to both. Yet unless the reader is experienced in the ways of the theatre, he will hardly be able to reconstruct the full effect which the scene he is reading would make in performance. This is a fact more widely recognized in our own century than in Dr. Johnson’s, and its recognition has produced some excellent criticism of plays, notably that of Harley Granville Barker, whose general and particular insights were matched at every point by his awareness of what could be done, and how it could be done, on a stage — especially the stage of the Elizabethan public theatre. Most of us no longer see that stage precisely as Granville Barker and his contemporaries saw it; most of us, indeed, are resigned to never establishing its ultimate details. But I hope most of us agree that Granville Barker’s approach, conspicuous for imagination united with commonsense, was a valuable influence on Shakespearean criticism and production.
KeywordsStage Action Final Scene Excellent Criticism Scriptural Passage Ideal Interpreter
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