Category Archives: stage direction

Volumnia’s last word (economy-sized)

OK, last week, I looked at Martius’ big speech (and we’ve already taken a look at the homo-erotic response to it, the longest speech by Aufidius) from Coriolanus. Today, let’s take a look at the longest speech of the play, this one by dear ol’ mum, Volumnia. There’s some pretty interesting stuff going on in the scansion (as well as a stage direction or two).

It’s Act Five, Scene Three, in the Volscian camp on the outskirts of Rome, where Martius and Aufidius ready their armies for the attack. Martius has already turned away Menenius (who seemed like a father-figure to him), and Martius has admitted doing so “cracked” (V.iii.9) his heart.

So who should walk in at this moment?

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Pericles: A decline in direction(s)

I’ve been noticing that as we near the end of the Canon, we’re getting more and more stage direction from ol’ Willy Shakes (or at least from those who wrote this stuff down). I find it interesting that not only are we getting more direct stage direction, we’re also getting less indirect direction. In other words, there seems to be less stage direction embedded in the dialogue. And Pericles seems to maintain that trend.

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Timon of Athens: stage direction in the dialogue

Throughout the project, I’ve always searched in the dialogue for hidden stage direction (explicit ones which are usually few and far between…I say usually because as we get nearer the end of his career, I’m finding more explicit directions). Timon of Athens is no different.

But in this case, for me, it was like digging for roots and finding…not gold.

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Antony and Cleopatra: stage directions in dialogue

With every play, I like to take a look at the stage direction that are hidden in the dialogue. Shakespeare’s (in)famous for a dearth of explicit stage directions, forcing the enterprising actor/director to plumb the dialogue lines in search of some helpful nuggets. And thus my occasional sojourns into script studies. Antony and Cleopatra is no different.

Only it is.

Lemme ‘splain…

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And just how are we supposed to do that?

Back when I was doing the plot synopsis for Act Three in Antony and Cleopatra, I mentioned the strange opening stage direction for Act Three, Scene Ten: “Canidius marcheth with his land army one way over the stage, and Taurus the lieutenant of Caesar the other way. After their going in is heard the noise of a sea fight” (III.x.opening s.d.).

So.

How do you stage that?

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Songs and versions

Yesterday, I tossed around a few ideas and questions about the witches–er, Weird Sisters–in Macbeth. We meet those three, as well as their boss(?) Hecate, an additional three singing witches (“spirits” in my text–and as per usual, I’m using the Pelican Shakespeare edition, edited by Stephen Orgel) and some “apparitions.”

And the edition here actually is important.

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Stage directions in the dialogue – King Lear edition

Shakespeare is notoriously stingy with his stage direction (or, as I pondered last weekend, at times problematic). King Lear is no different than the other plays in this respect. Sure, we get some atypically descriptive ones like “Cornwall puts out one of Gloucester’s eyes” (III.vii.69 stage direction … or its twin, “He puts out Gloucester’s other eye” [III.vii.82 s.d.]), but mostly it’s confined to “enter,” “exit,” “exeunt” (multiple exit), and the odd “they fight” and “dies.”

But actors just don’t stand around on stage, stock-still and empty-handed. And that’s where the dialogue can help the would-be actor or director find some business for the the actor to do (or in some cases, for a designer to create).

Here are but a handful from King Lear… (most are pretty obvious)

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Staged direction

Every month, I like to delve into the text to find the non-stage direction found in the dialogue. Shakespeare is famous (or notorious, depending on your view) for a relative lack of explicit stage direction. But it’s there; he just hides it in the dialogue of his characters. We’ve already discussed what Othello’s fit should look like. Let me provide a just few examples of other spoken stage direction from Othello (just a few…but don’t feel short-changed: I’ve got something else today–whoo hoo, two entries for one day!).

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Othello: how to throw a fit

In Act Four, Scene One of Othello, in the midst of his conversation with Iago, the Moor falls into what Iago calls “an epilepsy” (IV.i.50).

But how to portray this on stage? A fainting? Spasms? Or do we go full-fit and foam at the mouth (like Hoskins did in the BBC version)?

A little dip into the Oxford English Dictionary can give us some options…

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Measure for Measure: Dialogue-hidden stage directions

I’ve discussed in the past the lack of stage directions in the Shakespearean texts (or at least the relative lack compared what we are used to now). So, as I like to do with every play, let’s take a look at how Shakespeare has sprinkled stage direction within the dialogue of Measure for Measure.

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All’s Well That Ends Well: stage directions in dialogue

I’ve talked in the past (almost ad nauseam) about the lack of true stage direction in the texts of the plays of Shakespeare. However, many clues for the actor and director are slipped into the dialogue and speeches. All’s Well That Ends Well is no different.

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Troilus and Cressida: stage directions in the dialogue

Yesterday, I noted how long-time readers of the blog know my love of digging through the scansion of the lines for acting clues and the dialogue for hidden stage directions, starting off with the former in Troilus and Cressida. Today, let’s hit the latter and check out our dialogue-based stage directions.

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