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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Macbeth: Staging the Ghost

It’s not like Macbeth is the only supernatural play. The Tempest’s magic. Midsummer’s fairies. The Winter’s Tale and whatever it is that happens at the end. And, of course, ghosts in Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Richard III (am I leaving some out?).

But how do you stage the ghost of Banquo?

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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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Hamlet: stage direction in dialogue

As we’ve discussed before (for some of you, ad nauseum), there’s not a whole lot of stage direction in Shakespeare (though seemingly more here in Hamlet than in the other plays we’ve read thus far). So the director and the actor have to depend upon the dialogue and speeches themselves for guidance.

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