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Shakespeare in the Theatre   By:

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Shakespeare in the Theatre

[Illustration: Yours truly, Wm. Poel.

Photo. Bassano. ]

SHAKESPEARE IN THE THEATRE

BY WILLIAM POEL

FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF THE ELIZABETHAN STAGE SOCIETY

LONDON AND TORONTO SIDGWICK AND JACKSON, LTD.

1913

All rights reserved.

NOTE

These papers are reprinted from the National Review , the Westminster Review , the Era , and the New Age , by kind permission of the owners of the copyrights. The articles are collected in one volume, in the hope that they may be of use to those who are interested in the question of stage reform, more especially where it concerns the production of Shakespeare's plays.

W. P.

May, 1913.

ADDENDUM

An acknowledgement of permission to reprint should also have been made to the Nation , in which several of the most important of these papers originally appeared.

W. P.

Shakespeare in the Theatre

CONTENTS

PAGE I THE STAGE OF SHAKESPEARE

The Elizabethan Playhouse The Plays and the Players 3

II THE PLAYS OF SHAKESPEARE

Some Mistakes of the Editors Some Mistakes of the Actors The Character of Lady Macbeth Shakespeare's Jew and Marlowe's Christians The Authors of "King Henry the Eighth" "Troilus and Cressida" 27

III SOME STAGE VERSIONS

"The Merchant of Venice" "Romeo and Juliet" "Hamlet" "King Lear" 119

IV THE NATIONAL THEATRE

The Repertory Theatre The Elizabethan Stage Society Shakespeare at Earl's Court The Students' Theatre The Memorial Scheme 193

INDEX 241

I

THE STAGE OF SHAKESPEARE

THE ELIZABETHAN PLAYHOUSE THE PLAYS AND THE PLAYERS

SHAKESPEARE IN THE THEATRE

I

THE STAGE OF SHAKESPEARE

THE ELIZABETHAN PLAYHOUSE.[1]

The interdependence of Shakespeare's dramatic art with the form of theatre for which Shakespeare wrote his plays is seldom emphasized. The ordinary reader and the everyday critic have no historic knowledge of the Elizabethan playhouse; and however full the Elizabethan dramas may be of allusions to the contemporary stage, the bias of modern dramatic students is so opposed to any belief in the superiority of past methods of acting Shakespeare over modern ones, as to effectually bar any serious inquiry. A few sceptics have recognized dimly that a conjoint study of Shakespeare and the stage for which he wrote is possible; but they have not conducted their researches either seriously or impartially, and their conclusions have proved disputable and disappointing. With a very hazy perception of the connection between Elizabethan histrionic art and its literature, they have approached a comparison of the Elizabethan drama with the Elizabethan stage as they would a Chinese puzzle. They have read the plays in modern printed editions, they have seen them acted on the picture stage, they have heard allusions made to old tapestry, rushes, and boards, and at once they have concluded that the dramatist found his theatre inadequate to his needs.

Now the first, and perhaps the strongest, evidence which can be adduced to disfavour this theory is the extreme difficulty it might almost be said the impossibility of discovering a single point of likeness between the modern idea of an Elizabethan representation of one of Shakespeare's plays, and the actual light in which it presented itself before the eyes of Elizabethan spectators. It is wasted labour to try to account for the perversities of the human intellect; but displays of unblushing ignorance have undoubtedly discouraged sober persons from pursuing an independent line of investigation, and have led many to deny the possibility of satisfactorily showing any intelligible connection between the Elizabethan drama and its contemporary exponents... Continue reading book >>




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