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1. Parts and Rehearsals
About this Lecture
In this module, we explore the tendency for actors in the Elizabethan period to be given their parts only, with a few cue words to let them know when to speak. The fact that actors only had access to their own parts gave them some insight which is perhaps lost today, such as how their character developed over the course of the play, and the extent to which their character spoke in prose or verse. At the same time, however, there is much that they didn't know - such as who their character was speaking to (or who would be speaking to them), how long they had to wait between their lines (one line? or a whole scene?), and - beyond their own lines - how their character was portrayed in the play. The implications for how we understand character in Shakespeare are profound.
In this course, Professor Tiffany Stern (University of Oxford) explores how Shakespeare was originally rehearsed, acted and watched, and how this might change our understand of some of his plays. In the first module, we think about actors' roles and rehearsals, looking in particular at the tendency for actors to be given only their part to learn, rather than a copy of the entire play. In the second module, we discuss the parts of the theatre, including the "heaven" and "hell" for the areas above and below the stage, respectively. In the third module, we think about the props that Shakespeare's actors would have used, before turning in the fourth module to the vvarious indoor and outdoor theatres that Shakespeare and other actors of his time would have used. In the fifth module, we take a closer look at some of Shakespeare's actors, including Richard Burbage and William Kempe, before turning in the sixth module to the idea that Shakespeare's depiction of time in this plays may have been impacted by the timepieces that were available at the time.
Tiffany works on theatre history from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, book history and editing; she specialises in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, particularly Jonson, Brome, Middleton and Nashe, and also write on seventeenth and eighteenth century playwrights and editors, including Wycherley, Farquhar, Sheridan, Theobald and Johnson. Looking at the theatrical contexts that bring plays about – by Shakespeare and others – is a keen interest of hers. Having researched the theatrical documents put together by authors and others in the process of writing and learning a play, she is repeatedly drawn back to actors’ parts, the documents consisting of cues and speeches from which actors learned their roles. She also writes on prologues, epilogues, songs, letters, arguments, plots and other stage documents; acting methods; theatrical props; and playhouse architecture.
She is currently writing a section on Shakespeare and sixteenth to eighteenth century performance for the revised Riverside Shakespeare, and am completing articles on Shakespeare and Time, Newsletters and Buckingham, and the works of Arthur Murphy. As a general editor she is, with Brian Gibbons and William C. Carroll, responsible for the New Mermaids play series; She is also an Arden Advisory Editor – she will be a general editor of Arden Shakespeare series 4 – and is on the editorial board of the RSC Shakespeare, the Greenwood Shakespeare Encylopedia, the Queen’s Men internet editions, and the journals Shakespeare Bulletin, SEDERI, The Hare and Shakespeare Quarterly.
Future research includes a book on early modern theatre and popular entertainment, Playing Fair: Fairs and Drama in 16th-18th Century London, for Cambridge University Press, exploring the cultural exchanges between playhouses and fairgrounds, and a book on Shakespeare Beyond Performance, putting 'literary' publication in the context of other immediate responses to Shakespearen performance -- ballads, drolls, puppet shows, notes and commonplaces, 'noted' texts.
Cite this Lecture
Stern, T. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare on Stage - Parts and Rehearsals [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-on-stage/parts-and-rehearsals
Stern, Tiffany. "Shakespeare on Stage – Parts and Rehearsals." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-on-stage/parts-and-rehearsals