1. GENERAL HEADING: Video and Film Analysis
2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Shakespearean Theatre Vocabulary: Darkness, Ghosts and Vanishing"
3. GOALS: To explore the theatrical possibilities for communicating darkness and vanishing on Shakespeare's stage.
4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Any number of students.
5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: VCR; videotapes and scripts of scenes in which darkness is dramatically important, or in which ghosts vanish from the scene. Alan Dessen's handout cited the suggestions for darkness in the stage directions of Heywood's The Iron Age, and Tailor's The Hog Hath Lost His Pearl; the editorial variants of accounting for the movements of Demetrius and Lysander as they miss each other in the dark wood in 3.2 of A Midsummer Night's Dream; and the stage directions for the ghosts in Richards' Messalina, Goffe's The Raging Turk, 1 Hieronimo, and 5.3 of Shakespeare's Richard III. He provided videotapes of the ghost sequence (5.3) in Jane Howell's BBC video of Richard III and of the Puck-Demetrius-Lysander chase (3.2) in Peter Hall's video of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: 45 - 90 minutes.
7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION:
1) Introduce technological differences between the contemporary theatre and cinema and Shakespeare's stage.
2) Examine stage directions and dialogue for indications as to how darkness might have been achieved on Shakespeare's stage (props, gestures, movement, lines).
3) Examine stage directions and dialogue for indications as to how and when ghosts might have entered and exited Shakespeare's stage.
4) Watch videotaped productions of the scenes. Discuss how these productions chose to represent darkness and ghosts. Discuss which conventions have been invoked.
5) Examine different editions of the same scene. Discuss how and why the editors have made decisions to translate the original theatrical idiom into more contemporary parlance. (Alan Dessen discussed the editorial additions of entrances and exits to 3.2 of Dream to explain why Lysander and Demetrius miss each other onstage; under the original convention of staging darkness, these extra exits and entrances might not have been necessary.)
8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION:
- Theatre history and architecture;
- Historicity of theatrical vocabularies of conventions;
- Relationship of convention to meaning (for instance, one staging technique may imply that a ghost is an independent supernatural being, whereas another may imply that it is the psychological projection of a neurotic individual);
- Gains and losses in updating or translating the original staging conventions.
9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: Prof. Alan Dessen, University of North Carolina, 1995-96 NEH Institute "Shakespeare Examined through Performance."
10. ADDITIONAL READING: N.A.
11. VARIATIONS: N.A.