Stage Directions in Hamlet: New Essays and New Directions

Stage Directions in Hamlet: New Essays and New Directions

Stage Directions in Hamlet: New Essays and New Directions

Stage Directions in Hamlet: New Essays and New Directions

Synopsis

Encompasses essays that are guardedly inductive in their critical approaches, as well as those that critique modern productions that attempt to achieve Shakespearean effect through a modern aesthetic.

Excerpt

In his essay “Encounters of the Third Kind in Stage Directions in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama,” Antony Hammond presents the assumption that often prevails in critical treatments of Renaissance stage directions: “The first, broad and general assumption, is that we all know what a stagedirection is, or in other words that it presents no intellectual problem of interpretation.” Similarly, Linda McJannet in her recent book The Voice of Elizabethan Stage Directions challenges the all-too-frequent diminution of stage directions as critical elements of scholarly attention. McJannet observes that stage directions found in early texts are the implicit voices of authors, and they frequently provide cues to the theatrical and dramatic effects of the scenes they control. Hammond and McJannet make a cogent case for critical approaches that will generate “intellectual justice” for consideration of a textual feature that is often regarded as “stage business,” paraphernalia, or apparatus. McJannet concludes that actors, theater semioticians, and contemporary playwrights have for too long given scant attention to the stage directions that are inscribed within characters' speeches or within unobtrusive conventions that are seldom interrogated or critically unpacked. For McJannet, these “self-effacing” dramatic codes offerawealthofinformation for readers and viewers ofRenaissance drama. Thus, critics like Hammond, McJannet, and Alan Dessen have urged scholars to attend to stage directions, those implicit and explicit, as essential interpretative vehicles of meaning in Renaissance plays.

These imperatives are directed at a broad spectrum of scholars:at textual editors who construct modern texts from extant quartos and folios, at performance-oriented critics who attempt to decode the theatrical semiotics, at play directors who design and construct modern embodiments of the texts, at the historical/historicist scholars of the Renaissance stage who interpret the cultural and social significance of staged action, and at the average reader who attempts to discern a relevant message from the dramatic effect of theatrical action. Given this rich array of readers of Renaissance drama, for whom stage directions are essential for understanding, this proposed volume of essays will be essential reading:its goal of “recovering”

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