Shakespeare's Use of Off-Stage Sounds

Shakespeare's Use of Off-Stage Sounds

Shakespeare's Use of Off-Stage Sounds

Shakespeare's Use of Off-Stage Sounds

Excerpt

Mr. Spectator, early in the eighteenth century, was keenly aware of the effect certain off-stage sounds could have on an audience. He wrote:

Among the several Artifices which are put in Practice by the poets to fill the Minds of an Audience with Terror, the first Place is due to Thunder and Lightning, which are often made use of at the descending of a God or the Rising of a Ghost, at the Vanishing of a Devil, or at the Death of a Tyrant. I have known a Bell, introduced into several Tragedies with a good Effect, and have seen the Whole Assembly in a very great Alarm all the while it has been ringing.

Characters in some of the farces seem to have been equally aware of the importance of loud sounds in the theatre. Pistol, the miles gloriosus of a troop of players who were hotheadedly abandoning their profession, said good-bye to the noise-making equipment:

Farewell the shrill-oak'd Trump, and slacken'd Drum . . . And, o ye Iron Bowls! Whose massy Balls The Thundering Jove's great clamours counterfeit.

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