Essays on Modern Quebec Theater

By Joseph I. Donohoe Jr.; Jonathan M. Weiss | Go to book overview

The Language of Theater

Lucie Robert

Recent studies have tended to emphasize the various stage- related aspects of theater, concentrating on what has become known as "theatricality,"1 a concept used to pinpoint the specificity of theater as compared to other artistic forms. In so doing, these studies have tended to set aside the traditional text-centered analysis of theater. There is no intent here to criticize such a perspective, which I believe has made possible a considerable number of significant studies. Compared to other stage-produced cultural forms, however, theater has specific characteristics, among which speech is particularly relevant.

Speech takes many forms in theater. The answer to questions such as "Who is speaking?" and "To whom?" usually distinguishes between two main forms of speech: dialogue and didascaly.2 Dialogue is first and foremost the interaction of characters through language. As such it is one of the many ways to describe a social space, that is, a sphere framed precisely by various relationships. Didascaly is also "stage-direction," based on the assumption that it is mainly directed toward the actors and the director of a staged play. However, theater history has shown that the relation between these two forms of speech is more complex than it seems at first, and that in many ways didascalies may be considered, in a published play at least, a form of narrative voice somewhat similar to that found in a novel, and which is used to facilitate the reading of theater.3 Although this may appear a secondary issue in the study of stage-produced theater, it is essential when considering the dramatic text or play.

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