Contextual Study essay on the assignment:
What difficulties does a 21st Century actor face when approaching an Elizabethan or Jacobean text?
Acting level 2
Penda Madeleine Faal
19th april 2010-04-18
Pages of essay
I want to start with an introduction to the main
Shakespeare organised reality by stylizing it. Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet arranges various materials and conventions that his audience was already familiar with- a popular story, elements of Elizabethan romantic comedy, the technique of Petrarchan love poetry. As an actor we have to go back to that period and explore with different ways of making an alienated text familiar. Romeo and Juliet is a sharp witted tragedy. But in the newer translations some of the edge is lost. The question is, is it due to later audiences lack of acuity of the ear which helped Elizabethans to recognise subtle changes in the verse. The contradictions within plot and characters now can seem puzzling at times, even disturbing, the mixture of tragedy with comedy, lyricism with irony or low humor is sometimes hard to recognise to an audience whos aestetic demands that tragic drama is uniformed at every level of composition. The text irself is full of intricate poetry, and the clues to how to play it is already in the text. Punctuations, Iambic lines all direct the actor to how to say the text. The Iambic lines and rythm dictates how you should say it and with it comes the actions. It almost does the work for you. * Shakespeare Music
* Every act has a specific moment; every event, a distinct cause and inevitable result. * The characters express sound judgement more often than a strong feeling: they often relate to one another or engage in self analysis or debate. The actor>
In the late sixteenth century, then, actors did not spend weeks analyzing the subtitles of Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet before they brought it to the stage. The actors then were Theatrical craftsmen. They mastered their role by articulating the words as the text/ playwright directed and suiting the actions to the words. They were much more performances in the making: processes which integrated all parts of the dramatic whole in view of a large and responsive audience. Whilst now we have 4 weeks of rehearsals to break up the text, dashes, points, emphases, subtitle, the fourth wall ELABORATE
As Realism is essential nowadays and the narrative art grows increasingly pictorial. As an actor from the 21st century we strive to stage Shakespeare with some degree of historical accuracy. “When the audience watched a play come to life, the actors were encountering each other’s performances, realizing afresh the opportunities of the text and responding to the audiences encouragement, all the same. A play in performance was an unrepeatable occasion, providing a new life for the text on that particular afternoon, with new emphases and interpretations. It was an improvised engagement, depending on skill, individual preparation and collaborative experience” (discovering Shakespeare p,46) Shakespeare’s texts often works through dreams, forebodings and direct allusions that fate govern these tragic events. Elizabethan performance must have displayed plainly the commonplace accidents and ignorance which qualify such a view. On the stage contradictions lodged in the text surface clearly between speech and action, within levels of awareness. Shakespeare’s Company delivered this forcefully, uninterrupted and in direct communication with the audience. Every verse demands a thoughtful inflexion, and as the tone constantly changes so does the actions.Lady Macbeth alternates from fiery tone to low followed by recognisable gestures.. These are subtle changes that must be justified. SCENE FROM MACBETH
Today as actors we have the paradox where we strive to be truthful on stage but controlled. Actors then commanded the attention of their large surrounding...
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