The play’s the thing


Edwin Booth as Iago

Edwin Booth as Iago

This wide and universal theater : Shakespeare in performance, then and now David Bevington Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2007 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xi, 242 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 225-230) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Mrs Patrick Campbell as Ophelia in 'Hamlet'

Mrs Patrick Campbell as Ophelia in ‘Hamlet’

For generations, most readers have first encountered Shakespeare’s plays in books, rather than onstage. In schools, his works are primarily taught by professors of English, many of whom know little about the theater. Yet Shakespeare was through and through a man of the stage. So what is lost when we leave Shakespeare the dramatist behind, and what can we learn by taking his plays seriously as dramas to be performed?

 Mr Garrick in the Character of Richard III

Mr Garrick in the Character of Richard III

David Bevington answers these questions with This Wide and Universal Theater, which explores productions of Shakespeare both in his own time and in the succeeding centuries. Making use of contemporary documents and the play scripts themselves, Bevington brings Shakespeare’s original staging to life. He explains how the Elizabethan playhouse, lacking scenery, conveyed a sense of place, from the Forest of Arden in As You Like It to the tavern in Henry IV, Part I. And through close attention to Shakespeare’s texts, he reveals the surprising ways that early production decisions continue to affect our understanding of the plays: for example, the word “balcony,” despite its indelible association with Romeo and Juliet, appears nowhere in the play itself. Moving beyond Shakespeare’s lifetime, Bevington shows the prodigious lengths to which eighteenth and nineteenth-century companies went to produce spectacular effects, from flying witches in Macbeth to terrifying storms punctuating King Lear. Considerations of recent productions on both stage and screen bring the book into the present, when character and language have taken precedence over spectacle.

Fanny Kemble as Juliet

Fanny Kemble as Juliet

Bringing a lifetime of study to bear on a remarkably underappreciated aspect of Shakespeare’s art, David Bevington has crafted a book that will entertain and illuminate anyone who has thrilled to the Bard on page or in performance.

Edmund Kean as Shylock

Edmund Kean as Shylock

 

Advertisements

Comments Off on The play’s the thing

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments are closed.