Commentary by Jim Bartruff From materials by Ronald Hayman and David Ball The Old Testament Then the King’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him so that the joins of his loins were loosed and his knees smote one against the other. And the King spake, and said, “Whosoever shall read this writing and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet and have a chain of gold around his neck.” (Daniel 5:7) HAMLET Polonius: What do you read my lord? Hamlet: Words. Words. Words. Polonius: What is the matter, my lord? Hamlet: Between who? Polonius: I mean the matter that you read, my lord. Hamlet: Slanders sir… Polonius: Those this be madness, yet there is method in in’t. How do you read a play for the purpose of production? It is a manuscript heavily dependent upon the special methods and techniques of the stage. In A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Bottom says… “First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on.” (Act One, Scene 2) Analyzing a script requires some effort! ACTION OBSTACLE CONFLICT THEATRICALITY IS WHAT MAKES A PLAY INTERESTING. Theatricality elicits a strong audience response. Exposition provides a context for action. CHARACTER Is always revealed through action… Image There are two kinds of communication… 1) The domain of science or philosophy describes phenomena one part at a time…like dictionary definitions or isolated element by isolated element. This type of communication specifies and limits. (Rational, Scientific) 2) The second kind does not deal with a single element of time, but rather, expresses a collection of multiple, simultaneous elements…the domain of art. This form of communication expands and evokes. (Instinctive, Artistic) Without images, we need paragraphs of description. Yet an image can communicate many words in a single image. “Words. Words. Words.” Images in Titles The Dance of Death (Strindberg) The Glass Menagerie (Williams) The Children’s Hour (Hellman) Ghosts (Ibsen) The Seagull (Chekhov) Don’t ignore the titles…what do the titles evoke? Theme What is the play about? Theme is an abstract concept made concrete by a play’s action. Theme is not meaning; it is a topic in the play. Theme is a result; it emerges from the script’s workings…look for it last in your reading. Background Every kind of information is useful…on the author, on the era, the environment, etc. The most useful information often comes from other works by the same author. Trust the playwright Oftentimes, directors give up rather than trying to find the point of a difficult or arcane section of text. Think twice before cutting… To be, or not, to be, that is the question. A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse. Families Family relationships are at or near the center of almost every play… Oedipus Hamlet Death of a Salesman CLIMAX BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS READING AND REREADING THINK OF THE SCRIPT AS A TOOL. BEFORE YOU PICK IT UP TO USE, KNOW WHICH IS THE HANDLE AND WHICH IS THE BLADE—OR YOU MIGHT CUT YOUR THROAT. What else? Setting Use of space and time Stage directions about action Sound and sound effects Silence Masks and disguises Irony Meaning and experience Hamlet to the players …but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. (III.2) Online sources UNC Writing Center Other Sources Hayman, Ronald. HOW TO READ A PLAY, Grove Press, 1977. David Ball. BACKWARDS AND FORWARDS, A Technical Manual for Reading Plays, SIU Press, 1983. Eugene Giddens, editor. HOW TO READ A SHAKESPEAREAN PLAY TEXT, Cambridge University Press, 2011. How do you… …read a script?