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Not a homework help thread- ds "doesn't need any help- I know what i'm doing, mum!" I just thought it was really interesting, and thought you all might too

(13 Posts)
Hakluyt Fri 07-Nov-14 08:24:22

"In the 16th century, plays were not printed in their entirety. Instead, actors were only given a script with their lines on. What difference do you think this would make to a performance?"

Hakluyt Fri 07-Nov-14 08:25:51

And does anyone know if it's actually true? I suppose with copying stuff costing money I can see why they did it- but surely it must have created shambles!

TweeAintMee Fri 07-Nov-14 08:30:58

I think it might have a positive effect, lending credibility and spontaneity to the performance. When we operate on a day to day basis we don't know the outcome.

Surely they must have had the full dialogue between themselves and the other actors otherwise they wouldn't know when to speak? If Actor A has 3 lines to deliver with an important plot point in line 2, it wouldn't work if Actor B chipped in at the end of the first line because he thought his words would fit in there.

I assume it means that they didn't know the resolution of the play if they were one of the early characters but if you were a character like Othello (1603 rather than 16th Century) you would know what happened from start to finish.

Hakluyt Fri 07-Nov-14 09:36:32

I know, Chaz- I really don't see how it would work. And so far google hasn't helped!

Maybe I'll just have to read ds's essay...........sorry, "extended writing task".....

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Fri 07-Nov-14 09:43:57

I might be wrong but I thought that most actors at that time didn't know how to read or write.
They were type cast and played the same character over and over in different play, with some degree of improvisation whilst on stage. Most of the "scripting" was done orally. And a performance of the same play was never really the same.
Only the very successful play were written afterwards.

Very few play scripts were written on purpose except by commands for the king, pope or extremely rich person.

posadas Fri 07-Nov-14 10:05:43

I went to a very interesting talk on this topic a few years ago.
Actors were given only their lines + the last few words spoken by another character immediately before their lines. It did create chaos sometimes but, as the actors knew the plot and knew how their character fit into the story, they could usually figure out when to "come in" with their lines.

posadas
That makes more sense as they would at least know when to speak. I would force you to listen to what the other actor was saying so your response was delivered appropriately.

It not I

UniS Fri 07-Nov-14 20:43:42

As posadas says, a single actors set of lines was just that ( with cue words from previous speech) . Or so I was taught in my history of Theatre classes many years ago.
www.friendlyfolio.com/free_sample/ for an example of the practise in print

skylark2 Sun 09-Nov-14 22:17:09

I'm not from the 16th century, but when I was at primary school this was how our lines were handed out for school plays. Presumably because of copying costs. We never had a whole script.

Obviously this is why I've failed to turn into Judi Dench...

Hakluyt Sun 09-Nov-14 22:21:15

He read us his essay this evening. It started "As an actor myself........."grin

FriendlyLadybird Wed 12-Nov-14 22:35:47

There were a couple of issues which prompted this:
- There was no copyright law in place. So playwrights and theatre companies protected their work by not having it freely available
- Plays were generally thought of ephemeral and not particularly worth printing
- They were working actors, typically learning and rehearsing a play one week and performing it the next. They didn't actually need to learn anything more than their own lines and cues
- As someone upthread suggested, not all plays lasted much longer than their first run. Publication of the successful, popular, and likely-to-be-revived plays came later
- And of course (though this was earlier) this is why there are different versions of Shakespeare's plays. The quartos, published during Shakespeare's lifetime, were often cobbled together from memory and perhaps one or two actors' scripts. The folios (prestigious editions put together after his death) probably drew on more scripts and a better memory but weren't definitive editions any more than the quartos were.

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