Shakespeare in Parts

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A truly groundbreaking collaboration of original theatre history with exciting literary criticism, Shakespeare in Parts is the first book fully to explore the original form in which Shakespeare's drama overwhelmingly circulated. This was not the full play-text; it was not the public performance. It was the actor's part, consisting of the bare cues and speeches of each individual role. With group rehearsals rare or non-existent, the cued part alone had to furnish the actor with his character. But each such part-text was riddled with gaps and uncertainties. The actor knew what he was going to say, but not necessarily when, or why, or to whom; he may have known next to nothing of any other part. It demanded the most sensitive attention to the opportunities inscribed in the script, and to the ongoing dramatic moment. Here is where the young actor Shakespeare learnt his trade; here is where his imagination, verbal and technical, learnt to roam.

This is the story of Shakespeare in Parts. As Shakespeare developed his playwriting, the apparent limitations of the medium get transformed into expressive opportunities. Both cue and speech become promise-crammed repositories of meaning and movement, and of individually discoverable space and time. Writing always for the same core group of players, Shakespeare could take - and insist upon - unprecedented risks. The result is onstage drama of astonishing immediacy.

Starting with a comprehensive history of the part in early modern theatre, Simon Palfrey and Tiffany Stern's mould-altering work of historical and imaginative recovery provides a unique keyhole onto hitherto forgotten practices and techniques. It not only discovers a newly active, choice-ridden actor, but a new Shakespeare.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Stunningly fresh and rewarding...A pathbreaking study, and it is bound to rejuvenate the debate about whether, or rather to what extent, Shakespeare wrote with readers of print in mind." --Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900

"A ground-breaking book." --The New Criterion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199591107
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/4/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Tiffany Stern is a Lecturer in English Literature at Oxford University, and the Beaverbrook and Bouverie Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at University College, Oxford. She specialises in Shakespeare, theatre history from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, book history, and editing. Her publications include Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan (OUP, 2000), Making Shakespeare (Routledge, 2004), and numerous articles and chapters exploring theatrical and editorial concerns of the early modern period. She has also edited the anonymous King Leir and Sheridan's The Rivals and is currently editing George Farquhar's Recruiting Officer, Brome's Jovial Crew, and Shakespeare's Merry Wives.

Simon Palfrey is Lecturer in English at Oxford University and a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. He is the author of Late Shakespeare: a New World of Words(OUP, 1997; paperback, 2000), Doing Shakespeare (Arden, 2004), and articles on Kierkegaard and the ethics and phenomenology of drama.

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Table of Contents

I: History
1. The Actor's Part
2. The Actors
3. Rehearsing and Performing
II: Interpreting Cues
4. History of the Cue
5. Interpreting Shakespeare's Cues
6. Cues and Characterisation
7. Waiting and Suddenness: the Part in Time
8. Repeated Cues
9. Repeated cues: from Crowds to Clowns
10. Repeated cues: comi-tragic/tragic-comic pathos
11. Repeated cues and the battle for the cue-space: The Merchant of Venice
12. Repeated cues and tragedy
13. Repeated cues and the cue-space in King Lear
14. Repeated cues and post-tragic effects
15. Repeated Cues and the Cue-Space in The Tempest
III: The Actor With His Part
16. History
17. Dramatic prosody
18. Prosodic Switches: From Actor's Prompt to Absent Presence
19. Midline shifts in 'mature' Shakespeare: from actorly instruction to 'virtual' presence
20. Case studies: six romantic heroines and three lonely men

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