Friday, May 4, 2007

Seeing is believing...

Although generally important in theater, in Shakespeare it is particularly incumbent on the actors to see what they're talking about in front of them as part of the storytelling job. (Annie goes into this as well; she talks about words having life not meaning.) So that when the sentinels recount seeing the Ghost, they have to make the experience real to the audience. When the Ghost describes his brother poisoning him, the experience has to be conveyed by seeing the act. Claudius seeing his brother die makes him fight all the harder for his right as king. Gertrude seeing Ophelia drown. Ophelia seeing Hamlet coming to her closet disheveled, etc.

Which brings me to the soliloquies. It kind of bothers me that there's this seeming imperative to deliver them to the audience. From my limited research, first of all, that practice has gone in and out of fashion over the centuries so to talk about how it's "supposed to be" done is weird (not to mention strident). Besides, even if you do, I think it needs to be carefully nuanced. If soliloquies are thoughts that the character cannot entrust to any other character in the play, then maybe those thoughts are better understood by the listener if s/he can listen in on, or overhear them, versus being told them, complete with eye contact. Also, there's the intimacy factor -- the audience as one listener versus many individual listeners; confession versus lecture.

And again, from the storytelling point of view -- even if the story is thoughts -- the story has to be reflected/experienced on the body, face, eyes of the teller in order for it to be empathized with by the listener. So in my view, if you're going to err, it should be on the side of internalizing versus externalizing a soliloquy.