This Guy Is My New Hero

(Paraphrased) “And then we come to the question of what to do about the rhymes, does the actor play them, or ignore them? I am sure that he should play them, because they are there in the text.”

– John Barton, Playing Shakespeare

I got a real kick out of that line.   It’s not patronizing the way he says it, but yet I think that off camera and maybe on a grumpy day you could almost hear him add “you idiot” at the end of that sentence. :)  [ I don’t know anything about the man’s real world directorial style, that’s just the way I imagine it going down. ] It’s like a neat little summary of how to play Shakespeare, however infinitely complicated you may see it.  “Hey, how should I play this scene?”  “What’s it say in the text?”  Repeat. (To be fair, this quote comes in the middle of his lesson on irony, which Barton clearly admits is *not* clear in the text, and something you have to interpret for yourself.  More on that in later posts.)

One thought on “This Guy Is My New Hero

  1. Much like he advises the actor to find a need to use the words, or "heightened language" to say those exact words as a solution to getting his/her point across in the best possible way, the actor/character CHOOSES to rhyme. Like the ending couplet in a sonnet, many times this occurs at the end of a scene. The character uses the rhyme in this case to "cap the scene", to bring a sort of boffo ending to the matter, or to point up further, future intention, and to facilitate an exit from the stage. There are, of course many other reasons within a monologue or the dialogue itself, to "choose" to rhyme, but this example is most exemplary, and easier to find, in that it's somewhat encapsulated in these places within the textual scheme, and occurs quite often.

    "[..]The Play's the thing,/
    Wherein Ile catch the Conscience of the King." Exit

    I think it's important to point up that when Barton refers to the "text", he's talking about the First Folio or Quarto texts; not the form we would normally find in a local bookstore with Shakespeare's name on it. One would be hard put to find many of the things he talks about in a modern edition, because of alterations in the verse form, punctuation, capitalizations, and spellings.

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