Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kristen, Matt, Sonnee, and Aaron

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet was first performed in 1600, although the Quartos were not published until several years later. At that time interest in violence and vengeance were on the wane, but despite their diminishing popularity, Shakespeare uses these components in an attempt to distinguish himself from his competitors; this meant that not only did his plays need to be engaging, but they also needed simple enough settings that the actors could convey their invisible surroundings to the audience. The reason for this is because at the time scenery could not be quickly changed, and even if it could it would be too costly for the theater or the actors. The stage itself was frequently set up with pillars that could be used as trees, doorways, houses and so forth depending on what the scene called for; it was not uncommon for there to be a balcony above that for the actors to use in necessary scenes, such as the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. The audience itself was split into two groups; the standing audience which was closer to the stage and cost less, and the sitting audience who had to pay more money. Attending plays was considered a sort of luxury; although inexpensive, it was a treat as the money was usually saved for other things such as food and clothes. Because of this going to plays—especially if one could afford a sitting seat—was seen as a sort of social-status elevator. All these aspects of theater had to be taken into consideration when Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, because if the play was a failure the negative publicity could easily cast him from favor in the competitive industry.

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