Whether you are just reading a play for study purposes or for pure pleasure, there is always one big problem – or in most cases I’ve found anyway. It is often forgotten that plays are “theatrical”.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary this means “relating to acting, actors, or the theatre” and “exaggerated and excessively dramatic”. What does this mean? Simply that plays are visual – they are performed in front of an audience! Therefore plays are meant to be watched, not read.
By reading a play we are allowed a close textual analysis of the script. Here we pick up on minor details that we may have missed whilst watching the play and can figure out their meanings. However, it’s often forgotten or not realised that in order to take in and realise the powerful methods used by the play write the play should be watched. Do what it’s meant to do and be PLAYED!
Depending on what it is that you are reading, watching the play could make it much easier to understand. Example – having studied Shakespeare’s King Lear, Macbeth and Othello (and also having read Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night), watching them enabled me to not only understand the language better through the action, but also to realise all that I was kissing. This is mainly because the Bard obviously seemed to hate stage directions and decided to go crazy and embed the action in layers of iambic pentameter. Or maybe that’s just me…