There are numberless ways to analyse a play but I’ll be focusing on a practical, page-to-stage method that comes out of contemporary actor/director training. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Konstantin Stanislavsky became the progenitor of a structured way of thinking about making plays. Although he never formalized any strict method (contrary to many people’s confusion with the Americanized ‘Method’ he unwittingly inspired), Stanislavsky did, by the end of his long life in art, boil down almost everything the actor does to action. Acting is action shown on a stage and the actor’s role is to divine what intentions the character must pursue based on clues inherent in the text. Stanislavsky freely admitted his ideas were superfluous in analysing how to play Shakespeare because there was no subtext, unlike with psychological fare like Chekhov, Ibsen or almost any contemporary play we make today. In Shakespeare nine times out of ten if one character tells another, ‘I smite thee!’ it means duck. We know what a character is thinking because she says it aloud, whether publicly or privately in an aside.
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