They fight is one of Shakespeare’s most used stage directions, but what kind of stage action is he directing when he adds these words in the margin of the text? A stage fight is thoroughly predetermined: every step, every blow, every punch, every sword thrust, will have been painstakingly rehearsed, choreographed in slow motion, and practised diligently before every performance. The risk is pure illusion. The paradox of stage fighting is that the moment when the stage seems the most disordered, when the actors seem most out of control, is also the moment when the actors are in most control, when their safety depends on their fellow actors knowing exactly what each other will do and when.
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