Shakespeare wrote his plays for an acting company and, in contrast to an increasing number of his contemporaries, seems to have done nothing to ensure they were available in print. Perhaps he saw little reason for that because to read a text and imagine it in performance before an audience will not come naturally to any one and any play can be acted and produced in many different ways. To study Shakespeare’s plays in performance is an endless task because it varies with each change of cast and production. The entire theatrical event should come into the reckoning: the occasion, location and context for performance, the composition and expectation of the audience, the form and equipment of the theatre building, the skill, training and experience of the actors. Daunting as all this is, a student of the plays must also remember that every reader and critic will bring a unique experience and imagination with them as they discover for themselves what the plays can offer. All of which brings uncertainties to the study of Shakespeare’s plays in performance but also the discovery of their contemporary relevance, centuries after they were written and received their first performances.
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