Technical features

  • Jean R. Brooks
Part of the Macmillan Master Guides book series


A convention, in drama, is something the dramatist is taking for granted and which the audience agrees not to question: to begin with, that the actor Richard Burbage, or Derek Jacobi, is Hamlet. On television we are accustomed to plays which look and sound as if they were recorded from actual life (though by a well-understood convention the recording is not continuous: it ‘cuts’ from one sequence to another). Shakespeare’s plays do not aim at literal resemblance to real life. In appreciating Hamlet we have to adjust to conventions which are not ‘naturalistic’. On real-life assumptions, questions would be quite fair which in Hamlet should never occur to you: for instance, if there was an eye-witness who was able to describe Ophelia’s drowning, why did he not go to the rescue? In Shakespearean drama, disregard of logic such as this is not a fault; it will not affect the audience, and Shakespeare’s art cares only for what will.


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© Jean R. Brooks 1986

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  • Jean R. Brooks

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