Free Shakespeare! Jail scholars!

  • Charles Marowitz
  • John Russell Brown
Part of the The Dramatic Medium book series


Free Shakespeare is the title of a little booklet by John Russell Brown, who has been Professor of English at the University of Sussex, and, during Peter Hall’s reign, an Associate Director of the National Theatre with a special responsibility for scripts. His book has been widely read in theatrical circles, where it gained considerable respect — especially among directors who were actually tempted to put some of his ideas to the test. Briefly, Brown’s argument is this:

A contemporary production of Shakespeare, circumscribed by a directorial interpretation, limits the scope of Shakespeare’s work. In Brown’s view, there is a wide multiplicity of meanings and possibilities in a Shakespearian play, but, when a director gets hold of it, he zeroes in on only one or two and, by so doing, gives us one man’s view of the play, but not (what Brown believes was the case in Elizabethan times) a wide variety of complementary meanings, as wide and varied as the actors offering them. Although we may be dazzled by the brilliance of a director’s individual conception, Brown argues that:

When the devices are examined out of context and in comparison with the text or with those of other productions, they may lose their eloquence and magic, like a stone that gleamed at the bottom of a stream but turned dull and unremarkable in the hand that gathered it … Moreover, the difficulties of a text due to the passage of time or the complexity of Shakespeare’s imagination, are kept out of view, so that the audience follows easily: they are conducted through the play as through an ancient monument, so that they pay most attention to those elements to which their guides believe that they can most easily respond.


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Copyright information

© Charles Marowitz 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Marowitz
  • John Russell Brown

There are no affiliations available

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