Free Shakespeare! Jail scholars!
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:
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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