“Shakespeare, Stage or Page?”

So der Titel des Aufsatzes von James Fenton in der The New York Review of Books 6/2004, in dem er einen Überblick über den aktuellen Stand dieser Debatte gibt.

The opposite view became well entrenched by the end of the twentieth century. No longer was it an open question whether certain of Shakespeare’s plays were performable: all were performable in principle, and all were indeed, with varying degrees of frequency, performed. Performance itself became the criterion for interpretation: „We must allow Shakespeare himself to decide what must be studied. Throw out those learned introductions to the text. We are to learn by doing, and the insights of actors are more likely to be right than those of scholars.“ „A play has to be seen and heard in order to be understood.“ „The stage expanding before an audience is the source of all valid discovery.“

This seems to derive from a stage-struck scholarship, or from a critical orthodoxy that conveniently forgets how much a modern production of Shakespeare depends on scholarly and critical guidance. Actors are taught by directors, and directors are taught at universities. And if they happen not to be, it remains true that without scholarly editions neither actor nor director would have the foggiest notion of what crucial passages in the plays mean.

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