Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Shakespeare's Theater; Intro to Titus Andronicus; One Act Play Project (Continued)

Shakespeare's Theater

Please take notes on what you learn on the graphic organizer. Turn this in as participation credit at the end of our class today.

Crash Course Theatre: The English Renaissance and Not Shakespeare
Crash Course Theater: Straight Outta Stratford-Upon-Avon: Early Shakespeare
Crash Course Theatre: The Tragedies

Theater, as we know it in Shakespeare's day being performed in a typical PLAYHOUSE, didn't occur until 1576. It was James Burbage who built the first playhouse called, appropriately, "the Theater"--a permanent building dedicated to showing plays for commercial interest. Before then, plays were generally performed in courtyards, tennis courts, inns or guild houses. Private showings for the nobles or upper classes would be commissioned as well in indoor theaters where anyone could afford a ticket.

Actors joined an acting company. Shakespeare, for example, first belonged to the Chamberlain's Men, then to the King's Men (after Elizabeth's death). Only men were allowed to act in the Elizabethan theater. Younger actors (boys) often played the female roles because they would have looked more like women (i.e., no beard). This helps to explain why so many of Shakespeare's plays include cross-dressing. Consider that Juliet, for example, would have been played by a boy to the older actor playing Romeo. New actors were often given smaller roles so as to train with the experienced actors--who often played the major roles. Shakespeare himself was recorded as playing various small roles in his plays. The most famous example was the ghost of Hamlet's father in Hamlet.

Plays were written (often in collaboration) by the actors in the company (who also doubled as the house manager, director, props master, producer, etc.) This helps to explain why some characters in Shakespeare's plays disappear mid-play or return as new characters in the 4th or 5th acts. It's hard to be on stage while also taking money at the door.

Lines for a play were written on sides and distributed to the company members. It would be rare for an actor to have a complete script (the writer would, of course) but printing costs money, so copies were kept to a minimum. This helps explain why there are A sides and B sides to Shakespeare's works. Some lines or sides were changed by the actors or the writer during the performances. Famous actors might even change the author's lines by slipping in a bit of well-rehearsed and well-known comedic business for the audience's benefit.

Finally, having one's works collected in a folio book or quarto would have been rare. Scripts that got out of the hands of a company could be stolen by other theater companies, so copies were not passed around generally. The King's Men must have thought a lot about Shakespeare to have his works printed and bound! Luckily they did--or we could not frustrate future high school students by forcing them to read his plays!

The structure of a Shakespearean play (most 5 act plays) is:

ACT ONE: Exposition, Inciting incident, Major Dramatic Question is introduced, sometimes the protagonist has made a Major Decision. Often a complication occurs to disrupt the status quo.
ACT TWO: Rising Action, Complication(s), Establishment/development of the Major Conflict, sometimes the protagonist has made a Major Decision. Introduction to subplot (minor plot).
ACT THREE: Crisis or Turning Point, Dark Moment, Major Decision.
ACT FOUR: Enlightenment, development or Resolution of minor plots.
ACT FIVE: Final climax, Resolution of minor and major plots, falling action. Major Dramatic Question is answered.

Titus Andronicus is believed to be Shakespeare's first tragedy. He may have co-authored it with George Peele (although we can't be certain) between 1588 and 1593. Popular in his day, the play is thought to be needlessly violent and the most bloody of all his plays. It has common Shakespearean themes of revenge and madness. Common motifs can be found below...

The play is set at the end of the Roman Empire and tells the fictional story of a Roman general, Titus, who runs afoul of Tamora, Queen of the Goths.

Major Characters:
  • Titus Andronicus – A renowned Roman general
  • Tamora – Queen of the Goths; afterward Empress of Rome
  • Aaron– a Moor; involved in a sexual relationship with Tamora
  • Lucius – Titus's eldest son
  • Lavinia – Titus's daughter
  • Marcus Andronicus – Titus's brother
  • Demetrius – Tamora's son
  • Chiron – Tamora's other son; allusion to the centaur Chiron
  • Saturninus – Son of the late Roman Emperor; afterward declared Emperor
  • Bassianus – Saturninus's brother; in love with Lavinia
Minor Characters:
  • Quintus – Titus's son
  • Martius – Titus's son
  • Mutius – Titus's son
  • Young Lucius – Lucius's son 
  • Publius – Marcus's son 
  • Nurse
  • A Clown
  • Sempronius – Titus's kinsman
  • Caius – Titus's kinsman
  • Valentine – Titus's kinsman 
  • Alarbus – Tamora's son (non-speaking role)
  • Revenge
  • Human Kindness & Pity (and its limitations) (Cruelty, as its opposite as well)
  • Limbs (usually being hacked off--"parts" of the body, just as children are "part" of the parent's "body", and citizens are part of the body politic...)
  • Animals (particularly fierce bestial animals...like a wilderness of tigers, but also birds of prey, and their victims)
  • Astrology (a reference to Fate and the stars)

Ovid's Metamorphoses (the story of Philomela, in particular)
Seneca's play Thyestes (the myth of the House of Atreus--, and, of course, Aeschylus' The Orestia)

Turn in your graphic organizer by the end of class today on Elizabethan theater.

HOMEWORK: Complete your reading of Titus Andronicus. Keep writing your play projects! Your drafts will be due the week you return from Winter Break. Have a great winter break!

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