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Sh@kespeare in the Media

From the Globe Theatre to the World Wide Web

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Edited By Stefani Brusberg-Kiermeier and Jörg Helbig

This collection of critical essays and interviews gives an overview of the various kinds of medial manifestations which Shakespeare’s work has been transferred into over the centuries: into a theatrical performance, a printed text, a painting, an opera, an audio book, a film, a radio or television drama, a website. On the whole this overview also provides a history of the general development of Shakespearean media. Practitioners as well as scholars focus on the strengths and weaknesses, the possibilities and limitations of each medium with regard to the representation of Shakespeare’s work.

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Carol Banks (Lancashire): Picturing Shakespeare's plays - 73

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CAROL BANKS Picturing Shakespeare's Plays Shakespeare, although revered as a poet and playwright, was also a contributor to the visual arts, for his primary medium – the audio-visual art of drama – conveys meaning by sight and sound; in performance the play-text becomes a continuous talking picture which is both seen and heard by the listening viewers, an "audience" of "spectators". The visual and verbal components in drama can operate almost independently of each other: at times words alone seem all important, whilst at others meaning may be conveyed purely by sight. Interestingly, for Hamlet (arguably the most famous of all Shakespeare's characters) "the purpose of playing" was to visualise rather than verbalise morality: "to hold as 'twer the Mirrour vp to Nature; to shew Vertue her owne Feature, Scorne her owne Image" (Hamlet 1868-71, my emphases).47 Thus, Hamlet's dramatic production, The Murder of Gonzago, is a dumb show, a visual display without words. The power of sight over sound was similarly recognised by contemporary audiences. Henry Jackson, a spectator at a production of Othello in 1610, registered the superiority of the silent visual image over the spoken word when he observed that although Desdemona pleaded her cause superbly throughout, nevertheless she moved [us] more after she had been murdered, when, lying upon her bed, her face itself implored pity from the onlookers. (Norton Shakespeare 1997: 3336) Shakespeare's consciousness of the power of the image is further demonstrated when, in situations where it is impossible to show a particular scene on...

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