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What is the point of reading plays?

Plays are written to be watched rather than read; what is the effect when the text of the play is considered, rather than the performance itself? Do intricate stage designs prove an obstacle, or do they provide insight into something that would’ve been missed in the moment onstage?

  • This is a topic with potential. Could you provide some examples? – Munjeera 4 years ago
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  • I agree with Munjeera - a topic with a great deal of potential. Perhaps it might also be helpful to examine the difference between writing styles for plays written to be performed before an audience and those written for a radio performance. – Amyus 4 years ago
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  • Thank you both for your comments! Two examples I was particularly thinking of were Miss Julie by Strindberg, and Angela Carter's The Skriker. The first one has long, detailed set descriptions and stage directions, and I was just thinking about the effect of reading them vs. seeing them. Do we gain something with the time we can take to pore over the words, or do we lose something that would've only been there in the moment? In contrast, The Skriker is much more of an unreadable play. It's almost incomprehensible unless you're reading along to a performance, which is what I had to do when I read it for one of my classes. I wondered why it resisted reading that way, and again, what the difference might be in reading/struggling to read and watching. – Sohini 4 years ago
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  • Reading a play allows us to take a closer look at the text, which can definitely give us a better understanding of the themes that we might have missed while caught up in the immediacy of a performance. Of course there are many elements to a performance which add a lot, and can even allow for additional interpretations of a given play. In order to really understand a play as a literary text, however, I think it's necessary either to read the thing outright, or to see it enough times that one can become intimately acquainted with the writing. There are also a large number of plays that are difficult to perform, ie Faust which contains scenes such as Walpurgis Night/Walpurgis Night's Dream that are laden with fantastic and surreal imagery that would be impossible to replicate on stage. – Ben Woollard 4 years ago
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  • I would love to write about this topic since my Ph.D. is in theatre with a specialization in dramatic literature. – crleiter 4 years ago
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  • Reading Shakespeare is a major grouse for most school kids. Looking forward to read people's opinions on this topic. – Vishnu Unnithan 4 years ago
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