Elizabethan Acting

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Elizabethan Acting Elizabethan acting was far from ‘naturalistic.’ This statement is a widely debated topic. The repertory of the Elizabethan period was highly differed from that of today as was the demands on Elizabethan actors compared to today’s actors. Elizabethan playhouses in two weeks could often present “eleven performances of ten different plays”. Playhouses would not repeat the same play two days in a row. As an actor from the playhouses could often be all or a lot of these plays that were all running at the same time, the demands on the actor were huge. “In the total winter season from August 25, 1595, through February 28, 1596,” one company gave “one hundred and fifty performances of thirty different plays.” Actors were not only required to “commit to memory an amazing number of new plays each season,” but he also had to retain old and previous performances in case they were to be performed again. “A leading actor of the Lord Admiral’s company… , had to secure and retain command of about seventy-one different roles, of which number fifty-two or fifty-three were newly learned.” The huge repertory demands of the actors gave them little time for interpretation of roles. Since 1939 debate has been waged over the Elizabethan acting style. Alfred Harbage wrote that two styles of acting could have been present in the Elizabethan period. They were natural or formal. Harbage wrote: Natural acting strives to create an illusion of reality by consistency on the part of the actor who remains in character and tends to imitate the behavior of actual human being placed in his imagined circumstances. He portrays where the formal actor symbolizes. He impersonates where the formal actor represents. He engages in real conver... ... middle of paper ... ... of reality sufficient to involve us.” This holds true whether the illusion is “an imitation of contemporary life, historical life, or mythical life,” the concern is not by which means this illusion is created whether it be “conventional and symbolic or contextual and descriptive,” but that it is created. Actors perfected all the new and old roles that they had and the presentation of these roles did not change over time, there was no “invention of new devices and characteristics.” They performance of a role that at one point may have been considered natural may, in latter performances have been considered formal even if the performance of the role was the same on both accounts. For although the roles were performed and acted did not change the audience did change over time and the audience’s perception over what was considered natural would have changed.
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