Early Modern Rehearsal

The 'Plot' of the Play

The ‘plot’ or ‘platt’ of a play is a fascinating part of the early modern rehearsal process. The image to the right is the plot of the Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins; the SQM 'plots' are available in our production resources section. The ‘plot’ records the entrances of all the characters onto the stage. English scenes are marked with lines across the play but the scenes are not numbered. Often, although not consistently, the names of the actors are recorded next to character name, or at times actor’s names are used instead of the character’s name. Several of the surviving ‘plots’ have a rectangular hole at the top that is about the size of a wooden peg and it is commonly presumed that the ‘plot’ of the play was hung backstage for easy reference during the performance.

The actors’ ‘parts’ contain all their lines and cues but not their entrances or any sense of where their scenes come in the order of the play. They would have some sense of this from the playwright’s reading and the company reading, but on the day of rehearsal they would need to know the exact timing of the scenes and especially their entrances. The ‘plot’ was prepared by the company book-keeper who was also likely the prompter for the performance and the person responsible for getting the actors onstage at the appropriate time.

In the SQM experiment we underestimated the importance of the ‘plot’ and the role of the prompter in the trial performance. We included entrance cues on the actors’ ‘parts’ and made them responsible for timing their entrances. The concluding section of this module includes analysis of the effect of this change to the process and some ideas on how we might operate in future productions . The ‘plot’ may also have been used by the book-keeper to establish the doubling of the plays.