Performing the Queen's Men

Famous Victories: To the Court

SQM Staging: Video

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Edward Video 2
Entrances and Exits

Did you notice?

We decided the prince should exit with his companions when he says: “Let’s all stand aside.” This was not absolutely necessary since given the principle of simultaneous staging it would have been perfectly acceptable to an Elizabethan audience to have two sets of characters on stage at the same time acting as if they are in different locations. But it made more sense of Oxford’s subsequent entrance which is clearly marked in the text and for which we are intended to imagine that he is coming from the prince to the king. When Oxford “goeth” to the prince he finds him at the stage left curtain and is able to turn back his companions as if preventing them from entering the chamber of the king. The curtained entrances from the tiring house to the stage are thus imagined as doorways into and within the palace.

Our prince made sense of the stage direction Enter the prince with a dagger in his hand by stepping off stage to shout after his companions, and then re-entering with dagger drawn. This solution allowed us to satisfy the majority of the directions recorded in the text. Of course, we were only able to do this by adding exits that were not indicated by the text. Our interpretation is not definitive and there are many other ways the scene might have been performed. The SQM performance is not a recreation of how the Queen’s Men performed the scene but it is a solution that satisfies the majority of the stage directions in the surviving text. We have seen that the historical authority of the text is even in question as some of the stage directions may have been added by the editors of the printed edition but by applying ourselves assiduously to the text as it stands we were able to come up with a creative solution that points to a possible way in which the Queen’s Men performed this section of the play.

In doing so, the company also discovered ways in which the tiring house, as well as the bare stage, could be re-imagined by actors and audience to represent different locations. The way in which location shifts from outside the court to the king’s chambers is an excellent example of the fluidity of Elizabethan staging. The location imagined by the audience is shifted by references in the text and by the way the actors interact with the stage structure. The actors’ use of the tiring house as the Prince tries to enter with his companions (as seen in the picture to the right) made the setting more concrete in the audience’s active imagination of the action. It activated the space behind the curtains which came to represent the palace as a whole and the stage was defined as the king’s private chambers.

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