This paper argues that the texts used for many contemporary Shakespearean performances are too long, and that this excessive length often derives from a misguided sense of fidelity to "Shakespeare's original." It suggests that claims of authenticity for long performance texts are invalidated by the very logic of historical accuracy that is often used to justify them. Scholars including Lukas Erne, Stephen Orgel, and Andrew Gurr have in recent decades made a convincing (if not conclusive) case that Shakespeare's company normally staged texts that could be performed in two hours, and that the "Bad-Quarto" editions of some plays are closer in length to what would have been played at the Globe and Blackfriars than are their Folio and "Good-Quarto" analogues. Yet many theatres continue to stage performance texts that emulate these longer, essentially "literary," early modern editions. This is particularly true at those companies (like the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern) that employ full Folio texts in performance as a component of "Original Practice." This paper hopes to demonstrate that an actual commitment to historical authenticity would embrace two-hour versions of the plays that are often far shorter than their "complete" literary counterparts. We can never know exactly what the original performance texts of Shakespeare's plays looked like. But those who value historical authenticity should understand that practitioners who freely cut and adapt Shakespeare's plays to meet the needs of twenty-first-century audiences are following the practice of Shakespeare's own company.




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pp. 119-143
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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