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The Influence of the Shakespeare's Theater-Going Audience on His Writing

  • Date Submitted: 06/20/2010 12:56 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 44 
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Great literature doesn’t waste our time. It’s like a friend who is kind enough to
show up when we need an honest dose of truth, strong enough to force its finger down
our throats so that we can regurgitate whatever it is that has sickened our souls, and
compassionate enough to stick around while we examine the bile that pools around us on
the floor. No one understood this better than William Shakespeare. As a writer of great
literature--as a writer of plays, in particular--Shakespeare used all of the classical
structural tools of storytelling to reveal something brutally honest about what it means to
be human. As a presenter of plays, however, he realized that he had two additional and
extremely powerful tools that he could use to captivate and enthrall his audience: actors
(hopefully good ones) and the element of spectacle. Each had the power to transform
Shakespeare’s written plays into three-dimensional, multi-sensory experiences for the
theater-going audience--many of whom were illiterate and would have otherwise never
been exposed to literature of any kind. More importantly, each had the power of audience
appeal: the ability to inspire such a deep-seated emotional response to the truth that
audience members actually became co-creators in the story-telling process itself.  
The Structure of Shakespeare’s Works and its Appeal to the Audience
Early on, Shakespeare realized that the right actor with the right stage direction
would be able to illuminate subtext and meaning for all audience members, regardless of
social class or personal experience. Better yet, that actor would be able to appeal to the
emotions of audience members as he breathed life into his protagonist: A character
destined to realize some kind of universal truth--to experience some kind of climactic
revelation--up there on the stage for all to see. Ahh! Now the story’s climax could be a
group experience! Now both the peasant woman on the theater floor and...


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