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Two Hours' Traffic

(a CPM crash course)

The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;

from Prologue (Romeo and Juliet)

Here's a puzzle: 

Why does the Chorus' prologue (at the top of Romeo and Juliet) indicate that the running time of the show will be roughly "two hours" when we know full well that the play will take three plus (more like four) hours - unless we cut large blocks of dialogue (perhaps entire scenes) beginning with the very speech indicating 

 

 

My approach to this playwright's work is largely an alternative to the pervasive, deeply ingrained school of thought that Shakespeare's lines need to be researched, sounded, analyzed, and performed differently than the dialogue of any other playwright.  It's a reaction to a training that's given us seasoned professionals who speak clearly and beautifully but bore and confuse audiences because, for some ineffable reason, we just don't care.  I believe that any play in performance should be more like a thrill ride, less like a precise or pleasing recitation.  In an audition, directors (good ones) can be seen to lean forward in amazement when an actor suddenly, simply fills the room with a compelling human situation, as opposed to filling the room with Shakespeare's verse - whatever that means.  My training encourages actors to get on their feet, move through the action and, most importantly, to cast off any impediments* that keep us from behaving naturally (in speech) when uttering the lines of this great playwright.  

 

For instance, I call lesson one Table the Table Work!

Many of us have been taught to scan lines of verse, even to mark our scripts accordingly, dissecting the text line by line, word by word, ad infinatum. Invariably, this conscientious homework is, willy nilly, to some degree on display in performance. Even with seasoned professionals, this over strenuous attention to Shakespeare's verse our audience is left to try to decipher sentences oddly uttered (meaning sacrificed in the name of verse).

 

CPM:

The reason that the human race doth split

Or wretch and roll the eye at our dear Bard,

Has naught to do with stories he hath writ,

Nor history, nor his verse being too hard.

The trouble's in the schooling old and new

We players have consumed, hook, line, and sink;  

Feed mother tongue with gross, didactic goo,

And lines that we're excreting can't but stink!

 

As thus (exaggerated for effect):

 

 

 

The reason that the human race doth split

Or wretch and roll the eye at our dear Bard,

Has naught to do with stories he hath writ,

Nor history, nor his verse being too hard.

 

The trouble's in the schooling (old and new)

We players have consumed hook, line, and sink; 

Feed mother tongue with gross, didactic goo,

And lines that we're excreting can't but stink!

As thus (exaggerated for effect):

Horatio:

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