QueenʼsMen Editions

About this text

  • Title: Shakespeare and the Queen's Men (SQM) Repertory Productions
  • Author: Peter Cockett
  • Textual editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Peter Cockett. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Peter Cockett
    Editors (Text): Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
    Peer Reviewed

    Shakespeare and the Queen's Men (SQM) Repertory Productions

    30A Note on the Interpretation of Stage Directions

    Under the influence of Alan Dessen and Leslie Thomson, the interpretation of the stage directions in early modern plays has long been a fascination to me. Directing and editing are similar in this regard, since in both instances decisions must be made about the stage action we believe the text is encoding. In the SQM productions, I attempted to make choices that abided by the majority of evidence available in the text and by the logic of the original staging conditions. Following Dessen's example, I tried to consider all possibilities and not make convenient choices that would force the texts conform to principles of realism. In key instances, this process involved a fair amount of detective work. While it is impossible to make any truth claims, when this research resulted in a simple staging solution its efficiency suggested to me a degree of historical credibility. (The one exception was the king's sick chair in Famous Victories, which required the construction of a set piece not directly mentioned in the stage directions but which offered a solution I still feel has a degree of credibility.) But often the evidence in the texts was inconclusive and there were a variety of options in performance, each of which could potentially change the interpretation of the action. There are times in these editions when the textual editors and I do not agree on the placement of entrances and exits, or on the person to whom the characters are addressing their lines. In these instances, we have decided not to resolve our disagreements but instead to present the interpretative possibilities, one editorial and one directorial, for the reader's consideration. In editing and directing these plays, there is often insufficient evidence to make definitive decisions on these matters, and it is important to recognize that early modern editions of plays always contain an element of conjecture and speculation.