Orson Welles : "Shakespeare a tout dit... Depuis, la poésie n'est ni nécessaire ni possible, car on peut recréer l'aube sur Elsinore avec une lanterne et un pot de peinture, et il n'y a plus besoin qu'un personnage déclame au milieu de la scène : "Mais, voyez, l'aube en vêtement de bure Foule à L'Orient, là-bas, la rosée des hautes collines" (Hamlet), même en supposant que l'on puisse toujours écrire de tels vers. On ne peut pas voir et entendre la beauté en même temps... car la poésie a son propre paysage et nous sommes prisonniers d'un paysage physique qui isole l'acteur de son public... nous sommes prisonniers de la prose. Avant la Restauration, les théâtres étaient des estrades installées dans des courettes où l'on venait pour entendre et être entendu. Depuis, on installe des gâteaux d'anniversaire devant de grands portraits et l'on va au théâtre pour voir et être vu."
(Extrait de l'introduction d'Orson Welles au Mercury Shakespeare)
But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill:
HORATIO, Hamlet, I, 1
Sur la jonction voir / entendre, cf le débat sur la mise en scène d'opéra : Claude Régy : les gens écoutent l'opéra les yeux fermés, cela devrait nous faire réfléchir à ce qu'on leur met sous les yeux quand par hasard ils les ouvrent | Panowsky : une vision, non une illusion. Le théâtre invisible : le nouveau Bayreuth. La lumière
Excerpts from Orson Welles's introduction to The Mercury Shakespeare, 1934:
"Shakespeare said everything. Brain to belly; every mood and minute of a man’s season. His language is starlight and fireflies and the sun and moon. He wrote it with tears and blood and beer, and his words march like heartbeats. He speaks to everyone and we all claim him but it’s wise to remember, if we would really appreciate him, that he doesn’t properly belong to us but to another world; a florid and entirely remarkable world that smelled assertively of columbine and gun powder and printer’s ink, and was vigorously dominated by Elizabeth.
Shakespeare speaks everybody’s language, but with an Elizabethan accent. When he came squawking and red faced into it, England could carry a tune and was learning to talk. It was a kid of a country, waking up noisily and too suddenly into adolescence and bounding blithely into the sunny, early morning of modern times.
About sixty years earlier, Columbus had bumped into a couple of new continents and the Conquistadors were busy opening them up and exploiting them. Down in Italy things had been happening. Men had taken the hoods of the dusty, dusky old Middle Ages off their heads and had begun to look around. Questions were being asked; books were being written instead of copied; people had stopped taking Aristotle’s word for it and were nosing about the world, taking it apart to see what made it run. All kinds of old established convictions were being questioned and money in huge sums was being made. By the time Shakespeare was a butcher’s boy in Stratford, all of this bustle and uncertainty and excitement had gotten across the channel and into the moist English air. An extraordinary woman was in charge and she was gathering about her throne still more extraordinary men. England was getting up on its hind legs.
The touring companies of actors that came to Stratford still played rusty things that smacked of the old Moralities and the Miracle plays, but down in London real shows were being put on in place of masques and roustabouts and these plays were about real people instead of virtues and vices and other symbolic figures that never actually lived. By the time Shakespeare was married and teaching school, the Theatre, already the most complete expression of the times, was well started on a golden age. Peele and Greene and Lodge and Nash were turning out smash-hits. Kyd was busy with blood-and-thunder shockers like The Spanish Tragedy. Lyly was discovering that good plays could be written in prose and Marlowe was making dramatic poetry worth writing. The Theatre, along with a lot of other high doings, was in the air. So Shakespeare kissed his wife goodbye and went to London.
London and the wide world are very lucky that he did. It was almost as though America was discovered, Elizabeth made Queen, and pirates and poets and other valorous people congregated in one age just so the young schoolteacher would come to London and we could have William Shakespeare.
To know something about Shakespeare we must know something about that England in which he was born; still more important we must know something of that peculiarly pure theatre he found in London and for which he wrote. It was neither new nor clumsy. It was not a rude thing but rather, like the classic theatres and the theatres of high convention in China and Japan, a refinement. England’s stage came out of the church when the actors got too entertaining. It lingered for a couple of hundred years in front of it in the marketplace and then moved into the inn yard where it stayed until it got over being a holiday treat and became an institution and they built the first theatre. This was simply an inn yard fixed up for a play but without the inn. The stage platform was made permanent with a roof over it to protect the actors but the rabblement still had to stand around this platform in the rain or sun. An inner stage with a curtain and a level above it like a gallery was added inside. Benches were built in the spectators’ galleries where you sat if you had money and in veils if you were a lady, and there, with only slight elaboration over its daddy, the hotel courtyard, was the Elizabethan playhouse.
Poetry has since then been neither necessary nor possible because when you can make the dawn over Elsinore with a lantern and a pot of paint there's no call for having a character stop in the middle of the action and say a line like, "But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill," even supposing you could write a line like it. You can't see and hear beauty, fully, at the same time... because poetry is its own scenery and because we've stuck to physical scenery and isolated our actor from his audience...we've stuck to prose. Before the Restoration, theatres were courtyards around platforms where you went to hear and be heard. Since then they've been birthday cakes in front of picture-frames where you go to see and to be seen...".