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The Players' Advice to Hamlet
The Rhetorical Acting Method from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

  • Date Published: March 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108498876


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About the Authors
  • Hamlet is a characteristic intellectual more inclined to lecture actors about their craft than listen to them, and is a precursor of Enlightenment figures like Diderot and Lessing. This book is a quest for the voice of early professional actors, drawing on English, French and other European sources to distinguish the methods of professionals from the theories of intellectual amateurs. David Wiles challenges the orthodoxy that all serious discussion of acting began with Stanislavski, and outlines the comprehensive but fluid classical system of acting which was for some three hundred years its predecessor. He reveals premodern acting as a branch of rhetoric, which took from antiquity a vocabulary for conversations about the relationship of mind and body, inside and outside, voice and movement. Wiles demonstrates that Roman rhetoric provided the bones of both a resilient theatrical system and a physical art that retains its relevance for the post-Stanislavskian performer.

    • Explains how premodern actors worked on their scripts, and what they argued about, distinguishing theory from what actors actually did
    • Covers both England and Europe over a period of 250 years
    • Explores how Roman rhetoric provided the bones of a resilient theatrical system of performance, rather than a set of conventions for writing
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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108498876
    • length: 378 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.74kg
    • contains: 18 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Hamlet's advice to the players
    2. Rhetorical performance in antiquity
    3. Acting, preaching and oratory in the sixteenth century
    4. Baroque acting
    5. Actors and intellectuals in the Enlightenment era
    6. Emotion
    7. Declamation
    8. Gesture
    9. Training.

  • Author

    David Wiles, University of Exeter
    David Wiles is Emeritus Professor of Drama at the University of Exeter. A British theatre historian, he specialises in classical and early modern theatre and has spent his career in departments of drama, where his teaching has always engaged with practice. His research interests include performance space and time, mask, acting and citizenship. This is his eighth book for Cambridge University Press.

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