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performance pedagogy, media, play


When the Chorus in Henry V instructs the audience about what to expect in Act III, it reiterates the point made earlier in the play that the spectator must take an active role in helping the players achieve their goal of presenting an effective drama: "eche out our performance with your mind" (line 35), says the Chorus. This would seem to be a commonplace of theater theory, but unfortunately, recent attempt by some teachers to incorporate televisual performance activities into the Shakespeare classroom have all too often neglected the intellectual participation of students with "performance texts," that is, with printed play texts and actual productions. Although man scholars and teachers have developed sound pedagogical practices for performance and have written about them for books and journals, Shakespeare instructors at all levels have frequently failed to incorporate these strategies sufficiently into their programs. Evidence of this appears in the limited approach college freshmen often take towards Shakespeare (and, in fact, most other literary study). The problem lies with students' habit of focusing solely on plot, the narrative thrust of the action. Awareness of character development seems confined to the parameters of that action, and such subtle features as style, imagery, historical and cultural context, symbolism, philosophical import, and tone have little or no meaning for these students. This did not use to be the case. While the reasons for this outcome are complex, some effort to redress it must be undertaken.