Why do people read plays?

In the spirit of the 2019 Year of Shakespeare, I was thinking about why people bother reading plays and screenplays to begin with. Plays are written to be watched, not read. If the actors and director is good, you get more context out of watching a play than reading it, and altogether it is more enjoyable to me. However, people are not considered thoroughly well-read in the classics unless they have read at least some Shakespeare, as well as some of the Greek tragedies. Why? I admit, the way I am approaching 2019 Year of Shakespeare is that I will watch the play first, then I will listen to it as an audiobook, which I think (if well-acted) still gives more context than the written word. I do not plan on actually reading the hard copy. Is that cheating?

What do you think? Do you enjoy reading plays? Why?  

11 thoughts on “Why do people read plays?

  1. Very interesting topic Rachel. From what I understand, Shakespeare’s plays were written with both viewing and reading in mind. Supposedly they are way too dense to catch everything while watching so they were meant to be read. But they were obviously meant to be watched too.

    With most plays I prefer too see them first. However, Shakespeare id different, I found that I had a lot of trouble following them if I did not read them before. Even now, when I have read most of his plays at least one, I do a reading before going to see one as it helps my comprehension.

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  2. That’s true for me, too, that if I’m going to go see a Shakespeare play I read it first to have the language in my head. It’s tricky otherwise. But I do find it hard to read plays in general: it’s hard to get a sense of what the play is really like without actors and blocking. I read some Chekhov plays and really didn’t get their greatness until I saw them on stage.

    However, I will try to read some Shakespeare to along with your year of Shakespeare!

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  3. I prefer watching to reading as well. I can only really appreciate a written play after I’ve had some visuals planted into my brain, otherwise I can’t see, hear or feel it at all. I lack the imagination to bring a script to life.

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  4. I would much rather watch a play, because all that stage direction and whatnot would get on my nerves. But, that’s another point, that reading a play is a skill. My daughter has a BFA from SU Drama, and was required to read and study plays, and she is really good at analyzing them now.

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    1. That is a very good point. People who work in the drama industry must learn to read plays like experts or their acting and directing, etc., would be horrible. However, I do not work in the drama industry, and so will just continue as I am – watching and listening to the plays. 🙂

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  5. One nice thing about reading plays is access. I can pick up a play and read it at any time, where I can’t just go out and catch a showing of The Tempest, like, ever. That goes double for my favorite play, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Sure, there are a few film versions, but they aren’t necessarily great, and I’m much more of a book person than a movie person, so in many cases I’d prefer to read a play where I can visualize the characters the way I want them – the same way I’d prefer to read a book over just seeing the movie version of a book. It’s definitely something that takes practice, though, and the more plays you read the more natural reading stage directions and having them not break the world is. I can see how it would definitely be more immersive for people to see the actual play/movie version!

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    1. You have a pount about access. Though I have a better imagination for making a movie production good than I do for reading plays.

      I love Cyrano de Bergerac, too. But one I’d love to see in person is Notre Dame de Paris.

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