Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Screw Chekhov. And His Gun.

For those who don't follow the comments, I figure I'd promote this interesting question because it's a real head scratcher:

There were certainly guns in Shakespeare's time. But in any of the plays, did Shakespeare ever write a stage direction requiring that one be fired? We can't find one. Why would that be? If it's a simple matter of safety - they didn't have prop guns and you didn't want to fire a gun in a closed theatre - then the next logical question would be, Did any of his contemporaries write in shooting stage directions?

(*) Chekhov's Gun is the literary rule that says, "If you hung a pistol over the fireplace in act 1, you need to fire it in act 2." Shakespeare apparently never fired them, so did he bring them on stage at least?


Andrew Huntley said...

Hedid use guns for sound effects. So possibly a technical note for the use of guns? Two Examples, Hamlet and All Is True. Hamlet: "Bid the soldiers shoot." and All Is True, better known as Henry VIII, ended up burning down the theater when a cannon was fired.

Ashley said...

Thomas Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy" includes murder by gunshot: Pedringano shoots Serberine, and the stage direction is "shoots the pistol." So, at least we know it could be done.

Charlene said...

Ashley beat me to it. I remember first reading the play and being taken aback by that -- you don't really think about guns on stage in the Early Modern era.

Kenna M. Kettrick said...

Chekhov's line about guns wasn't really about guns, though, it was about plotting. And while Shakespeare's plots were often stolen and also often ridiculous, he did tie up all the ends that he laid out in the beginning. So I'd say he followed the spirit of Chekhov's quote, guns or no guns. :)

(I know that wasn't your actual question, but the little pedant in my brain had to have her say. :))