Friday, May 20, 2011

Ticking Away, The Moments That Make Up A Dull Play

Question for a Friday : Which play spans the longest amount of time on stage? Stories and flashbacky sorts of things about what once happened don't count, I mean "In Act 1 scene 1 the time is X, and in Act 5 the time is X + a whole bunch." Does Winter's Tale win, where Time "slides o'er sixteen years"?

On the flip side, which play takes the shortest amount of time? Doesn't The Tempest span just as couple of hours, from the time of the shipwreck to the time of reuniting?


Cass said...

I can't remember specifically about Tempest, but I know that Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare's only play that adheres to the classical unities of time and place -- it happens almost in real-time, the plot unfolding over a couple of hours in one afternoon.

Also, I'd have to check my timelines, but it's possible that one of the Henry VI plays might technically cover more than 16 years' worth of history.

kj said...

I'd like to add that The Tempest also adheres to the Unity of Time (though not exactly of place). And it seems like this might be the sort of thing you'd find on (if you were looking for a place to ask and answer questions about Shakespeare).


Bill said...

Are we judging this based on the time the play seems to take place, or mapping against historical events?

If it's the former, then The Winter's Tale would seem to be the longest. If it's the latter, probably Macbeth, as the historical Duncan died in 1040, and the historical Macbeth died in 1057.

But the play clearly is not set over the course of 17 years, so I think The Winter's Tale is the longest.

As for the shortest, my impression is that both The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors each take place over about six hours.

However, we also might want to nominate The Taming of the Shrew, if we consider how long it took Christopher Sly to watch the play that was presented to him.

micah said...

Henry VI, part 1 begins at the funeral of Henry V (1422), includes the death of Talbot (1453), and ends with Margaret's betrothal to Henry VI (1445-ish) so if we're going by the purely historical metric it arguably beats out Macbeth.

Again, though, the play itself is clearly not supposed to unfold over anywhere near that much time.