Teaching Cenci

 I recently taught Shelley’s play The Cenci for this course at the University of Washington. It struck me as “unstageable” for the same reasons it did so for the play’s early readers: the sexual episodes are too extreme for the (especially late-Romantic) stage, and the characters deliver exhausting monologues that would bore any live audience. Besides, the language is to full, so intellectual, that hearing it spoken by an actor, one loses half of the meaning. I know, Shakespeare managed to write just as rewardingly for the page and for the stage, but then, he was Shakespeare, wasn’t he? 

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