Our third day in London was basically all Shakespeare all of the time. The last time I brought students to London in March 2103, we had a tour of Shakespeare's Globe, but we couldn't see anything because the season hadn't started yet. Since then, the company has opened the Wanamaker Theatre, which emulates the indoor experience at Blackfriars. All performances in the winter months now happen in a smaller, indoor theatre lit by candlelight.
Last evening in my Shakespeare class, I had one of those humbling reminder moments that tend to happen when I least expect it.
Often times, when I'm tackling a long speech coming from a single character in a play by Shakespeare, considering the three Ps can help me to discern the meaning and the purpose of the speech. The three Ps refer to public discourse, private discourse, and personal discourse.
Public discourse refers to words that characters speak that can be heard by everyone in their presence. This kind of discourse occurs in a scene with more than one person, and a character tends to want everyone to hear what's being said.
Private discourse happens with one other character or a small group of characters and usually includes important information that only those characters can know in that moment. Private discourse can take many forms: declaring love, sharing a secret, hatching a murderous plot, etc. And private discourse can happen between a character and the audience, as Shakespeare's characters often take the audience into their confidence, making them privy to information that other characters onstage do not know.
Personal discourse happens when characters speak to themselves in a reflective way. Important personal discoveries can occur in these moments, and these can lead to changes in a characters actions and intentions. Personal discourse can happen when characters are alone or in the presence of others. Think: that moment when someone is talking to you and your mind wanders to something else and you speak that something else aloud but the someone can't hear you.
Identifying which kind of discourse a character uses in a speech helps me to unlock the character's intentions based on the text. Also, by noticing if the character switches back and forth between these different kinds of discourse, I can more easily track the character's state of mind in a particularly dense piece of text.