Scripting Stage Space in Oedipus the King and Hamlet

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"Literary people have long been studying and teaching plays as if they were meant to be read rather than performed."

"A central part of a play's meaning is the way it was originally designed to work on stage."

William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Sophocles Oedipus the King have long been included on academic lists for scholarly study as literary texts. As someone who has studied both texts in just the manner Hornby mentions, I would suggest that what is lost when a scholar treats a play text as literature is precisely that `central part of the play's meaning' which is illuminated by consideration of how a play was `designed to work on stage'. I intend to look at the crucial opening moments of each play, heeding Hornby's words, and
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The public space before the skene becomes charged with negative energy, the moans and wails from the body of people cause the negative energy to seep outwards towards the audience creating a truly horrific space, which the audience find themselves within.

Onto this horrific scene enters Oedipus the King, presumably from the doors of the palace of Thebes, commanding the immediate attention of both the Thebans, gathered in supplication, and also the audience watching the play. The confused and chaotic gaze of the audience is focused to one singular point on the stage. This movement from many to one point of view is pleasurable for the audience and gives Oedipus immediate elevated status. The audience looks towards him in anticipation, as do the Thebans. `Children' (p.25) says Oedipus to the Thebans of all ages, reinforcing his position of almost godlike authority. This image of King Oedipus, in a position of such power over these many devastated people, plus the further numbers the audience is forced to contemplate in an offstage world, `more sit in the market-place, carrying boughs like these' (p.26), is striking indeed. One will remember it in the final stages of the play when Oedipus' power is diminished, just as the audience will be forced to note the imagery depicting Oedipus' downfall as his mask is changed for the final scenes from one reflecting his characterisation as `mature,

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