King Lear King Lear question

Reading plays vs. Seeing Plays
John John Mar 19, 2018 08:19AM
Here's a question that's been bothering me. Normally I know when I read a book. I sit and turn the pages of a physical object in my hands - it has pages with words on them. I start at the beginning and when I get to the last page, I can say, "I've read the book." Then I go to Goodreads and put it on my Read shelf. I don't do audio books, but my understanding is that people who listen to them from start to finish also say they have read the book and put it in their "Read" shelves.

So here's my question. Let's say I go to a play - King Lear, for example, or Waiting for Godot - and I sit in the audience and watch and listen as all of the words of the play are spoken by the cast members. Assuming there haven't been any cuts or edits and I'm hearing all the dialogue, have I read the play? Can I put it on my "Read" shelf? If not, how is that different from an audio book? What if I listened to an audio book of King Lear or Waiting for Godot? Could I say I read it?

Gary (last edited Mar 22, 2018 12:36PM ) Mar 22, 2018 12:25PM   0 votes
I don't think listening to a reading of a book is a bad thing. We all have limitations on our time and attention. I generally prefer a lecture to an audio book, but when I'm doing the dishes or some such thing it's a perfectly good way to distract my attention from some mindless chore, and in some cases listening to a book might be the only exposure one might get to it.

That said, I don't personally count listening to an audio book as "reading" that book. It's a different medium and a different experience. I wouldn't count seeing the play as the same thing as reading that play for Goodreads. A film adaptation, a television adaptation, or a radio broadcast don't count either. There's nothing wrong with those media, but they aren't reading. A performance has at least one other person between the audience and the author, and that interpretation might be very different from what a reader would interpret on his/er own. So much is possible to convey through tone and inflection that the spoken word may differ from what the author wrote. In the staging of a play there are dozens of people between the audience and the author, each of whom is interpreting in a way that takes that experience away from a reader. That's not necessarily bad. Those interpretations can be astute and even helpful contributions to the experience. But it's not reading. Reading requires the reader to make those interpretations, and is a more active experience.

With THAT said, some things are meant to be experienced in some other medium, and that may be the superior way to consume them. Reading a play may not be the most effective way to digest that material. Plays are meant to be performed, so if one just reads the play and never sees it staged then one might be missing the point. I've seen stage and film adaptations that cleared up a lot of the language of the play. The 1968 Romeo and Juliet by Franco Zeffirelli, for instance, pointed out a few things about the dialogue/vocabulary for me about the balcony scene in that play, and it took an actor's performance (and probably some directorial influence) to do that. I still wouldn't count watching a play as having "read" it, but it does contribute to an understanding of the text.

John Gary: Thank you so much for the thoughtful answer. It makes a lot of sense to me. Plus, as someone has pointed out to me, many directors will cut and ...more
Mar 23, 2018 06:07AM · flag
Gary I think a lot of GR participants (and probably GR staff) would say that listening to the audio book counts as "reading" at least as far as GR is conce ...more
Mar 28, 2018 01:50AM · flag

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