Waiting for Godot Waiting for Godot question


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Reading plays vs. Seeing Plays
John John Mar 19, 2018 08:20AM
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?



I had the chance to see the play first, and then read the book some months later, but I didn't put on my read shelf until I really read Beckett's words.

I didn't even think about it when I did so, but now reading your question I did put some thought into it. Why didn't I assume I've "read" the book when I watched the play?

I think that it would make as much sense as seeing, e.g., the "Memoirs of a Geisha" film, and then add the correspondent book to my "Read" shelf in here. As close an adaptation of a book or play to visual form, either on stage or film form, might be to the author's words, you're still seeing a transformation of that primary source by somebody else. Another layer of interpretation is always added, even if a play is a text written with the purpose of being staged. But every different production has its own actors, scenarios, dialogue lines might get skipped or added, etc.

When it's you reading the book, it's just you before the author's text - the play is being "staged" in your head, with your own "props". There's no interference of any outer adaptation in that process, so I'd say that seeing a play is not the equivalent of reading the book.


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