.......Modern filmmakers use dazzling special effects to enhance realism or create fantasy worlds. Using computers and other gadgetry, they make volcanoes erupt, ships sink, pigs talk, and dragons swoop–or rebuild ancient cities and stage intergalactic warfare.
.......When Shakespeare wrote plays, all the action took place on a small stage with little more than a painted wall to suggest the setting. If a scene called for thunder, stagehands pounded a drum or rippled sheet metal. If a scene required a ghost or a god, stagehands lowered him on a winch line or sent him up through a trap door. A character wounded in a sword fight clapped a hand to his chest, bursting a pouch beneath his shirt to release blood–or a facsimile thereof. On occasion, the acting company fired a cannon to salute a royal personage or set off fireworks to suggest an omen. Productions often included vocal and instrumental music, especially in plays performed on special occasions before royalty. Minor characters usually sang the vocal selections. Instruments used included the trumpet, the oboe–called an hautboy or hautbois (pronounced O bwa)–and stringed devices such as the viol and the lute.
.......For the most part, though, the acting company staged its plays without visual or aural hoopla. Characters recited lines and gestured. That was about all, except for occasional swordplay, dancing, and singing.
.......The lack of sophisticated devices to create illusions forced Shakespeare to use his writing genius to describe what the audience was supposed to see. In Outlines of Shakepseare’s Plays, Homer A. Watt and Karl J. Holzknecht point out that this lack of special effects helped motivate Shakespeare to galvanize his writing genius:
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply.
.......In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare used this same kind of magic–the magic of words–to conjure up Cleopatra arriving at Tarsus on the Cydnus River:
Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion--cloth-of-gold of tissue--
O'er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.
( Domitius Enobarbus, Act II, Scene II, Lines 199-213)
With a hey and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o'er the green corn-field did pass,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Wweet lovers love the spring.
(Song, As You Like It, Act V, Scene III, Lines 18-23)
look, the morn in russet mantle clad,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form.
(Constance, King John: Act III, Scene IV, Lines 93-97)
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.
(Hamlet, alone on the stage, Hamlet: Act III, Scene II, Lines 413-415)
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
(Salisbury, King John, Act IV, Scene II, Lines 11-16)