I am attempting to go read all of shakespeare's plays in chronological order. I am at the beginning of the beginning - Henry VI Pt 1. I think I may have read this in my freshman humanities class - (is this one of the ones with falstaff). When writing films, I have started telling paul that our scripts have too many characters for a low budget film. (I think we had 23 in our last film) This probably betrays my lack of vision, but luckily Paul ignores me and I lack conviction and so we continue to write for too many characters. So does Shakespeare!
Granted it is really not fare to compare plays with films, but in many ways i am not quiet sure why. The most obvious reason is first, in theater there has to be more obvious action to direct the viewer's attention. How do we direct action? Dialogue. Our attention is directed towards the character talking and attends to what that character is doing. Here the playwright holds sway (which is probably the playwright rather than the director is the prestige position in theater.
In film we can manipulate the visual field. We can use a close up or a zoom or a dolly to direct the view towards a particular action - AND we dont have to use dialogue as a signal. We can just use visual cues. So here we have the director as opposed to the writer holding the prestige position, because it is the nuance of the acting and the location of the shots that tell the audience what to pay attention to - dialogue is not less important - but it is not the only tool in the tool chest.
In film we dont need as many characters. Props become characters, environments become characters - I wonder what it would be to film Henry VI pt 1 and turn some characters into 'filmic characters.'
It seems this blog post ended up at a completely different place than I had anticipated when I started, I was going to talk about how shakespeare differentiates his characters with dialogue - but i like this subject matter better.