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Sounding Offstage Worlds: Experiencing Liminal Space and Time in Macbeth and Othello

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Emma Whipday



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Taylor and Francis Online, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This article explores the relationship between sound, liminal space, and time in key scenes from Macbeth and Othello. Building on a practical workshop which took place at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in 2016, in which the authors asked how offstage sounds help to structure our experience of theatrical time, it argues that these sounds disrupt and complicate the spatial and temporal boundaries between play-world and real world. The knocking in Macbeth, for example, removes the audience from the spatially and temporally isolated play-world by drawing their attention to the space and time of their own world, metatheatrically leading them to think about both the architecture of the theatre and the duration of the theatrical performance. The phenomenon is different, but related, in Othello, where Emilia’s offstage calling in 5.2 works to both interrupt the moment of the murder and drive the audience and Othello toward the completion of that protracted moment. As such, these offstage sounds bring the audience into the play action and also critically distance them from it. In this sense, sound, space and time appear as material conditions of performance that generate theatrical tension.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lewis S, Whipday E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Shakespeare

Year: 2019

Volume: 15

Issue: 3

Pages: 272-282

Online publication date: 01/08/2019

Acceptance date: 05/03/2019

Date deposited: 05/08/2019

ISSN (print): 1745-0918

ISSN (electronic): 1745-0926

Publisher: Taylor and Francis Online


DOI: 10.1080/17450918.2019.1640275


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