The Criteria for 10-Minute Shakespeare Abridgments


Dr. Joem Antonio

Scopes and limitations are vital to reducing a Shakespearean play to 10 minutes. Some criteria are necessary for such an endeavor; without criteria, just anyone can come up with something remotely Shakespearean and call the output 10-Minute Shakespeare.

What are the standards for a legitimate 10-Minute Shakespeare?

  1. 2,250 words maximum. Better if 2,000 or less. The word count includes everything: speakers, stage directions, and cover page. These standards follow the parameters of a 10-minute play.
  2. Deletions only. One may delete whole scenes. One may remove characters and subplots. One may trim down lines, phrases, adjectives, adverbs, punctuations and spaces. But no adding of anything outside the text, no reshuffling of events and lines.
  3. Credit where it's due. While one can technically reassign a character's lines and actions to another character through deletion (ex. Rosencrantz saying Guildenstern's lines), this is not allowed. We are not only retaining as much of the Shakespearean lines as much as 10 minutes will allow us. We are trying to keep the abridgment close to the original as 10 minutes allow us. Reassigning lines can misrepresent the play.
  4. Coherent. Being an abridgment, there cannot be any plot holes or problems with the story's continuity. The script, when read, should still make sense and should echo the source material (ex. A 10-Minute Othello should still be recognizable as Othello).
  5. Stageable. Since Shakespeare wrote for the stage, the abridgment must be stageable as well. More than that, the abridgment must be stageable in the same conditions that the original plays were under: no lights, no curtains to cue scene changes.

A few additional preferences to consider:

  1. Cast-efficient. There are plays that have 40-50 characters, and it is likely that actors played double or even quadruple roles. The abridgment should make role switching something feasible.
  2. Adherent to the writing format. There are scripts whose formats approximate 1 page is to a minute. The abridgments should follow such a format.
  3. Theme-specific. While one can abridge a play by following only the plot, it is more ideal to highlight a theme from the source material. This way, not only is part of the form captured but also part of the content.

These standards are not to make the art of 10-Minute Shakespeare needlessly difficult but to keep the feel of the Bard's plays. After all, Shakespeare's appeal is threefold: his language, his stories, and his theatricality. A 10-Minute Shakespeare must aim for the same as what 10 minutes will allow.

Abridgment guides for Shoestring and Mono Shakespeare are coming soon.