Why 10 Minutes of Shakespeare?


Dr. Joem Antonio

Is there any merit in reducing Shakespeare's plays to 10 minutes? One gets to have an overview of the plays in ten minutes in a way that summaries and excerpts cannot provide by themselves. Summaries capture the story while losing the language. Excerpts preserve the language at the cost of the context. Summaries and Excerpts can work together but it also misses out on bringing about the theatrical spectacle Shakespeare always had in his plays.

And why 10 minutes, not 15? Aside from 10-minute plays being a legitimate trend, 10 minute plays are perfect as a pedagogical tool: rehearsing a 10-minute play doesn't eat too much of the students' time and the teacher can go straight into processing the play with the students once the performance is done. An additional perk is that the 5 minutes saved is crucial, especially when a teacher has 4-8 groups to deal with. Simple math would prove the merits.

However, the 10-Minute Shakespeare is by no means perfect; nor are they definitive abridgments. They are not meant to replace the experience of reading Shakespeare's plays in their entirety. Also, people can endlessly debate on which scenes, characters, and lines are removable. Much of Shakespeare's craftsmanship is manifested in the soliloquies and these are the first to be truncated—if not completely removed—in a 10-minute abridgment.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that most students will settle for a casual knowledge of Shakespeare. Only those who have a geeky appreciation of the Bard will go through the full texts and watch the unabridged productions every time. And varied approaches to abridgments are always welcome. What happens at best is that different abridgments testify to the depth and richness of Shakespeare's plays. At worst, readers have options over which abridgment to read... Which isn't bad either.

So long as the abridgment uses only the Shakespearean text in the Shakespearean order and is performable onstage within 10 minutes, any 10-Minute Shakespeare abridgment is readily welcome.