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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-282
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Early online date1 Aug 2019
Accepted/In press16 May 2019
E-pub ahead of print1 Aug 2019

King's Authors


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.

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