Stage directions

Several of the words and phrases used in stage directions continue to be used in modern theatre; but a number are typical of the period, in some cases relating to the particular configuration (insofar as this can be deduced) of the Elizabethan theatre.
In Shakespeare’s Words, the general convention is to relate stage directions to their immediately following lines.
For example, the opening direction in a scene will be numbered by referring to line 1 of the scene; a direction immediately before line 42 will be numbered 42; and so on. There are two exceptions. All instances of Exit or Exeunt, including those at the ends of scenes, are numbered with reference to the immediately preceding line. And all stage directions within a line are given that line number.
Item Example Gloss
aside Ham III.i.50 speech not heard by other characters on stage

Movement directions

Item Example Gloss
above TNK II.i.48 in the gallery or upper stage
aloft AC IV.xv.1 on the upper stage
aloof TNK V.i.137 to one side, a short distance away
apart Mac I.iii.126 to one side, away from the others
aside AC II.vii.57 to one side, away from the others
below AC IV.xv.6 on the lower stage
break in 2H6 I.iv.40 burst onto the stage
brought out KL II.ii.138 brought onto the stage
enter KJ I.i.1 one or more characters come onto the stage
exeunt H8 V.v.76 more than one character leaves the stage
exit KL I.ii.117 a character leaves the stage
in Cor III.i.229 into the dressing-room at the back of the stage
manent Cor I.i.250 [F only] characters remain on stage
off AYL I.ii.209 off-stage
severally, several ways Cym III.iv.195 in different directions [said of people arriving or leaving]
top, on the Tem III.iii.19 on the upper stage
within TNK V.iii.77 behind the stage facade [i.e. ‘outside’]


Item Example Gloss
alarum, alarums H5 IV.iv.1 a call to arms
excursions excursion, in an 2H6 V.ii.72 a bout of fighting across the stage


Item Example Gloss
cornet AW I.ii.1 fanfare [as played by cornets, a horn-like wind instrument]
drum 1H6 I.ii.1 drummer
flourish 1H6 I.ii.1 fanfare of horns or trumpets, usually accompanying an entrance or exit
hautboys H8 I.iv.1 woodwind double-reed instrument resembling an oboe
sennet AC II.vii.17 trumpet call signalling a procession
trump, trumpet KL V.iii.109 trumpeter
tucket AW III.v.1 personal trumpet call

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