There’s a big difference between seeing a work and reading one. You may ask yourself in your English class why you have to read
something that was originally meant for seeing and hearing – better known as theatrical performances. It doesn’t seem to make any sense – yet every year high school and college students are required to read plays by Shakespeare, watch Operas by Mozart, among other things.

Plays can be better or worse in writing format. (photo by Lel4nd)

Plays can be better or worse in writing format. (photo by Lel4nd)

One of the main reasons for reading a theatrical work is that many times you can see the true intentions of the writer, which may be deemed inappropriate, but does not make it any less valid, such as the scene in The Marriage of Figaro, where Mozart intentionally wrote out his vision of the performers to grope the woman in question very crudely, to portray aristocrats as being cruel and abusive. What I mean by that is simply that in modern performances, some of the original intention may be excluded to become more publicly acceptable.

My favorite play is this satirically obscure play entitled “Waiting for Godot,” which you can search for via textbooks.org. The play is actually from the 1950s and explores the ideas of suicide, boredom, among other things. Now, all of that seems out of place and unimportant until I say that the reason for this segway is simply because another purpose for reading plays is because they’re enjoyable. The next paragraph will go more into detail on that thought.

The same way that books allow for your own personal interpretation (ie. why many people become disappointed with how books are portrayed in movies,) reading a play, opera, or other theatrical work allows for your mind to wander and do more than simply comply with what is being shown in front of you.

All-Story states it well when they say that:

“Further–and not oddly–performance can make a minor (or terrible) play seem a lot better than it is. Performance can also, of course, make a bad play seem even worse than it is. God help us all! When I am a judge of a playwriting contest I insist that I and the other judges read the plays in the contest even (especially!) if we have seen a performance. And how often my insistence results in the following: either “Wow! That play’s a lot better than the performance I saw!” or “Wow! The director sure made that play seem a lot better than it is!”…

…I’m not suggesting you should not see plays. There are a lot of swell productions, but keep in mind that production is an opinion, an interpretation, and unless you know the play on the page, the interpretation you’re getting is secondhand and may differ significantly from the author’s intentions. Of course, your reading of a play is also an opinion, an interpretation, but there are fewer hands (and minds) in the way of your engagement with the author.”