We’ll hear a play tomorrow.

When did the language shift from hearing a play to seeing one? And how?

I understand that as a culture, there was a shift of the primacy of one sense over the other. We became a seeing people more than a hearing people at some point and of course the language must reflect that. But when? How? Did it happen on stage first? Did plays become more and more visual, demanding to be seen before being heard? Or is it about being seen at the play?

Even in the Elizabethan theatre, being seen there might well be a major part of the experience. Lights on, everywhere, watching one another as much as the play, the play compelled to be interesting so as to be more interesting than the people watching. Perhaps one went to hear a play because one really didn’t see it, one mostly listened while watching the crowd.

Maybe the switch happened when people started actually watching what was on the stage. Maybe it happened when they turned the lights off on the crowd and the lights on the stage and the work had to be something to see.


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