Integrating multimodal analysis and the stylistics of drama: a multimodal perspective on Ian McKellen’s Richard III

Daniel McIntyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Traditionally, stylistic analyses of drama have tended to concentrate on the analysis of dramatic texts rather than dramatic performances. This has been on the basis that no two performances of the same text are entirely alike, and that accurate critical discussion is therefore impossible unless we can be sure that everyone concerned has seen the particular performance we are analysing (Short, 1981). Nonetheless, some performances of plays incorporate production elements that seem to add substantially to the original play script, and which arguably guide our interpretation of the play. In such cases, a stylistic analysis which ignores these production elements is arguably impoverished and
incomplete. There appears, then, to be some tension between being methodologically rigorous and producing a complete stylistic analysis of a play which takes into account production and performance elements. However, in the case of plays which have been filmed this methodological problem can be circumvented, since the film version constitutes a permanent record of a particular production of the play in question. In this article I demonstrate the value of taking into account the multimodal aspects of drama by analysing the soliloquy scene from Ian McKellen’s film version of Shakespeare’s Richard III. I argue that in order to provide a multimodal analysis of the play that matches a traditional stylistic analysis in terms of level of detail, it is necessary to work
from a transcript that incorporates linguistic, paralinguistic and non-linguistic elements of the production. As a result of my analysis, I suggest that the multimodal elements of the production contribute to our interpretation of the play as much as the linguistic elements of the dramatic tex
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-334
Number of pages25
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008


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