Ad spectatores

In the drama, the spectator’s salutation is designated as a spectator. This remark, which is directed directly at the audience, comes from an open scene, that is, not in the nudes, but directly from the action. In this way, the illusion that the theater creates is broken and certainly abolished. The purpose of an utterance ad spectatores is usually to achieve a funny point, as the viewer is surprised, but sometimes this technique is regarded as a mistake, although it has been documented since antiquity. In addition, it is an accomplice with the audience. In most cases, no reply is expected to this statement, which distinguishes it from the dialogue. Apostrophes as well as Captatio benevolentiae are used.

This word sequence can be derived from Latin and translated to the viewer. As a result, the translation of the words refers to what is at stake: namely, a speech directed at the spectator, the dramatic figure falling short of the actual action and speaking of the theater stage. Such expressions have been documented since antiquity.

Already with Titus Maccius Plautus (around 254 BC – about 184 BC), a comedic poet of the ancient Rome, and with Aristophanes (around 450 BC – about 380 BC), a Greek poet, who is also known for his comedies, such utterances are to be found ad spectatores. It is noticeable that the stylistic device in antiquity is especially in comedic works to be discerned and pointedly used.

However, the figure is also found in recent works, such as in Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Man of Sezuan. In this case, the stage character, with the words “Revered Audience,” goes, find the end! There must be a good, must, must, must! to the audience and thus directly address it.

In Brecht and in the epic theater, the utterance has above all the function of activating the audience. The situation is different, for example, in the case of Max Frisch or Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who also used such statements as spectators, but mainly used them to comment on the events on the stage. This is comparable with the so-called “Besistemesgespräch” in the theater, also A-part-speaking, whereby a figure says something that their dialogue partners do not hear, but the audience.

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