Talk:exit stage left
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Some research on oldest colloquial use
Using trusty Google Book Search (bypassing its horrid new Google Play interface), and poking around full-text webpages for plays, I found the following:
- I haven't seen any Shakespeare text that actually says "exit, stage left". They typically say just "exit" or, in the case of A Winter's Tale, the infamous "Exit, pursued by a bear".
- The earliest use of directional stage, er, directions, doesn't show up in GBS until the early 20th century, and is strictly instructive.
- The earliest use as a stage whisper that I've found so far (1959) is indirect: a description/critique of John Wain's 1959 work A Travelling Woman, published in William White (editor?), Library Journal, volume 84, also 1959, page 2081:
- WAIN, John. A Travelling Woman. 208pp. 59-10162. St. Martin's Pr. May 25. $3.95. Wain's tale of middle-class adultery in London is told in a theatrical manner, with lengthy passages of dialogue and staged scenes in which the characters themselves may mutter, "Exit, stage left."
- (I had to combine the results of two separate GBS queries to get this complete citation, due to GBS's annoying excerpting and frequent failure to display in situ what it finds.)
- Note how tenuous this is. This is only a suggestion from the (unnamed) critic that the play actually includes this exact phrase uttered as a sardonic (distressed? fearful?) aside. It does imply that this use would be understood by the general population (or Wain's or even just Library Journal's readers) as an interjection rather than a direction.
I remember this best from Hanna-Babera's Snagglepuss cartoons, as this was the title character's most famous catch phrase (besides "Heavens to Murgatroyd!", which was originated by Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz, whose Cowardly Lion voice Snagglepuss's is based on). Like the play and the critique, Snagglepuss came out in 1959, so it was certainly popularized by then, but this is hardly conclusive. So I'm posting this here to assist future researches. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 22:14, 22 July 2012 (UTC)