English Renaissance Drama: The Imprints of Performance
Article first published online: 3 APR 2008
© 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 5, Issue 3, pages 529–540, May 2008
How to Cite
Paul, J. G. (2008), English Renaissance Drama: The Imprints of Performance. Literature Compass, 5: 529–540. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2008.00538.x
- Issue published online: 3 APR 2008
- Article first published online: 3 APR 2008
- Literature Compass 5/3 (2008): 529–540, 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2008.00538.x
This essay won the 2007 Literature Compass Graduate Essay Prize, Renaissance Section, co-sponsored by the Society for Renaissance Studies.
This article considers formulations of performance in printed playtexts of the English Renaissance. Before professional theatres are established, printed plays such as Gorboduc (1565) tend to resort to fragmentary narrative descriptions in order to communicate performance practice to readers. The rise of professional theatres contributes to the modification of printed drama, as writers, printers and readers slowly work out a system for encoding the relevant narrative and theatrical information in abbreviated forms (lists of dramatis personae, speech prefixes, stage directions, scene locations); accordingly, early printed editions of Tamburlaine (1590), The White Devil (1612) and Sejanus (1605 and 1616) are examined, with particular attention paid to para-texts such as title-pages, dedications, printers’ prefaces and letters to readers. This ancillary material, usually rooted in the laudatory language of advertisement, encourages particular reading and imaginative strategies through its constructions of a play's performance history and theatre audiences. This article contends that early modern formulations of page and stage are more dynamic, more synergistic, than a binary that opposes ‘literary’ and ‘theatrical’ logic will support.