In a discussion of the Renaissance revival of classical culture, Piccolomini considers the period’s mythologizing of Brutus, Caesar’s assassin. He cites Dante as the initiator of an important literary, dramatic, political, and artistic theme and explains how the historical Brutus was changed by literature and theatre into a symbol of the just citizen rebelling against the unjust tyrant.
Piccolomini discusses several Renaissance political conspiracies modeled after Brutus’ act and explores how those conspiracies, in turn, formed the basis for the theme’s recurrence in Italian, French, and English theatre of the period.
Whereas previous studies of poverty and early modern theatre have concentrated on England and the criminal rogue, Poverty and Charity in Early Modern Theatre and Performance takes a transnational approach, which reveals a greater range of attitudes and charitable practices regarding the poor than state poor laws and rogue books suggest. Close study of German and Latin beggar catalogues, popular songs performed in Italian piazzas, the Paduan actor-playwright Ruzante, the commedia dell’arte in both Italy and France, and Shakespeare demonstrate how early modern theatre and performance could reveal the gap between official policy and actual practices regarding the poor.
The actor-based theatre and performance traditions examined in this study, which persistently explore felt connections between the itinerant actor and the vagabond beggar, evoke the poor through complex and variegated forms of imagination, thought, and feeling. Early modern theatre does not simply reflect the social ills of hunger, poverty, and degradation, but works them through the forms of poverty, involving displacement, condensation, exaggeration, projection, fictionalization, and marginalization. As the critical mass of medieval charity was put into question, the beggar-almsgiver encounter became more like a performance. But it was not a performance whose script was prewritten as the inevitable exposure of the dissembling beggar. Just as people’s attitudes toward the poor could rapidly change from skepticism to sympathy during famines and times of acute need, fictions of performance such as Edgar’s dazzling impersonation of a mad beggar in Shakespeare’s King Lear could prompt responses of sympathy and even radical calls for economic redistribution.
In this fortieth volume of Renaissance Drama, we pause again, not with the idea that we could define, or even describe, what might be, ought to be, or is included in the study of Renaissance drama (or if it is even always or ever the Renaissance, or the drama, that we study). But this does not even seem to have been what moved the first conversations that became "Research Opportunities" and Renaissance Drama. Rather, as they seem to have felt, we want to look at where we are and where our studies might lead us, and we too think we might as well make a beginning. For this issue, the editors invited a number of scholars working on different kinds of Renaissance drama, in a variety of ways and in several languages, to contribute brief essays addressing the state of the field of Renaissance drama, "the field" being convenient shorthand for the practical but productive indefinition under which we carry out our research and publish Renaissance Drama. In particular we asked them to consider these questions:
How and with what effects has the study of Renaissance drama (or early modern performance) changed over the past half-century?
What now is Renaissance drama? What could Renaissance drama become?
What do you see as the most exciting (or least productive) development in the field?
How have other developments in literary studies, performance studies, or other historical periods affected work in the field?
What is missing from work in the field that it would be desirable to include or revive?
Are there strategies you would propose for working through the divisions in the field based on national boundaries, between languages and traditions, or between canonical figures like Shakespeare, Molière, and other kinds of work? What kinds of distinctions do you see in the field? How are they useful or misleading?
What new avenues in the field should open up further? Where should we look now?
What is the most important work being done, or remaining to be done?
The Stage Life of Props
Andrew Sofer University of Michigan Press, 2003 Library of Congress PN2091.S8S616 2003 | Dewey Decimal 792.025
In The Stage Life of Props, Andrew Sofer aims to restore to certain props the performance dimensions that literary critics are trained not to see, then to show that these props are not just accessories, but time machines of the theater.
Using case studies that explore the Eucharistic wafer on the medieval stage, the bloody handkerchief on the Elizabethan stage, the skull on the Jacobean stage, the fan on the Restoration and early eighteenth-century stage, and the gun on the modern stage, Andrew Sofer reveals how stage props repeatedly thwart dramatic convention and reinvigorate theatrical practice.
While the focus is on specific objects, Sofer also gives us a sweeping history of half a millennium of stage history as seen through the device of the prop, revealing that as material ghosts, stage props are a way for playwrights to animate stage action, question theatrical practice, and revitalize dramatic form.
Andrew Sofer is Assistant Professor of English, Boston College. He was previously a stage director.
The Theatrical Event discusses the objectives of theatre studies by focusing on the communicative encounter between performer and spectator—the theatrical event. A theatrical event includes the presentation of a performance and the attention of an audience; in this sense, every performance—on stage or in the street, historical or contemporary—that is watched by an audience is a theatrical event. The concept underlines the “eventness” of all encounters between performers and spectators.
In the first part of the book, Willmar Sauter presents various models for the analysis of theatrical events, examining the relationship between performance and perception and the interaction between the performative event and its context. Using examples from ancient and recent theatre history and discussing traditional and nontraditional approaches to theatre theory, he builds a paradigmatic change in the concept of theatre. Constructs such as playing culture (as opposed to written culture), theatrical communication, theatricality, and theatre as a model of cultural event are brought into focus and their methodological advantages explored.
The second part of the book uses the theoretical groundwork of the first part to enhance a variety of topics, including such legends as Sarah Bernhardt and other historical phenomena such as a Swedish Renaissance play, Strindberg's ideas on acting, the question of ethnicity in the political theatre of the 1930s, and critical writings on contemporary performances. Sauter examines how Robert Lepage's staging of A Dream Play is viewed by critics and scholars and analyzes Dario Fo's intercultural transfer to outdoor performances in Stockholm and the unusual sensationalism of Strindberg's Miss Julie.