Marian Moments in Early Modern British Drama (Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama)

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By the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, English visual culture had experienced tumultuous changes resulting from the religious reforms that began to take effect in the late s. In pre-Reformation devotional practices, the relationship between worshipper and God was extensively mediated through visual representations depicting Christ and the saints. The story of John Donne's efforts as a tomb-designer is instructive in this regard, since literary accounts of image-makers working to commission frequently merge into a single figure the multiple roles associated with commissioning projects.

The social status of image-makers remained a preoccupation for dramatists is demonstrated by Richard Brome's The Court Beggar , probably first performed between and This book discusses early modern English drama as a part of visual culture. In part, this choice is motivated by my concern with exploring the plays in their historical contexts. Instead, in this study I approach drama as a part of visual culture, and, within this broad approach, I refer to visual representations and occasionally to the visual arts.

To this end, this chapter explores what is meant by early modern English visual culture, and expounds my approach to drama as a part of that visual culture. By Buckett was relatively experienced in organ decoration, as in — he travelled with the organ-maker Thomas Dallam to Constantinople in order to deliver to Sultan Mehmed III the diplomatic gift of an elaborate organ that also functioned as a clock.

B , title page. At its broadest, visual culture can mean anything that is seen. As I explain in the next section, this association between visual experience and matter subject-to-change is also highly pertinent for post-Reformation English visual contexts. Interlinked with this attack on visual culture was a destabilisation of theories of vision. This seminal study traces the vast array of affordable printed images in circulation in England in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, demonstrating the significance of printed visual material in religious life after the Reformation.

I am especially indebted to an important collection of essays on this subject edited by Tara Hamling and Richard L. This vision of early modern English visual culture complements my concern with depictions of visual processes and practices in plays, and with reworkable matter as distinct from completed, fully formed objects.

In addition, the notion of a visual culture in process of transformation also complements new art-historical work on iconoclasm that I exploit in this study. Fabio Rambelli and Eric Reinders, writing on iconoclasm in East Asia, view the destruction of images as a process with transformative implications for the iconoclast as much as for the destroyed object:. The destruction of objects produces new meanings and practices, and damaged things may become more precious. The destruction of religious objects is a cultural practice that changes the materiality or the meaning of the object involved, or both.

Destruction and damage of religious objects cause transformations of the semiotic status of those objects … destruction may also transform the status of the agents involved. The iconoclast, in this view, is simultaneously a spectator and maker of an image; they view the image in order to destroy or damage it, but in the process of destruction, they make a new visual item.

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Creative Commons Licence. This understanding of iconoclasm is applicable to instances of early modern English image-breaking. Leaving behind mutilated figures in both cases, the iconoclasts responsible created new spectacle. Iconoclasts operated in different ways and with different degrees of violence across the period. A different kind of remaking is evidenced by wall paintings in the parish church of St Lawrence, Eyam, in Derbyshire. Here, in around , in response to the prohibition on depictions of Christ and the saints, a series of wall paintings showing the ensigns of the twelve tribes of Israel were painted either side of the chancel arch, either side of the belfry arch, and on the north and south walls of the church.

Can we understand post-Reformation iconoclasm as a form of interactive spectatorship, in which viewers participate in a process of continual remaking within visual culture? And given that iconoclastic attitudes are taken to have extended to visual culture more broadly, can we then apply this model of spectatorship to the experience of watching a play in post-Reformation England?

In the next section, I explain in more detail my approach to the interactive function of the spectator in drama and visual culture. The prologues and epilogues performed on the commercial stages of early modern London frequently draw attention to the significance of spectators as participants in the construction of meaning. O pardon: since a crooked figure may Attest in little place a million, And let us, ciphers to this great account, On your imaginary forces work. Suppose within the girdle of these walls Are now confined two mighty monarchies, Whose high upreared and abutting fronts The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder.

Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts. Into a thousand parts divide one man And make imaginary puissance. Here, audience members are invited to view the scenes that are to be presented to them as visual and material items subject to alteration. I draw attention to this combination of literary, material and visual contexts in order to emphasise that while I am concerned with drama as a part of visual culture, other types of sensory experience and modes of expression are important for my analysis.

Work on the early modern senses paints a picture of Reformation sensory experience in which different types of perception converge and overlap.


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The player speaking the Prologue at the opening of Henry V draws attention to the lack of visual content presented on stage, yet his standing on that stage at all constitutes spectacle. Whitney emphasises diversity in dramatic reception, and therefore calls attention to the ways in which individual reactions to plays in performance might emerge from collective audience experiences. One way to approach this apparent inconsistency is to acknowledge that in line with early modern English visual culture more broadly, concepts of spectatorship were in transition during this period.

It is not new to suggest that theatre participates in post-Reformation anxieties about visual experience. In this view, spectatorship involves engagements with the materiality of the viewed which act as a source of knowledge, both about the viewed and about the viewer themselves. When plays depict or allude to the practicalities that construct spectacle, viewers are invited to reflect on their own status and function in relation to that which they view.

For a useful example, I return here to Bartholomew Fair , which concludes with a puppet play put on by the hobby-horse seller Lantern Leatherhead. In the course of this puppet play, Zeal-of-the-Land Busy, a Puritan, enters the audience in the play-world and calls for a halt to the production on the grounds that it is idolatrous. Busy here refers to one of the central objections to the theatre as an arena which staged transvestism. Dionysius tells his opponent:. It is your old stale argument against the players, but it will not hold against the puppets; for we have neither male nor female amongst us.

And that thou mayst see, if thou wilt, like a malicious purblind zeal as thou art! The puppet takes up his garment. Aura Satz has shown that it is not too much to associate this alteration in the surface of the Puppet Dionysius with the broader iconoclastic context in which defacement and desecration are reasonable responses to visual representations.

This instance therefore exemplifies the relevance of image-breaking as image-making for the playhouse, and so draws attention to defacement as a productive mode through which spectators may engage with the viewed. It is worth noting here that Busy does not touch the puppet; as is discussed in the next chapter, touch in this period is not a secure route to ontological certainty. Before encountering this Derridean reading of early modern attitudes to creativity and representation, however, it will be useful to understand in more detail the hierarchical nature of early modern visual culture at a more local level.

In order to fully understand the extent to which image-making in post-Reformation England is inextricable from social hierarchy, it is necessary now to consider in more detail the hierarchical relationship that is at the centre of visual transactions in this period: patronage.

As I shall explain, this is a context which is of great interest to dramatists, and which has much to tell us about attitudes to making and unmaking in this period more broadly. In each chapter of this book I discuss a play that depicts instances of the patronage of a visual representation. In other words, the processes of visual construction discussed here are connected to commissions made by patrons who also function as onstage spectators. Since The Two Merry Milkmaids concerns spectatorship within the visual field rather than of a specific artwork, there is less emphasis on patronage in this play.

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Even here, however, an invisible character commissions a portrait from a low-quality painter who cannot even see his subject. The faultiness of the commission in this latter play is indicative of the instability of patronage of the visual arts in the dramas discussed here overall. In subsequent chapters I will be interested in what these depictions of unfinished works tell us about early modern attitudes to the process and results of cultural production.

For now, however, it is worth noting that certain commentators associate English patronage of the visual arts with the production of highly unsatisfactory results. Richard Haydocke, for example, considers interaction between the patron and visual artist to be at the root of what he perceives to be the lamentable state of the visual arts in Elizabethan England. My final reason is plaine : the increase of the knowledge of the Arte; which though it never attained to any greate perfection amongst us save in some very feawe of late , yet it is much decayed amongst the ordinarie sorte, from the ancient mediocritie, for these 2.

That bothe these obiections might be taken away, I have taken the paines, to teach the one to judge, the other to worke. The making of a commissioned object is here dependent on the well-informed spectatorship of the client. Although in provincial English workshops master painters employed very few journeymen or apprentices, in the metropolitan workshops that may have been known to London playwrights and playgoers, several painters often worked collaboratively on portrait production.

The example of tomb design calls attention to the range of people that could be involved in the production of a commissioned work. Depictions of patronage of the visual arts in plays usually focus on the relationship between a lone patron and a lone visual artist. This not only means ignoring the groups of workers who might make a visual representation, but also casting a veil over the institutional commissioning of images that was a part of civic life in provincial English towns and cities as well as in London during the period.

In this light, the choice to depict image-makers and spectators as singular figures seems like a missed metatheatrical opportunity. On a basic level, it might be argued that this choice is motivated by practical limitations such as the size of the cast. At the same time, there is plenty of evidence that the fit between the dynamics of image-making and the divine, natural hierarchy within which it operated was by no means smooth. It has been established that external symbols such as clothing are invested with great social meaning in this period; it was for this reason that the role of the stage in the transgression of sumptuary legislation and the marketing of new fashions provided a point of focus for antitheatricalists.

For example, there is much tension around the propriety of painting as a practice to be undertaken by gentlemen. I remember I have read that the men of olde time, and especially in all Greece would have Gentlemens children in the schooles to apply peinting, as a matter both honest and necessary. And this was received in the first degree of liberal artes, afterwarde openly enacted not to be taught to servantes and bondmen.

That said, it might be tentatively observed that the significance of the social status of the visual practitioner is intriguingly prominent in early modern English writings. Yet Hilliard speaks not of the gentle painter, but of the professional visual artist who must adopt gentility as part of his professional practice. Accounting for the attributes of limners, Hilliard remarks:. Seest thou not that these men, then, must often in their business stand before princes, though they be born but common people?

But God, the author of wisdom and the giver of all good gifts and goodness, He giveth gentility to divers persons, and raiseth man to reputation by divers means. Concerns about the social implications of the intimate access to the sitter that a painter might enjoy are explored in the plays of this period. To an extent, this depiction of painterly transgression reflects the common trope of the tailor as a sexually transgressive figure who exploits unusually intimate access to the bodies of male and female clients.

As this example suggests, the hierarchical dynamics of patronage provide a fitting context for carnivalesque comedy that draws on the social anxieties attendant on the act of image-making.

Here, underneath this little Rosie bush Thy crimson cheekes peers forth more faire then it. My Lord, I thinke more Art is shaddowed heere, Then any man in Germanie can shew, Except Earle Lassingbergh; and in my conceipt This worke was never wrought without his hand. A Painter faire Lucia? Why the world With all her beautie was by painting made.

Looke on the ayre, where with a hundred changes The watry Rainbow doth imbrace the earth. Looke in the Mynes, and on the Easterne shore, Where all our Mettalls and deare Jems are drawne: Thogh faire themselves, made better by their foiles. Metropolitan tragedy British drama, Volume V Mermaids and the production of knowledge in early modern England Embodied cognition and Shakespeare's theatre Paratexts in English printed drama to Shakespeare's stage traffic Constructing the canon of early modern drama Blood and home in early modern drama Staging women and the soul-body dynamic in early modern England The Cambridge introduction to early modern drama, Studying Shakespeare's contemporaries British drama, Volume IV Staging England in the Elizabethan history play Character and the individual personality in English renaissance drama Martyrs and players in early modern England Renaissance drama on the edge Lost plays in Shakespeare's England Clowning and authorship in early modern theatre Magical transformations on the early modern English stage Singing Simpkin and other bawdy jigs The end of satisfaction Violence and grace Renaissance drama Volume 42, Number 1 Renaissance drama Volume 42, Number 2 The Oxford anthology of Tudor drama Supernatural environments in Shakespeare's England Reformations of the body Staging the superstitions of early modern Europe Romance on the early modern stage British drama, Volume III Staged transgression in Shakespeare's England A short history of English Renaissance drama Mind-travelling and voyage drama in Early modern England Of bondage Making and unmaking in early modern English drama Staging the blazon in early modern English theater Inventions of the skin De la filouterie dans l'Angleterre de la Renaissance Women and Tudor tragedy Emulation on the Shakespearean stage Sex before Sex Documents of performance in early modern England Mother Queens and princely sons Shakespeare, the Bible, and the form of the book Early modern drama and the Bible Shakespeare among the courtesans British drama Volume 1 What is Renaissance drama?

Mimesis and the representation of experience The Cambridge companion to Shakespeare and contemporary dramatists Problem fathers in Shakespeare and Renaissance drama The Oxford handbook of Tudor drama British drama, Volume 2 The disguised ruler in Shakespeare and his contemporaries Magical imaginations Shakespeare's schoolroom Family and the state in early modern revenge drama Sexual types Shakespeare closely read Drama and the succession to the crown, Goddesses, mages, and wise women Moral play and counterpublic Religion and drama in early modern England The troublesome reign of John, King of England Foreign and native on the English stage, Renaissance drama 39 Shakespeare and Renaissance literary theories The myth of Rome in Shakespeare and his contemporaries Manly mechanicals on the early modern English stage Garrick, Kemble, Siddons, Kean Mothers and meaning on the early modern English stage Islamic conversion and christian resistance on the early modern stage English revenge drama Secrets of the printed page in the age of Shakespeare The Cambridge companion to English Renaissance tragedy Solo performances Gender and power in shrew-taming narratives, Renaissance drama 38 Justice, women, and power in English Renaissance drama The book of William Magic and masculinity in early modern English drama Sex and satiric tragedy in early modern England Renaissance earwitnesses Locating the Queen's Men, Protestantism and drama in early modern England The materiality of religion in early modern English drama Early modern drama and the Eastern European elsewhere Words as swords Desire and dramatic form in early modern England Aliens and Englishness in Elizabethan drama Shakespeare's modern collaborators The Tower of London in English Renaissance drama Masculinity, corporality and the English stage, English Renaissance scenes Early modern academic drama Work and play on the Shakespearean stage Representing France and the French in early modern English drama Revenge tragedy and the drama of commemoration in reforming England Metatheater in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama Reading the Jewish woman on the Elizabethan stage Renaissance poetry and drama in context Shakespearean and Jacobean tragedy Speaking of the Moor Tragicomic redemptions The cultural uses of the Caesars on the English Renaissance stage Heroines of the Golden stAge Radical comedy in early modern England London in early modern English drama Voice in motion Renaissance drama Interludes and early modern society War and nation in the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries Laughing and weeping in early modern theatres Drama and the sacraments in sixteenth-century England Early modern tragedy, gender and performance, Shakespeare and the rise of the editor Revenge tragedies of the Renaissance Shakespeare and Renaissance literature before heterosexuality The impact of militarism and social mobility on the construction of masculinity in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama Marian moments in early modern British drama Solon and Thespis Staging Ireland Law and representation in early modern drama Playing spaces in early women's drama Domestic life and domestic tragedy in early modern England Performances of mourning in Shakespearean theatre and early modern culture Cosmetics in Shakespearean and Renaissance drama Dramatists and their manuscripts in the age of Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton and Heywood Treason by words The English Renaissance stage Searching for Shakespeare Performing early modern trauma from Shakespeare to Milton Textual patronage in English drama, Representing the professions Early modern English drama Bodies and their spaces The sultan speaks Media, technology, and performance English Renaissance drama Politics and tropes in Renaissance history plays Drugs and theatre in early modern England New Turkes Governmental arts in early Tudor England The early modern corpse and Shakespeare's theatre Marriage relationships in Tudor political drama Stages of dismemberment The scandal of images Separate theaters Beyond the body Tragedy and scepticism in Shakespeare's England Approximate bodies Renaissance drama 33 Traffic and turning Rematerializing Shakespeare Hamlet Othello Shakespeare William Shakespeare Compositeur 6 William Byrd ?

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