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Early Responses to Renaissance Drama


  • 8 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 356 pages
  • Size: 229 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.52 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521117203)

  • Also available in Hardback
  • Published July 2009

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$43.99 (C)

It is often assumed that we can never know how the earliest audiences responded to the plays and playbooks of Shakespeare, Marlowe, and other Renaissance dramatists. In this study, old compilations of early modern dramatic allusions provide the surprising key to understanding pre-1660 reception. Whether or not it begins with powerful emotion, that reception creatively applies and appropriates the copious resources of drama for diverse purposes, lessons, and interests. Informed also by critical theory and historical research, this understanding reveals the significance of response to Tamburlaine and Falstaff as well as the importance of drama to Edmund Spenser, John Donne, John Milton, and many others. It makes possible the study of particular responses of women and of workers and contributes to the history of subjectivity, reading, civil society, and aesthetics, and demands a fresh view of dramatic production.


List of illustrations; Acknowledgments; Introduction; Part I. Tamburlaine, Sir John, and the Formation of Early Modern Reception: 1. Tamburlaine intervenes; 2. Versions of Sir John; Part II. Audiences Entertaining Plays: 3. Playgoers in the Theatrum Mundi to 1617; 4. Common understanders; 5. Playgoing and play-reading gentlewomen; 6. Jonson and Shakespeare: living monuments and public spheres; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


"We have good reason to put a high value on the few newly-issued books that succeed in pushing out the boundaries of our knowledge. Charles Whitney has produced one such. A remarkably wide-ranging work, packed with contextual information, it deals with real people's responses to the widest contexts of playgoing, and how they record their specific experiences in the theatre."
Andrew Gurr, Ben Jonson Journal

"The brilliance of Whitney's book lies not only in the examples of response he collects, but in his analysis of the character of that response. It is, in short, a work that no one concerned with the effects of early modern theater before 1660 can afford to neglect."
- Michael O'Connell, University of California, Santa Barbara

"One of the best books of the year, Charles Whitney’s Early Responses to Renaissance Drama refuses to be daunted by the seeming lack of evidence for the effect of early modern English plays on their first audiences...[a] wonderful book."
-Peter G. Platt, Studies in English Literature

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