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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)

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  • Published July 2009

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Early Responses to Renaissance Drama
Cambridge University Press
978-0-521-85843-4 - EARLY RESPONSES TO RENAISSANCE DRAMA - by Charles Whitney


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. We haven't been looking in all the right places. In this study, old compilations of early modern dramatic allusions provide the surprising key to a new understanding of pre-1660 reception. Whitney shows how that reception is essential for understanding English Renaissance drama. 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. For the first time, it makes possible the study of particular responses of women and of workers. It also contributes to the history of subjectivity, reading, civil society, and aesthetics, and demands a new view of dramatic production.

CHARLES WHITNEY is Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the author of Francis Bacon and Modernity (1986), a Choice magazine Outstanding Academic Book Selection in 1987. His work has appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, English Literary Renaissance, The Journal of the History of Ideas, and the anthology Shakespeare and Modernity.



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Information on this title:

© Charles Whitney 2006

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2006

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

ISBN-13 978-0-521-85843-4 hardback

ISBN-10 0-521-85843-7 hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external
or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any
content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

To Elspeth and Juliana


List of illustrationspage ix



1Tamburlaine intervenes17
The scandal of sadomasochism: liberating the Protestant aesthetic20
The scourge of God, here and now30
Emblems for relentless forces37
Aftermath: idealization and travesty52
From Tamburlaine to Hamlet61

2Versions of Sir John70
The Oldcastle controversy73
The orature of Sir John82
Carnival and Lent91
Between Carnival and modern aesthetics103


3Playgoers in the theatrum mundi to 1617115
John Davies of Hereford and the authority of the audience116
The Inns of Court and the culture of playgoing123
Playgoing, poetry, and love-making: Edmund Spenser and Robert Tofte132
Simon Forman and the uses of the theatre147

4Common understanders161
Service workers and the interpretive authority of labor162
Out of service and in the playhouse: Richard Norwood
 and Early Response to Dr. Faustus
“Vagrant” youth: apprentices, craft servants, and others185
A note on fishwives195
Low audiences, pluralistic theatre196

5Playgoing and play-reading gentlewomen201
The theatre of meditation: Amelia Lanyer and the tragic Cleopatra204
Reprobation as resistance: Joan Drake and Jonson’s Ananias215
Anne Murray Halkett and the theatre of Cavalier life224
Private shows: Dorothy Osborne and the courtship of Richard III233

6Jonson and Shakespeare: living monuments and
public spheres
The uses of Jonson242
Milton’s Shakespeare: theatres of God and man256


List of illustrations

1.John Davies of Hereford, engraving published 1633 National
Portrait Gallery D13267
2.John Taylor by Thomas Cockson (Coxon), engraving
published 1630 National Portrait Gallery D11208
3.Elizabeth, Lady Southampton, painting ca. 1600. By kind
permission of His Grace The Duke of Buccleuch and
Queensbury, KT
4.Sir Tobie Matthew by James Gammon, engraving
published 1660 National Portrait Gallery D8295
5.Simon Forman by Richard Godfrey after John Bulfinch,
engraving published 1776 National Portrait Gallery D2352
6.Dorothy, Lady Temple, by Gaspar Netscher, painting
ca. 1670 National Portrait Gallery 3813
7.Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, attributed to
John Hoskins, painting National Portrait Gallery 6304
8.John Milton, painting, ca. 1629 National Portrait
Gallery 4222


From the beginning and throughout the course of this long project, Andrew Gurr provided unfailing encouragement, support, and advice that I deeply appreciate. However imperfect and heterodox my emulation may be, he also offered a model of scholarly comprehensiveness, judiciousness, and imagination. Hugh Grady, Terence Hawkes, and Mihoko Suzuki also supplied encouragement, advice, and stellar scholarly examples of different kinds. Some of the others over the years whose comments or conversations were especially valuable to me include Heidi Brayman Hackel, Dian Kriz, Steven Mullaney, John Mulryan, John Pitcher, Sasha Roberts, Kevin Sharpe, and Will West. Many discussions in this book started out as papers for the Shakespeare Association of America’s seminars. The Marlowe Society of America’s congenial 2003 conference proved a turning point for the work on Tamburlaine. Interrogations and critiques from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Faculty Seminar were eye-opening: thanks especially to Colin Loader, Anne Stevens, and Michelle Tusan. Readers at Cambridge University Press helped me realize what the project was (and was not) about, and my editor Sarah Stanton guided patiently. One of the most original and stimulating scholars I have known, a generous, wise reader of much of this study, still infuses me with the strength of her all-too-brief fellowship, the late Cynthia Marshall.

The Huntington Library provided a stipend and, of course, an invigorating assembly of colleagues. Roy Ritchie gave me the opportunity to present a talk there and the staff supplied help during many short visits as well as a few longer ones, particularly Chris Adde and Susie Krasnoo. UNLV provided travel and sabbatical support. Thanks also to the staff of the UNLV Lied Library, the British Library, and the Guildhall Library.

The UNLV English Department has supported my efforts steadfastly. Thanks to Joe McCullough, John Bowers, John Irsfeld, and especially our once and current chair Chris Hudgins. English graduate student assistants have advanced the project greatly. Thanks to Jeff McIntire-Strasburg, David Phillips, Rhea Nicholas, Bruce Adair, Tim Gauthier, Michael Stamps, and a capable undergraduate, Grace Rakich. Special thanks to Bill Donati, whose diligence and abilities have been crucial in the final months. In a final understatement, I was sustained throughout by the affection, counsel, and patient irony of my wife, Professor Elspeth Whitney.

A few parts of this book have appeared elsewhere. Small portions of the Introduction and of the discussion of Simon Forman in chapter 3 appeared in “Ante-Aesthetics: Towards a Theory of Early Modern Audience Response,” Shakespeare and Modernity: Early Modern to Millennium, ed. Hugh Grady (London: Routledge, 2000) 40–60. Some of the material on John Davies of Hereford in chapter 1 appeared in a different form in “Tamburlaine and Self-Shattering, 1605: Applying the New Reception Theories,” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 42 (2003) 79–91. A somewhat longer version of the second section of chapter 4 appeared as “Out of Service and In the Playhouse: Richard Norwood, Youth in Transition, and Early Response to Dr. Faustus,” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 12 (1999) 166–89; a small portion of that chapter also appeared in “‘Usually in the werking Daies’: Playgoing Journeymen, Apprentices, and Other Servants in Guild Records, 1582–92,” Shakespeare Quarterly 50: 4 (Winter 1999) 433–58.

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