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Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1500–1800

$49.99 (C)

  • Date Published: November 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521102261

$ 49.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Performing Blackness on English Stages, 1500–1800 examines early modern English actors' impersonations of black Africans. Those blackface performances established dynamic theatrical conventions that were repeated from play to play, plot to plot, congealing over time and contributing to English audiences' construction of racial difference. Vaughan discusses non-canonical plays, grouping of scenes, and characters that highlight the most important conventions - appearance, linguistic tropes, speech patterns, plot situations, the use of asides and soliloquies, and other dramatic techniques - that shaped the ways black characters were 'read' by white English audiences. In plays attended by thousands of English men and women from the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth, including Titus Andronicus, Othello and Oroonoko, blackface was a polyphonic signifier that disseminated distorted and contradictory, yet compelling, images of black Africans during the period in which England became increasingly involved in the African slave trade.

    • Combines theatre history with an analysis of how racial attitudes were circulated through the theatre
    • Focuses on how black/Moorish characters would have been presented and received on the stage
    • Places dramatic texts and their performances within their historical context
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.' Choice

    "Her examination of a crucial and contentious aspect of performance politics challenges critical assumptions about Renaissance racism and modern mores."
    - Theater Research International

    "Vaughan's, meanwhile, can be recommended to anyone as examples of the kind of historically informed thematic criticism that can help us better understand how history can help shape plays while also being shaped by them." - Comparative Drama

    "...engaging, exciting, and demanding" - Renaissance Quarterly

    "Performing Blackness is a welcome remedy to the relative neglect of English theatrical representations of black skin...this book addresses important issues about the performative nature of blackness and racial representation on the early English stage." - Felicity A. Nussbaum, University of California, Los Angeles

    " illuminating survey of the development of theatrical conventions and cultural attitudes which will be pertinent to anybody interested in early modern conceptions of race." - Andrew Duxfield, Sheffield Hallam University

    "Vaughan seems to agree that early modern conceptions of race were distinct from their modern incarnations. Her book invites us to consider its earlier forms and manifestations and suggest that we still have much to learn about the history of the category of race." - Jean Feerick, Brown University

    "Performing Blackness is an accessible survey of the use of black paint on the English stage and a provocative contribution to current debates on racially marked casting and performance." - Mary Floyd-Wilson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    "Vaughan’s book is a very good introduction to the study of race in early modern English theatre as well as a wonderful resource for those more familiar with the field...Vaughan’s study should prove to be one of the most informed, suggestive, and comprehensive studies of black personas on the early modern stage." - Arthur L. Little Jr, Early Theater

    "Because this discussion is more thorough than anything else to date, I have no doubt it will be used as a teaching aid in many classrooms." --Ayanna Thompson, Arizona State University: Renaissance Quarterly Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521102261
    • length: 208 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 12 mm
    • weight: 0.31kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Preliminaries
    2. Patterns of blackness
    3. Talking devils
    4. Kings and queens
    5. Bedtricksters
    6. Shakespeare's Moor of Venice
    7. Europeans disguised as Moors
    8. Avenging villains
    9. Royal slaves

  • Author

    Virginia Mason Vaughan, Clark University, Massachusetts
    Virginia Mason Vaughan is Professor of English at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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