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Magic on the Early English Stage

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  • Date Published: June 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521153065


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About the Authors
  • Magic on the Early English Stage investigates the performance of magical tricks, illusions, effects and their staged appearance in the medieval and early English theatre. Performers who created such magic were not known as conjurors, as we might refer to them today, but as jugglers. Records concerning jugglers on the medieval stage have been hitherto misunderstood or misapplied. These references to jugglers are re-examined in the light of discussions of 'feats of activity' that also include tumbling, vaulting and 'dancing on the rope'; appearances and disappearances of the 'Now you see it, now you don't' variety; and stage versions of these concepts; magic through sound in terms of ventriloquy and sound through pipes; mechanical images and puppets; and stage tricks. Information that has remained dormant since original publication is discussed in relation to jugglers such as Thomas Brandon, the King's Juggler, and William Vincent, alias 'Hocus Pocus'.

    • Investigates the nature of the work of medieval jugglers for the first time
    • Identifies and discusses individual jugglers and their work
    • Draws upon analysis of stage directions, civic records, ecclesiastical accounts, eye-witness descriptions, and early books on magic to form a picture of the representation of magic on the medieval stage
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    • This book received the David Bevington Award for Best New Book in Early Drama Studies

    Reviews & endorsements

    Reviews of the hardback: 'One of Butterworth's strengths is to bring out the hidden terminology of magic.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'One of the strengths of Butterworth's book is the way that it brings together material relating to both the medieval and early modern periods … This is a serious, empirical account of a colourful subject and Butterworth's interest lies in the 'how' rather than the 'why' of the magical illusion.' Around the Globe

    'The range of evidence used in this study is impressive, and is used by Butterworth with ease and aplomb … Butterworth's is a serious, scholarly work, thorough and written with an iron grasp of the material. This makes it an invaluable source for the understanding of the minutiae of medieval and early modern theatrical culture …' Marginalia

    'Philip Butterworth is rapidly establishing himself as the pre-eminent authority on special effects of the medieval stage … His approach is cautious, scholarly, and thorough … Magic on the Early English Stage is a valuable addition to our knowledge of stage effects and other technical 'tricks' of the period.' Comparative Drama

    'Magic on the Early English Stage provides an unprecedentedly precise and impeccably thorough survey of the historical records within its purview.' Studies in English Literature

    'Philip Butterworth's book is one of the first to position the elements of magic and conjuring within the broader context of 'legitimate' theatre history.' Theatre Journal

    'The study remains a meticulously organized expansion of our records and understanding of early modern magic.' Michael Saenger PhD, Southwestern University

    'What makes Butterworth's Magic on the Early English Stage so remarkable is its ability to be at once profoundly erudite while conveying the wonder of these performers and their performances. … Equally impressive is Butterworth's exhaustive compilation and use of sources, many of which, as he notes, have not been in print since their original publication. … The reader leaves this text feeling quite certain that though his subject is sleight of hand and other devices meant to misdirect, Butterworth himself us guilty of no such tricks, instead delivering a truly spectacular work that will be of use to all interested in the early English stage for many years to come.' Early Modern Literary Studies

    'Butterworth's book is an enlightening introduction to the technique and application of magic in medieval and renaissance England …' Shakespeare Bulletin

    'Butterworth is an accomplished and careful scholar and his crossroad is clearly marked for the reader. … some interesting insights … Butterworth has done a credible job … I have no doubt this book will appear in many a future footnote.' Marina Favila, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England

    Magic on the Early English Stage is highly recommended to all scholars and lovers of magic history, at the very least because the author's research astonishes with its sheer number of rich, varied and carefully enumerated references culled from the sources quoted above - the reference sections (appendices, notes and bibliography) alone comprise nearly one third of the book's 295 pages. … Truly academic studies of conjuring history are relatively rare, and fewer still attain broad distribution or recognition, with most languishing as unpublished doctoral theses. Fortunately, Cambridge University Press has seen fit to publish Dr Philip Butterworth's Magic on the Early English Stage … Alas, the size of our modest quarterly prohibits a review which adequately conveys the wealth and breadth of material … Dr Butterworth's book is unreservedly recommended to all MCA members. There is simply no other work at present which compares in scope or scholarship …' Magicol

    Review of the paperback: 'Philip Butterworth's style is excellently suited towards theater studies, and will teach students the material clearly without overcomplicating the subject … [The] paperback format … raises the bar for Magic on the Early English Stage's high standard of excellence, making sure that it stays one of the foremost theater studies textbooks.'

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521153065
    • length: 320 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.47kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Jugglers: the creators of magic
    2. Feats of activity: juggling, tumbling and dancing on the rope
    3. Conveyance and confederacy
    4. Appearances and disappearances
    5. Magic through sound
    6. Mechanical images, automata, puppets and motions
    7. Substitution
    8. Stage tricks
    9. Terminology
    Appendix 1. Edward Melton's Text
    Appendix 2. Wily Beguiled (1606)
    Appendix 3. Beggars' Bush (1622)
    Appendix 4. The Knave in Graine (1640).

  • Author

    Philip Butterworth, University of Leeds


    • This book received the David Bevington Award for Best New Book in Early Drama Studies

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