A duchess, a shoemaker and a knight
Early modern drama, early British television
in Screen plays
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Screen adaptations of plays by early modern dramatists other than Shakespeare have only recently begun to attract critical interest. This chapter analyses the archival record for three BBC Television productions from 1938 of plays by early modern dramatists—namely, The Duchess of Malfi, The Shoemaker's Holiday and The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1938). Since no audiovisual record survives for these productions, the chapter draws on print materials such as set diagrams, camera scripts and internal memos to reconstruct salient narrative and stylistic features of these television programmes, showing how they made creative virtues out of their technological limitations and exploring what role the plays’ stage traditions might have had in their selection for television production. Particular attention is devoted to The Duchess of Malfi, for which production documentation has survived and which was reviewed in depth for The Listener by the critic Grace Wyndham Goldie. Analysing these archival traces, the chapter explores the narrative choices made in the adaptation of the text, which was significantly shortened, and the innovative visual techniques employed by producer Royston Morley.

Screen plays

Theatre plays on British television

Editors: Amanda Wrigley and John Wyver

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