Stephen Orgel
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Seeing through costume
in Spectacular Performances
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The history of anti-theatricalism from Plato onward assumes that actors are indeed changed by their costumes. In William Shakespeare's own theater for the most part plays were costumed in Elizabethan dress; the Italy of Romeo and Juliet was a version of England. Disguises in Shakespeare are almost always absolute, with a small number of exceptions, nobody ever sees through a disguise. The famous Peacham drawing for Titus Andronicus gestures toward ancient Rome in the costume of Titus, in the center; but queen Tamora's costume is quite generalized, vaguely medieval, certainly neither Roman nor Elizabethan. By the end of the eighteenth century the vogue for historic costume in drama was well under way. The thrilling, visually stunning Franco Zeffirelli films of Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew are set in fifteenth-century Verona and Padua, with historically accurate costumes and sets.

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Spectacular Performances

Essays on theatre, imagery, books and selves in early modern England>


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