A theatre for the Iron Age
Theorising practice in Thomas Heywood’s Ages plays
in Thomas Heywood and the classical tradition
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In his pro-theatrical treatise An Apology for Actors (1612), Thomas Heywood adapts the classical trope of the Four Ages to lament early modern drama’s fallen state. The same myth structures Heywood’s five Ages plays, which dramatise events from the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron Ages while simultaneously registering the commercial English theatre’s intervening presence. Focusing on the Ages plays, this chapter analyses how Heywood employs temporal, spatial and elemental cues that consciously emphasise his drama’s ongoing implication in both the imaginative processes of historical narrative and the social, economic and environmental exchanges of contemporary London, prompting playgoers towards a new understanding of theatre as a physically embedded medium of exchange. In the process, I suggest, Heywood engages with and reassesses the theories of dramatic composition that early modern authors inherited from their classical predecessors, developing a new theory of drama for the Iron Age present.

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