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Author: Andy Kesson

This book discusses the extent of John Lyly's importance for early modern authorship in three parts: prose fiction, drama and reception. The first two parts study Lyly's impact on early modern culture, focusing on prose fiction and drama respectively. In each part, the first chapter assesses Lyly's originality and the second chapter assesses the impact of that authorship upon the print market for each of those literary forms. These two parts demonstrate how Lyly's work was innovative and was received and commodified by his contemporaries. The third part of the book examines Lyly's reception history up to the present day, focusing on nineteenth-century uses of the word euphuism as part of a debate over appropriate literary male style. The dynamic relationship between performance and text creates the market for two basic kinds of English literature: printed single-story fiction and printed drama. Lyly's dramaturgical stories are as elusive and protean as his prose fiction. At the same time that his character Euphues was being reworked and commodified by print writers and publishers, Lyly reworked and innovated ways to create fictional worlds and characters in the theatre.

Questioning the Classics

John Fletcher’s Rome is the first book to explore Fletcher’s engagement with classical antiquity. Fletcher was the most influential playwright of the Jacobean era, whose canon amounts to around 10 per cent of the extant plays of the early modern commercial theatre. Like his more celebrated contemporaries Shakespeare and Jonson, Fletcher wrote, alone or in collaboration, a number of Roman plays: Bonduca, Valentinian, The False One, and The Prophetess. Unlike Shakespeare’s or Jonson’s plays, however, Fletcher’s Roman plays have seldom been the subject of sustained critical discussion. This groundbreaking study examines these plays as a group for the first time, identifying disorientation as the unifying principle of Fletcher’s portrayal of imperial Rome. John Fletcher’s Rome argues that Fletcher’s dramatization of ancient Rome exudes a sense of scepticism regarding the authority of ancient models that is connected to his irreverent approach to classical texts. In doing so, the book sheds new light on Fletcher’s intellectual life, provides fresh insights into his vision of history, illuminates the interconnections between the Roman plays and the rest of his canon, and offers a corrective to dominant narratives that equate Shakespeare’s Rome with ancient Rome as perceived in the early modern imagination in general. As we approach the quatercentenary of Fletcher’s death in 2025, John Fletcher’s Rome offers a worthwhile reappraisal of a playwright who produced a dispirited yet vibrant dramatization of the ancient Roman world that shines as a uniquely gripping instance of the reception of the classical past on the early modern stage.

Editor: Ladan Niayesh

This volume brings together three little-known works by key playwrights from the late sixteenth-century golden age of English drama. All three convey the public theatre’s fascination with travel and adventure through the popular genre of heroic romance, while reflecting the contemporaries’ wide range of responses to cross-cultural contacts with the Muslim East and the Mediterranean challenges posed by the Ottoman empire.

The volume presents the first modern-spelling editions of the three plays, with extensive annotations catering for specialised scholars while also making the texts accessible to students and theatregoers. A detailed introduction discusses issues of authorship, dates and sources, and sets the plays in their historical and cultural contexts, offering exciting insights on Elizabethan performance strategies, printing practices, and the circulation of knowledge and stereotypes related to ethnic and religious difference.