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This volume considers transnational and intercultural aspects of early modern theatre, drama and performance. Its twelve chapters, loosely cosmographically grouped into West, North and South, compose a complex image of early modern theatre connections as a socially, economically, politically and culturally realised tissue of links, networks, influences and paths of exchange. With particular attention to itinerant performers, court festival, and the significant black, Muslim and Jewish impact, they combine disciplines and methods to place Shakespeare and his contemporaries in the wider context of early performance culture in English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Czech and Italian speaking Europe. Their shared methodological approach examines transnational connections by linking abstract notions of wider theatre historical significance to concrete historical facts: archaeological findings, archival records, visual artefacts, and textual evidence. Crucial to the volume is this systematic yoking of theories with surviving historical evidence for the performative event – whether as material object, text, performative routine, theatregrams, rituals, festivities, genres, archival evidence or visual documentation. This approach enables it to explore the infinite variety of early modern performance culture by expanding the discourse, questioning the received canon, and rethinking the national restrictions of conventional maps to reveal a theatre that truly is without borders.


A substantial rethinking of the field of Shakespeare’s ‘sources’ that re-evaluates the vocabulary initiated by Geoffrey Bullough in his monumental Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. Beginning with a revaluation of Bullough, the book addresses issues such as the nature of con-text, influence versus confluence, intertextuality and the ways in which the term has been interpreted, and the manner in which Shakespeare returned to and developed earlier motifs, situations, memes and dramatic forms. This approach raises questions of how Shakespeare read, what was available to him and how this material may have circulated and filtered into the theatre; it also considers the ways in which a study of the materials available to the practising dramatist can be considered a vital part of theatrical activity, and something wholly different from what used to be regarded from the point of view of scholarly investigation as a relatively uninteresting activity.

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Robert Henke

These chapters, which explore early modern theatre and performance transnationally, emerge from the research collective Theater Without Borders (TWB). The group formally established itself in 2005 and 2006 conferences at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, but had had its origins in a series of seminars at American Comparative Literature Association annual

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre
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Pavel Drábek
M. A. Katritzky

practice-based collaborations between members of the international research initiative Theater Without Borders (TWB), a global collective exploring transnational and intercultural aspects of early modern theatre, drama and performance. 1 Arranged as a map of sorts, it presents twelve chapters, newly invited, researched and written to create this collection, divided into three sections, loosely cosmographically

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre
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Our Lyly?
Andy Kesson

exclusive ‘power’ implicitly offers a counterpoint to Munro’s proposition that authors lacked ‘sole authority over their plays’. Within the collaborative world of early modern theatre, at a time when few single writers took responsibility over an entire script, Lyly had an unusual degree of authority over his text in performance and publication. He approximated and anticipated the ‘general and in itself

in John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship
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Supernatural storms, equivocal earthquakes
Gwilym Jones

, a staple of early modern theatre, is made explicit from the beginning of Macbeth . While we cannot, of course, expect characters in plays to be ‘aware’ of the theatrical conditions of their representation, part of the method of Macbeth is to draw attention to the different levels of meaning between characters, and indeed, audience: again, the storm brings out dramatic irony in Shakespeare

in Shakespeare’s storms
Shakespeare’s challenges to performativity
Yan Brailowsky

from ordinary language? In what follows, I first consider the context of early modern theatre in which the preternatural, or supernatural, power of prophecies was highly problematic, in a context in which Church and state endeavoured to counteract prophetic practices in Elizabethan and Jacobean England in the hope of avoiding the spread of seditious rumours. The evocative power of the language of prophecy resisted these regulatory efforts, however, and even monarchs such as James I could not help but recognise the close link between prophecies and poetry. This link

in Shakespeare and the supernatural
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Essays on The Spanish Tragedy

This book recognises the importance of the playwright and The Spanish Tragedy for the development of early modern theatre and beyond. It aims to familiarise readers with the play which, literally, set the stage for the Elizabethan revenge tragedy boom. The book revisits theories of revenge, and examines the play's latest editions, stage productions and screenplay adaptations. It takes the reader on a rewarding journey from Kyd's Proserpine to William Shakespeare's Prospero and brings personal editorial accounts on what it means to edit The Spanish Tragedy in the third millennium. The book argues that the lasting position of The Spanish Tragedy in the Low Countries is of interest from a politico-religious perspective. It advocates a shift in the critical approaches to The Spanish Tragedy, away 'from debating whether the play reflects Habsburg Spain or Renaissance Italy to considering how it portrays Mediterranean culture in relation to early modern England and its desire to play a role in the European colonial expansion'. The book further argues that The Spanish Tragedy, which has been regarded primarily as a 'blood and guts' revenge tragedy, was actually written to promote the Protestant politico-religious ethos, represented by Leicester, against Catholic Babylon/Spain under Philip II. Kyd combines aspects of the anti-Leicester tradition with elements of the Spanish Black Legend as expressed in Antonio Pérez's Las Relaciones in order to depict Spain under Philip II as the evil enemy of Protestant England.

A cultural history

This book examines laughter in the Shakespearean theatre, in the context of a cultural history of early modern laughter, and looks at various strands of the early modern discourse on laughter, ranging from medical treatises and courtesy manuals to Puritan tracts and jestbook literature. It argues that few cultural phenomena have undergone as radical a change in meaning as laughter, a paradigm shift that can be traced back to the early modern period, which saw some remarkable changes in the culture of laughter. Hitherto, laughter had been mainly regarded as a social corrective that mocked those who transgressed societal norms. The evolving cult of courtly manners that spread throughout Renaissance Europe stigmatised derisive laughter as a sign of vulgarity. Laughter became bound up with questions of taste and class identity. At the same time, humanist thinkers revalorised the status of recreation and pleasure. These developments left their trace on the early modern theatre, where laughter was retailed as a commodity in an emerging entertainment industry. William Shakespeare's plays both reflect and shape these changes, particularly in his adaptation of the Erasmian wise fool as a stage figure and in the sceptical strain of thought that is encapsulated in the laughter evoked in the plays.

Biblical plays between Czech drama and English comedy in early modern Central Europe
Pavel Drábek

. (for an easier understanding and grasping … so that people can, as if in a kind of mirror, observe themselves, and know the misery and inconstancy of their lives in this world, so that they knew how to prepare for the celestial, eternal, and unending dwelling.) ( Samson 1608, A2v) </EX> This liberal, enlightened approach to the benefits of theatre and its figurative readings of exemplary tales anticipates later developments in early modern theatre culture. Over

in Enacting the Bible in medieval and early modern drama