‘Tickling the senses with sinful delight’
The pleasure of reading comedies in early modern England
in The senses in early modern England, 1558–1660

In the introduction to Shakespearean Sensations, Katharine A. Craik and Tanya Pollard foreground the degree to which early modern antitheatricalists' anxieties about the theatre are couched in descriptions of sensory affect. As Craik and Pollard correctly identify, the concern for the antitheatricalists is that the erotic subject matter of comedies will have an aphrodisiac effect upon audiences. In this chapter, the author focuses on printed comedies in Early Modern England. She argues a variety of dramatic paratexts appear to both create and respond to a market desire for printed comedies as repositories of the type of erotic pleasure that antitheatricalists feared audiences would experience in the theatre. That such a motivation for playreading existed is confirmed by the early seventeenth-century manuscript commonplace book of William Drummond of Hawthornden. The paratextual sexualization of printed comedies is most evident in the prefatory materials of plays whose titles name their female protagonists.

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