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Spectators, aesthetics and encompletion
Author: Chloe Porter

This book discusses early modern English drama as a part of visual culture. It concerns the ideas about 'making and unmaking' that Shakespeare and his contemporaries may have known and formulated, and how these ideas relate to the author's own critical assumptions about early modern aesthetic experience. The study of drama as a part of visual culture offers the perfect context for an exploration of pre-modern aesthetic discourse. The book expounds the author's approach to plays as participants in a lively post-Reformation visual culture in the process of 're-formation'. It then focuses on the social meanings of patronage of the visual arts in a discussion of Paulina as patron of Hermione's image in The Winter's Tale. The discussion of The Winter's Tale pivots around the play's troubling investment in patriarchal notions of 'perfection'. The book also explores image-breaking in Robert Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. This play presents an instance of onstage iconoclasm in the supernatural destruction of a demonic brazen head, a quasi-magical figure that had been depicted in English literature since at least the twelfth century. In focusing on the portrayal of invisibility in The Two Merry Milkmaids, the book explores early modern preoccupation with processes of visual construction in a play in which there is very little artisanal activity.

The unknowable image in The Winter’s Tale
Chloe Porter

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale presents one of the most famous depictions of a patron of the visual arts in early modern English drama. In the penultimate scene of the play, we are told that the Sicilian courtier, Paulina, is in possession of a ‘statue’ of the dead Sicilian queen, Hermione (5.2.93). ‘Hearing of her mother’s statue’, Perdita, Hermione’s long

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
Open Access (free)
Speaking pictures?
Chloe Porter

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale , meanwhile, we hear of the carving of a sculpture of the supposedly dead queen Hermione by ‘that rare Italian master, Giulio Romano’, before we are shown the statue seeming to come to life. 4 In these examples visual representation is associated with processes of construction rather than with the display of a finished, formal object. This

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
Divine destruction in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
Chloe Porter

yielding unto Vandermast’ (ix.143). Bacon’s authority is here centred on his ability to apply prohibition to the actions of mortal and supernatural agents in relation to spectacle, and recalls Paulina’s prohibition on touching the image of Hermione in her ‘chapel’ in The Winter’s Tale (5.3.86). In that play, a lack of physical contact with an image participated in the construction of Hermione’s statue as

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
Open Access (free)
Behind the screen
Chloe Porter

connection between aesthetic discourse and critical constructions of early modern materiality. At points in this study I have noted that critics are drawn to characterisations of early modern culture as the site of the celebration of aesthetic incoherence or uncertainty. Discussions of the ‘statue scene’ in The Winter’s Tale emphasise openness to Hermione’s ‘unknowable image’; early modern English

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
The ends of incompletion
Chloe Porter

. In other words, when the prologue to Henry V invites playgoers to ‘make up the difference’, this request may be made partly in recognition that that difference is unknown and unattainable. In the previous chapter, I suggested that Shakespeare depicted Hermione’s statue as ‘under construction’ as part of the evocation of divine ‘wholeness’ and perfection. This perfect, creative

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
Chloe Porter

function as onstage spectators. In The Winter’s Tale , Paulina is patron of the supposed statue of Hermione; in Lyly’s Campaspe , Alexander the Great commissions a portrait of Campaspe, while in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay , Friar Bacon oversees a demonic image-making process. Since The Two Merry Milkmaids concerns spectatorship within the visual field rather than of a specific artwork, there

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama