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.
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, the Sicilian courtier, Paulina, is in possession of a 'statue' of the dead Sicilian queen, Hermione. Studies of The Winter's Tale cover a diversity of aesthetic, formal, social, theological and ethical concerns, but most critics share an attraction to the 'statue scene' as the site of the endorsement of the 'unknown' and 'unknowability'. Paulina's status as a consumer of images is arguably often overlooked because of critical interest in the attribution of the statue to Giulio Romano. Paulina's working relationship with Giulio Romano produces a protean image that recalls the amorphous 'unity' of Adam and Eve as depicted by Trevilian, the first woman still half-submerged in the first man's side.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explains the study of drama as a part of visual culture offers the perfect context for an exploration of pre-modern aesthetic discourse. It 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 book also focuses on the ends and aims of 'making' in the Elizabethan imagination. It explores what early modern dramatists and playgoers understood by 'destruction' with reference to Robert Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. The book argues that Greene engages with contemporary technological discourses in order to call attention to the brokenness of visual experience. It explores drama as a part of a changing post-Reformation culture in which reception is a key aspect of cultural production.