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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.

Open Access (free)
Personal Shakespeare
Steve Sohmer

. And those early auditors had a stupendous advantage over even the best-informed of us: they breathed in the same milieu as Shakespeare and were alert to the same events, trends, personalities, conflicts, scandals, rumours, slang, parlour games, capers, larks, and jokes. What wouldn’t a modern scholar give to attend the Bankside Globe one drizzly May afternoon in 1600 to hear

in Reading Shakespeare’s mind
Steve Sohmer

reader’s opinion is, therefore, privately formed, whereas the experience of a play is shared with hundreds or thousands of spectators whose response to ideas laid before them is immediately detectable as ‘the sense of the house’. In one instructive act of censorship, on 12 November 1589 the Privy Council ordered the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Mayor of London, and the Master

in Reading Shakespeare’s mind
Steve Sohmer

We tend to separate Shakespeare from other authors; he appears timeless, and deserves to stand apart. But Shakespeare was, after all, a writer – a great writer, of course, but he was also an infant, adolescent, lover, husband, father, and man. Weren’t his own life experiences as important to him as, say, Antony’s or Bolingbroke’s, or more so

in Reading Shakespeare’s mind
Steve Sohmer

surprised into sonneteering by some real-life experience. Ever since the edition of Sonnets in 1837 by James Boaden ... scholars have pursued possible personal illusions.’ 11 Professor Duncan-Jones seems to infer that Shakespeare’s ‘fair youth’ and dark lady are literary creations which leapt full-formed from poet’s imagination. But, really, can this be so

in Reading Shakespeare’s mind
Open Access (free)
Speaking pictures?
Chloe Porter

the word was not only privileged over the image, but the visual sense was denigrated in its favor’. 9 Knapp suggests that Protestant hostility cultivated a ‘preoccupation with visual experience in early modern English culture’, ‘even in the absence of a significant tradition in the visual arts’. 10 In focusing on post-Reformation English cultural activity in the ‘absence’ of the visual arts, Knapp

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

To make something, it might be assumed, is to aim to produce a finished product. This assumption dominates many critical readings of spectator experiences in the early modern period. Stephen Greenblatt’s seminal analysis of Shakespeare’s Henry V , for example, turns in part on the complicity of the audience in the production of the image of the king

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
Chloe Porter

Michael Baxandall’s pioneering 1972 study, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy. 2 ‘Visual culture’ is a pertinent phrase for use in this study because it implies a breadth of visual reference that includes the diverse range of types of work with which an early modern artisan might be involved. Painters in this period regularly carried out decorative work, and, as Lucy Gent points out

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

culture. 38 As our understanding of the development of early modern English visual culture expands, new opportunities to explore the place of visual discourses in the making of aesthetics ideas also emerge. The intertwining of metatheatrical self-reflection with explorations of processes of ‘making’ suggests to me that more needs to be done to understand historicised aesthetic experience in conjunction

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
Open Access (free)
Invisibility and erasure in The Two Merry Milkmaids
Chloe Porter

threatening to social and natural order. In contrast to Gyges, however, Corcut’s experience of being unseen while disguised as a shepherd leads him to a spiritual revelation that would have appealed to an early modern Christian audience. Before he is put to death on his brother’s orders, Corcut reveals: Since my vain flight from fair

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama