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.
This book discusses earlymodernEnglishdrama as a part of visual culture. But what is visual culture,
and why use this phrase in place of the ‘fine arts’ or the
‘visual arts’? In part, this choice is motivated by
my concern with exploring the plays in their historical contexts.
Shakespeare and his contemporaries would not have recognised the phrase
‘fine arts’. Nor would
Winter’s Tale presents one of the most famous depictions
of a patron of the visual arts in earlymodernEnglishdrama. 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
networks that produced earlymodernEnglishdrama. This dynamic is
certainly at work in the painter anecdote in The Roaring Girl.
The individual ‘painter’ alludes to the concept of a lone
author; yet the painter also stands for the ‘we’ that is
the writers and theatre company members (epilogue, 29). The collapsing
of theatrical collaboration into this painterly figure therefore stands
as a mode of
understand concepts of cultural production
and reception as these register in earlymodernEnglishdrama. 6 In this respect my
argument is highly unusual, since most studies in this area start from
the point of the supposed absence of visual culture in an iconoclastic
post-Reformation England blighted by lack of knowledge about the Italian
visual arts. 7
Frederick Kiefer opens his study of the emblematic
Invisibility and erasure in The Two Merry Milkmaids
questions, this chapter follows to its
logical conclusion my initial claim that earlymodernEnglishdrama is a
part of visual culture. Plays in performance are visual, material
representations, watched by spectators. The participation of drama in
visual culture is therefore not confined to dramatists’ direct
allusions to or depictions of visual representations. This chapter
therefore differs from previous
‘reasty’, which also is etymologically linked to ‘reasy’
28 George Peele, The Old Wives Tale (1595), s.d. E1r.
29 See Helkiah Crooke, Mikrokosmographia (1615), p. 576; Walter Charleton, Natural
History of Nutrition, Life, and Voluntary Motion (1659), p. 97.
30 Scipion Dupleix, The Resolver (1635), P2v. Cf. Pierre de La Primaudaye, The
French Academie (1618) p. 127.
31 See Crooke, pp. 66–70.
32 Will Fisher, ‘Staging the Beard’, in Staged Properties in EarlyModernEnglishDrama,
ed. Jonathan Gil Harris and Natasha Korda (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Divine destruction in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
(Farnham: Ashgate, 2009 ), p. 51.
O’Connor discusses idolatry and iconoclasm in Fedele and
Fortunio , as well as allusions to iconoclasm in Thomas
Dekker’s The Whore of Bablylon (printed 1607), and
Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s Cupid’s
Revenge (1607–8), in ‘Imagine Me, Gentle
Spectators’, pp. 370
Graph 1 Printed plays featuring magic users, by gender
Source: Figures are compiled on the basis of the entries for
‘witch’, ‘wizard’, and related terms in Thomas L. Berger,
William C. Bradford, and Sidney L. Sondergard, An Index
of Characters in EarlyModernEnglishDrama: Printed
Plays, 1500–1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1998). Plays surviving only in manuscript – including
Middleton’s The Witch and Munday’s John a Kent and
John a Cumber – are excluded.
Critical and historical contexts of the Lord Mayor’s Show
, although his claim
Critical and historical contexts
that Peele’s 1585 Show marks the ‘beginning of the representation of
London in eulogistic terms’ overlooks the centuries of tradition that
precede this date (London in EarlyModernEnglishDrama, p. 65).
Gadd and Wallis, Guilds, Society and Economy, p. 5. I explore the
consequences of the Companies’ changing realities at greater length in
See Robertson and Gordon, Collections III, p. xiv. Street pageants also
took place in various locations on 17