1st Edition

From Playtext to Performance on the Early Modern Stage How Did They Do It?

By Leslie Thomson Copyright 2023
    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    216 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book reconsiders the evidence for what we know (or think we know) about early modern performance conditions.

    This study encourages a new recognition and treatment of certain aspects of the plays as evidence – and demonstrates the significance of the implications of that new information. This book is also an assessment of the competing narratives about the processes involved in early modern performance: about the status of manuscript playbooks, about the parts that players memorized, about the functions of the bookkeeper, about casting, about prompting, and about rehearsal practices. Leslie Thomson investigates the bases for the interdependent beliefs that an early modern player relied only on his part to prepare for a performance, that rehearsal was minimal, and that a bookkeeper compensated for these circumstances by prompting any player who was "out of his part." By focusing on often ignored (or downplayed) requirements and challenges of early modern play texts, Thomson provides evidence for answers that will foster a more nuanced and thorough understanding of original performance practices. That will, in turn, influence how we read, study, and edit the plays.

    This exploration will be of great interest to theatre and performance researchers, graduate students, teachers of early modern drama at the undergraduate and graduate levels, performers, directors, editors.


    Part I: Pre-Performance

    Chapter 1: Evidence and Theories

    Chapter 2: Rehearsal Reconsidered

    Part II: In-Performance

    Chapter 3: Pronouns in Action

    Chapter 4: Uncued Actions

    Chapter 5: Staging Asides

    Chapter 6: Dumb Shows on Stage

    Chapter 7: Doubling and Disguise

    Chapter 8: Large Properties Off and On Stage




    Leslie Thomson, professor Emeritus of English at the University of Toronto, has published widely on various aspects of early modern stage directions and staging. She is co-author (with Alan C. Dessen) of A Dictionary of Stage Directions in English Drama, 1580–1642 and editor of Anything for a Quiet Life, in The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton. Her book, Discoveries on the Early Modern Stage: Contexts and Conventions, was published in 2018.