Staging, Playing, Pyrotechnics and Magic: Conventions of Performance in Early English Theatre
Shifting Paradigms in Early English Drama Studies
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In this selection of research articles Butterworth focuses on investigation of the practical and technical means by which early English theatre, from the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century, was performed. Matters of staging for both 'pageant vehicle' and 'theatre-in-the-round' are described and analysed to consider their impact on playing by players, expositors, narrators and prompters. All these operators also functioned to promote the closely aligned disciplines of pyrotechnics and magic (legerdemain or sleight of hand) which also influence the nature of the presented theatre.
The sixteen chapters form four clearly identified parts—staging, playing, pyrotechnics and magic—and drawing on a wealth of primary source material, Butterworth encourages the reader to rediscover and reappreciate the actors, magicians, wainwrights and wheelwrights, pyrotechnists, and (in modern terms) the special effects people and event managers who brought these early texts to theatrical life on busy city streets and across open arenas.
The chapters variously explore and analyse the important backwaters of material culture that enabled, facilitated and shaped performance yet have received scant scholarly attention. It is here, among the itemised payments to carpenters and chemists, the noted requirements of mechanics and wheelwrights, or tucked away among the marginalia of suppliers of staging and ingenious devices that Butterworth has made his stamping ground. This is a fascinating introduction to the very ‘nuts and bolts’ of early theatre.
Staging, Playing, Pyrotechnics and Magic: Conventions of Performance in Early English Theatre is a closely argued celebration of stagecraft that will appeal to academics and students of performance, theatre history and medieval studies as well as history and literature more broadly. It constitutes the eighth volume in the Routledge series Shifting Paradigms in Early English Drama Studies and continues the valuable work of that series (of which Butterworth is a general editor) in bringing significant and expert research articles to a wider audience.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Staging and Staging Conventions
1. 'The York Mercers' Pageant Vehicle, 1433-1467: Wheels, Steering, and Control', Medieval English Theatre, 1:2 (1979), 72-81
2. 'Hugh Platte’s Collapsible Wagon', Medieval English Theatre, 15 (1995 [for 1993]), 129-39
3. 'Pageant Carriage Maintenance at Chester', Medieval English Theatre, 39 (2018 for 2017), 5-34
4. 'Jetties, Pentices, Purprestures and Ordure: Obstacles to Pageants and Processions in London', Medieval English Theatre, 41 (2020), 166-190
5. (with Michael Spence), 'The work of William Parnell, supplier of staging and ingenious devices, and his role in the visit of Elizabeth Woodville to Norwich in 1469', Medieval English Theatre, 40 (2019), 7-65
Part 2: Playing Conventions
6. 'The York Crucifixion: Actor/Audience Relationship', Medieval English Theatre, 14 (1994), 67-76
7. ''Jean Fouquet's 'The Martyrdom of St Apollonia' and 'The Rape of the Sabine Women' as Iconographical Evidence of Medieval Theatre Practice', Essays in Honour of Peter Meredith, Leeds Studies in English, 29 (1998), 55-67
8. 'Richard Carew's Ordinary: the First English Director' in The Narrator, the Expositor, and the Prompter in European Medieval Theatre, ed. by Philip Butterworth, Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe (Turnout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2007), 329-345
9. 'Prompting in Full View of the Audience: The Groningen Experiment', Medieval English Theatre, 23 (2002 [for 2001]), 122-71
Part 3: Pyrotechnics
10. 'Hellfire: Flame as Special Effect' in The Iconography of Hell, ed. by Clifford Davidson and Thomas H. Seiler, Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, 17 (Western Michigan University: Medieval Institute, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1992), 67-101
11. 'The Light of Heaven: Flame as Special Effect' in The Iconography of Heaven, ed. by Clifford Davidson, Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, 21 (Western Michigan University: Medieval Institute, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1994), 128-45
12. The Providers of Pyrotechnics in Plays and Celebrations' in Material Culture and Early Drama, ed. by Clifford Davidson, Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series (Western Michigan University: Medieval Institute, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1999), 59-74
Part 4: Magic
13. 'Juggling and Staging Tricks in Early Theatre' in ‘Mainte belle œuvre faicte’, Études sur le théâtre médiéval offertes à professeur Graham A. Runnalls (Orléans: Paradigme, 2005), 39-63
14. 'Brandon, Feats and Hocus Pocus: Jugglers Three', Theatre Notebook, 57:2 (2003), 89-106
15. 'Hocus Pocus Junior: Further Confirmation of its Author', Theatre Notebook, 68:3 (2014), 130-135
16. 'Is there any Further Value to be Gained from Re-Staging Medieval Theatre?', Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama, 43 (2004), 1-11
Philip Butterworth is a leading historian of early English theatre. He has written over 40 articles and book chapters, three critically acclaimed monographs, and edited or co-edited [with Katie Normington] three further significant volumes. His careful reading of primary sources is informed by his having directed a wide range of medieval theatre texts that both pioneered and exemplified practice-as-research. He is currently working on a fourth monograph, Functions of Medieval English Stage Directions: Analysis and Catalogue. This is also to be published by Routledge.
Peter Harrop is Professor Emeritus at the University of Chester. His most recent publications are Mummers’ Plays Revisited, (2020) and The Routledge Companion to English Folk Performance [with Steve Roud], (2021). He also has a longstanding interest in the practices of early modern theatre and performance, particularly in their customary aspects.