The playwrights composing for the London stage between 1580 and 1642 repeatedly staged plays-within and other metatheatrical inserts. Such works present fictionalized spectators as well as performers, providing images of the audience-stage interaction within the theatre. They are as much enactments of the interpretive work of a spectator as of acting, and as such they are a potential source of information about early modern conceptions of audiences, spectatorship and perception. This study examines on-stage spectatorship in three plays by Philip Massinger, head playwright for the King's Men from 1625 to 1640. Each play presents a different form of metatheatrical inset, from the plays-within of The Roman Actor (1626), to the masques-within of The City Madam (1632) to the titular miniature portrait of The Picture (1629), moving thematically from spectator interpretations of dramatic performance, the visual spectacle of the masque to staged 'readings' of static visual art. All three forms present a dramatization of the process of examination, and allow an analysis of Massinger's assumptions about interpretation, perception and spectator response.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; 'What do wee acte to day?': plays within the play: The Roman Actor; 'For your sport / You shall see a masterpiece': masques-within in The Picture, The Guardian and The City Madam; 'Speculations / On cheating pictures': visual art as dramatic inset: The Picture; Conclusion: 'Make your howse the stage on which weel act / Our comick sceane': trials and paradramatic scenes; Bibliography; Index.
Joanne Rochester, Assistant Professor of English, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
'... a valuable work. Rochester has read widely in studies both of the period and of the plays, and she supplements her analyses of Massinger's works with useful and interesting discussions of - for example - the significance of the masque, or of paintings and other kinds of visual art, in Caroline culture.' Review of English Studies ’... hugely engaging [...] and advances welcome new ideas about Massinger’s embeddedness within Caroline cultural practices.’ Comparative Drama 'This [is a] well-researched book... [Rochester] meets her objective with elegance and eloquence, and has done her subject good service. Each of her chapters treats a distinct form of inset art, while her conclusion offers an assessment of the variations in Massinger’s embedded, inserted, or attached playlets, paradramas, and trial scenes.' Renaissance Quarterly 'This is a stimulating book...' Notes and Queries