Strangeness in Jacobean Drama  book cover
1st Edition

Strangeness in Jacobean Drama

ISBN 9780367500313
Published September 16, 2020 by Routledge
214 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Callan Davies presents “strangeness” as a fresh critical paradigm for understanding the construction and performance of Jacobean drama—one that would have been deeply familiar to its playwrights and early audiences. This study brings together cultural analysis, philosophical enquiry, and the history of staged special effects to examine how preoccupation with the strange unites the verbal, visual, and philosophical elements of performance in works by Marston, Shakespeare, Middleton, Dekker, Heywood, and Beaumont and Fletcher.

Strangeness in Jacobean Drama therefore offers an alternative model for understanding this important period of English dramatic history that moves beyond categories such as “Shakespeare’s late plays,” “tragicomedy,” or the home of cynical and bloodthirsty tragedies.

This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of early modern drama and philosophy, rhetorical studies, and the history of science and technology.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



Chapter 1: Speech: Strange Doctrines in The Dutch Courtesan, Macbeth, The Roaring Girl, and The White Devil

Chapter 2: Rhetoric: Rhetorical Strangeness

Chapter 3: Technology: Strange Special Effects in The Tempest and The Alchemist

Chapter 4: Philosophy: Desire, Scepticism, and Spectacle in A King and No King and the Age Plays



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Callan Davies researches the cultural, literary, and theatrical history of early modern England. He has taught at universities across the UK and at Shakespeare's Globe, and he is part of the project teams Before Shakespeare and Middling Culture. His work includes studies of Elizabethan playhouses, rhetoric, practice-as-research, and he edits the Curtain playhouse records for the research project Records of Early English Drama (REED).


Thoroughly researched, and elegantly and accessibly written, this book charts a new direction in the analysis of Jacobean drama. This book introduces a new way of writing drama criticism through the lens of a defining concept by demonstrating how the early readers and audiences made emotional and intellectual connections with the plays. Significantly, Davies’s arguments will also inspire critics and students to think of strangeness as an idea that unlocks new pleasures in reading and writing about what are very strange plays indeed.

Book review by Goran Stanivukovic from Renaissance and Reformation 44.1