1st Edition

Strangeness in Jacobean Drama

By Callan Davies Copyright 2021
    214 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    214 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.

    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




    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

    ''Callan Davies’s Strangeness in Jacobean Drama is an attempt to understand and think through some of the changes to performance, dramaturgy, and language that seem to have occurred in the late 1600s and early 1610s. As with most issues surrounding early modern drama, this change is commonly understood through the filter of Shakespeare. Davies’s study is somewhat unique (or dare I say strange) in that it is organized around a single word and animated by a desire to understand that word. That being said, he notes that in the early modern era the word itself was poorly defined and was often stretched beyond what could be clearly articulated. I would recommend his discussion of rhetoric (86–91) to anyone who wants a brief but full exploration of this rich and complex early modern discipline. And really, anyone looking for an interesting and novel exploration of early Jacobean literature would do well to pick up Davies’s fascinating work.''

    Book Review by Eric Dunnum from Early Theatre 25.1 (2022)