1st Edition

Venus’s Palace Shakespeare and the Antitheatricalists

By Reut Barzilai Copyright 2023

    This book lays bare the dialogue between Shakespeare and critics of the stage and positions it as part of an ongoing cultural, ethical, and psychological debate about the effects of performance on actors and on spectators. In so doing, the book makes a substantial contribution both to the study of representations of theatre in Shakespeare’s plays and to the understanding of ethical concerns about acting and spectating—then, and now.

    The book opens with a comprehensive and coherent analysis of the main early modern English anxieties about theater and its power. These are read against twentieth- and twenty-first-century theories of acting, interviews with actors, and research into the effects of media representation on spectator behaviour, all of which demonstrate the lingering relevance of antitheatrical claims and the personal and philosophical implications of acting and spectating. The main part of the book reveals Shakespeare’s responses to major antitheatrical claims about the powerful effects of poetry, music, playacting, and playgoing. It also demonstrates the evolution of Shakespeare’s view of these claims over the course of his career: from light-hearted parody in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, through systematic contemplation in Hamlet, to acceptance and dramatization in The Tempest.

    This study will be of great interest to scholars and students of theater, English literature, history, and culture.



    Chapter 1 The Theater Controversies in Early Modern England

    Playhouse, Prayer-house, Profit, and Plague

    Actors and Audience

    Chapter 2 True Performing and Verses of Feigning Love: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Early Modern English Antitheatricality

    "Verses of Feigning Love"—Poetry in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    "True Performing"—Theater in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    Conclusion: Poets and Players

    Chapter 3 Hamlet as Shakespeare’s Defense of Theater

    Ethical and Ontological Concerns about Theater

    The Laughter of the Barren Spectators


    Chapter 4 "In My Power": The Tempest as Shakespeare’s Antitheatrical Vision

    Theater and Spectacle in The Tempest and in the Antitheatrical Discourse

    Music in The Tempest

    In Your Power: Shakespeare’s Defense of Music and Drama

    Afterword Poets, Pipers, and Players



    Reut Barzilai is a lecturer at the University of Haifa, Israel. She has published articles in the academic journals Shakespeare and Multicultural Shakespeare and written several study guides on Shakespeare for the Open University.