• Metatheatricality on the Renaissance Stage, the Audience and the Material Space

      Miller, Shannon; Goldblatt, Eli; Storey, Robert F., 1945-; Soufas, Teresa Scott (Temple University. Libraries, 2012)
      My dissertation examines how early modern metatheater enabled the Renaissance stage and its original audience to develop a complex and symbiotic relationship. Metatheater--by which I mean a particular mode of theatre, in which actors, playwrights, dramatic characters and/or (in particular) audiences express or share a perception of drama as a fictional and theatrical construct--pervaded Renaissance drama, not by simple happenstance but arising almost inevitably from the complex context within which it functioned. The early modern stage was a particularly conflicted forum, which monarchs and playwrights, town fathers and actors, censors and audiences, impresarios and anti-theatricalists, all strove to influence and control. The use of the metatheatrical mode allowed playwrights and players to better navigate this difficult, sometimes dangerous, space. In particular, the development of Renaissance metatheater derived from (and, simultaneously, affected) the unique nature of its original spectators, who practiced a much more actively engaged participation in the theater than is often recognized. Performers and playwrights regularly used metatheatricality to adapt to the needs and desires of their audience, and to elicit the intellectual and emotional responses they desired. My study utilizes a historically contextualized approach that emphasizes the material conditions under which Renaissance drama arose and functioned. It begins by examining the influence of the surrounding milieu on the Renaissance stage and its spectators, especially its facilitation of the development and use of metatheater. Then, via close readings of four plays--Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, Shakespeare's Henry V and Antony and Cleopatra, and Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle--the dissertation indicates how varied and versatile early modern metatheater was, and how it responded to and influenced the nature of its audiences. My study demonstrates the centrality of metatheater to early modern theatrical practice, delineates its pervasive influence on the stage-audience relationship in Renaissance theaters, and underlines the influence of material conditions on the creation and dissemination of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.