A Spectator’s Role
Chapter Two: Renaissance Dramaturgy
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Recreating a performance from a time before arrival of the modern media is an uncertain business: reviews, personal impressions, pictures, surviving costumes and props—all cannot fully document the original experience, and even with modern recording resources the elusive interaction of actors and spectators tends to be lost or at best distorted. However, the reconstructed Globe on Bankside in London invites us to resite aesthetic discussions of Shakespeare’s plays in approximately the kind of venue for which they were systematically and consciously designed by the playwright. At least some of the original spatial relationships may be evoked, even if the character of the first spectators is largely lost and cannot be duplicated. Performance experiences on the site may offer some clues about those appropriate to such a space latent in the scripts for theatres such as the Globe, and about the type of interaction possible between actors and spectators explored by such scholars as Andrew Gurr and Alan Dessen. Despite Stephen Greenblatt’s references to ideological “negotiations” in Elizabethan theatres between professionals and their customers, such interpretative literary critics as the New Historicists attempt little detailed demonstration of specific theatrical interaction as a self-sufficient subject of critical exposition. Their emphasis has tended to abstract aesthetic, sociological, political, or even moralistic censure of texts. This negative emphasis is itself traditional, for (as Jonas Barish describes in The Anti-Theatrical Prejudice) it was shared by the theoreticians of the sixteenth-century, such as Sir Philip...
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