Stillness in Motion in the Seventeenth Century Theatre

By P. A. Skantze | Go to book overview
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Theatrically pressed

Pamphletheatre and the performance of a nation


This chapter examines the years generally considered a “gap” in performance history between ‘Renaissance’ and ‘Restoration’ theatre. Though the established theatres were for the most part closed from 1642 to 1660, performances of pamphlets, of playlets and other forms of ephemeral print took place in public theatricals or a pamphletheatre. Because of the crisis of production and the pressure put upon print to replace or to reinvent what had been the domain of the public theatrical, the works of the period and their reception give evidence of the continuing collaboration of textual creation and performance. Through the examination of stillness and motion in the public, popular sphere of pamphlet writing, performance, and reception, I argue against the false separation made by limiting the history of seventeenth-century performance and theatre to the periods before and after the Interregnum. The subject is vast: the chapter does not offer a survey, but rather points to ways to consider the pamphlet exchange of the Interregnum in terms of performance ‘companies’ of dissenters and public reception of pamphlet writing, as well as offering specific examples of works created for the pamphletheatre by John Milton and Richard Overton.

One morning in 1997 New Yorkers woke, collected their ‘paper of record’ and noticed to their horror, if they had a moral attachment to the form the news arrives in, that The New York Times had gone ‘color.’ For the citizens who chose the Times primarily for its ‘serious’ and ‘comprehensive’ news reporting, the gaudy color pictures slapped onto the front page of each section betrayed sober reporting for flashy, advertising tactics. Color signaled a difference in intent for the paper. While the columns and columns of newsprint flowed down the paper in an orderly fashion, there to be read and then discarded (or recycled), the dressing up of the paper seemed to render the news itself a visual object…more importantly… an object that could be comprehended visually, not solely by reading.


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