Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the Economy of Theatrical Experience

Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the Economy of Theatrical Experience

Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the Economy of Theatrical Experience

Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the Economy of Theatrical Experience

Synopsis

This study explores the structure of psychological, social and political exchanges that were negotiated between audiences and plays in Elizabethan public theatres in a period ostensibly dominated by Shakespeare, but strongly rooted in Marlowe.

Excerpt

This book addresses several collateral subjects and concerns. It is, most prominently, a book about the structure of exchanges -- psychological, social, and political -- that were negotiated between audiences and plays in Elizabethan public theaters in a period ostensibly dominated by Shakespeare but strongly rooted in Marlowe. It is also a book that attempts, somewhat presumptuously, to re-assemble critically -- through the medium of an applied model of audience response -- theatrical experiences that are neither specifically my own, nor (for the most part) directly attributable to historically specific individuals or audiences. While the interactions between audiences and plays that I construct are largely hypothetical, they have (I will argue) a very plausible basis in the design of the playtexts in question, in the conditions of their production, and in the range of responses that were available to Elizabethan playgoers.

Another concern of the book is to apply its interest in theatrical experience to plays by Marlowe and Shakespeare that do not usually "speak" to each other in comparative estimates of their work, which generally focus on style, theme, or influence. I have chosen to link Marlowe and Shakespeare to the theoretical concerns of this project not only because their names are associated with a particularly provocative set of plays, but because they have traditionally functioned as embodiments of opposed and often irreconcilable ideas about theatrical experience. It is not my purpose here to reconcile them in a single, all-embracing interpretive economy. Rather, I intend to explore distinct moments of their participation in a shared theatrical enterprise -- to which they both gave shape and which shaped their productions -- in an effort to translate the comparatist debate into theatrical terms. in the process, I intend to demonstrate that their plays were jointly situated in the "web" of a theatrical apparatus that characteristically complicated the translation of apparent authorial intentions into predictable effects.

The book is divided into four parts of two chapters each, and includes a brief introduction in which I take issue with traditionally polarized estimates of Marlowe and Shakespeare in an effort to establish a more . . .

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