This book begins and ends with scenes of women silenced. In between, however, its engagement with theatre, history and performance depends upon conversation. It is a pleasure, now, to remember and credit the conversations that went into its writing, most particularly with Barbara Hodgdon, Bill Worthen, Tony Howard and Skip Shand, my closest collaborators as readers and writers, spectators and cultural historians, friends who constantly challenge me to ‘see better’, and, by commenting on successive drafts of this book, to write better, too. Hodgdon’s The Shakespeare Trade, Worthen’s Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance, Shand’s work on actorly reading and Howard’s forthcoming The Woman in Black are the inter-texts that inform my work; my debt to them is everywhere and obvious. I’m grateful also to a wider group of friends and colleagues who share their research with me: Tony Dawson, Miriam Gilbert, Ric Knowles, John Stokes, Marion O’Connor, Bill Ingram, Peter Mack, Jim Bulman, Peter Holland, Russell Jackson, Peter Donaldson, Leeds Barroll, Joyce MacDonald and Mick Jennings (whose crash course in the cultural history of post-war Britain was as invaluable as it was entertaining). Colleagues in the Film, History, and English Departments at Warwick gave me invaluable help in things big and small: Richard Dyer, Victor Perkins, Bernard Capp, Mike Bell, Liz Cameron and Stephen Shapiro. Ed Gallafent and Kate Chedgzoy read various chapters at various times and offered criticism that was as smart as it was supportive. Peter Davidson chased rumours of black bodies in Scotland down to their sources and helped me decipher some devilishly difficult secretary hand.
Invitations in recent years to lecture at York University, the Shakespeare Institute, and on the Shakespeare in Performance circus at Cambridge University have given me opportunities to present preliminary versions of this work. I’m grateful to my hosts on those occasions both for attentive audiences and warm hospitality: Michael Cordner,