Making and unmaking in early modern English drama

Spectators, aesthetics and incompletion

By Chloe Porter

Making and unmaking in early modern English drama

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8497-3
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: February 2014
  • BIC Category: Literature, Literary studies: plays & playwrights, HISTORY / Social History, LITERARY CRITICISM / Drama, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: plays & playwrights


Why are early modern English dramatists preoccupied with unfinished processes of 'making' and 'unmaking'? And what did the terms 'finished' or 'incomplete' mean for dramatists and their audiences in this period?

Making and unmaking in early modern English drama is about the significance of visual things that are 'under construction' in works by playwrights including Shakespeare, Robert Greene and John Lyly. Illustrated with examples from across visual and material culture, it opens up new interpretations of the place of aesthetic form in the early modern imagination. Plays are explored as a part of a lively post-Reformation visual culture, alongside a diverse range of contexts and themes, including iconoclasm, painting, sculpture, clothing and jewellery, automata and invisibility.

Asking what it meant for Shakespeare and his contemporaries to 'begin' or 'end' a literary or visual work, this book is essential reading for scholars and students of early modern English drama, literature, visual culture and history.


Introduction: speaking pictures?
1. Early modern English drama and visual culture
2. 'In the keeping of Paulina': the unknowable image in The Winter's Tale
3. 'But begun for others to end': the ends of incompletion
4. 'The brazen head lies broken': divine destruction in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
5. Going unseen: invisibility and erasure in The Two Merry Milkmaids
Conclusion: behind the screen


Chloe Porter is Lecturer in English Literature 1500-1700 at the University of Sussex

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