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Title: The mask of simplicity : religion, politics and dramaturgy in the plays of William Rowley (fl.1607-1626).
Author: Nicol, David Ralf.
Awarding Body: University of Central England in Birmingham
Current Institution: Birmingham City University
Date of Award: 2002
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Abstract:
This purpose of this thesis is twofold: to analyse the drama of William Rowley in search of characteristic assumptions, ideas and dramaturgical techniques; and to consolidate available knowledge about Rowley's canon. William Rowley was a prolific Jacobean dramatist, but his work has been under-appreciated because of assumptions about the inferiority of popular playwrights, and because of the practical difficulties of studying dramatists whose output is primarily collaborative. The thesis argues that it is possible to find in Rowley's writing qualities that distinguish him from his collaborators, and that understanding these qualities is of great importance in the interpretation of the plays to which he contributed. Rowley is revealed as a playwright, company manager and clown-actor, who was rooted in popular culture. His drama offers unusually radical stances on politics and gender, as well as a coherent religious perspective. The thesis begins with a theoretical justification of reading collaborative drama from an author-centred perspective. A methodological approach is proposed which emphasises the possibility of tracing the effects created by the differences between writers within a collaborative text. The next chapter puts this methodology into practice by reading The Changeling as a collaborative work. By comparing the methods of characterisation in Rowley's tragedy, All's Lost by Lust, with those of Thomas Middleton's tragedies, it is demonstrated that some of the effects generated by The Changeling are the result of differences between recurring dramaturgical choices of the two playwrights. The next three chapters demonstrate three more distinctive qualities of Rowley's writing: an unusual response to the questions of social mobility that were important in Jacobean London (Chapter 3); a distinctive method of representing female charactersw ho are independento f the patriarchal gender systemt hat demands female submission (Chapter 4); and a characteristic method of structuring clown subplots (Chapter 5). In each chapter, Rowley's distinctiveness is demonstrated by comparing his plays with those of other dramatists on similar subjects. The conclusion shows that the notion of `simplicity' was important to Rowley's writing, and suggests that Rowley's clowning was an influence on the distinctive ideas that are discussed in the main body of the thesis. It is therefore possible to describe an `authorial identity' for Rowley, which can be used as a valid aid to interpretation of the plays to which he contributed. The thesis includes a long Appendix, which offers a detailed consideration of the dates, theatrical auspices and authorship of Rowley's drama, in an attempt at clarifying and consolidating available knowledge. Stylistic attribution techniques are used to ascertain the authorship of plays that have not yet been studied in this way.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.395339  DOI: Not available
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