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Title: Play-making on the edge of reality : managing spectator risk in early English drama
Author: van Pelt, Nadia
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis places the notion of risk and the diversity of treatment that the management of risk involves, at the centre of the discourse about Early English drama. It locates the spectator’s experience on the edge of reality and fiction. Offering an alternative to current theories of metatheatricality and cognitive theory, this research attempts to contribute to knowledge by arguing that the most important element of the dramatic experience exists between the two poles of an awareness of artifice and absorption, and that the dramatic experience is managed by playwright, actor and spectator with respect to these two poles. This thesis focuses on the spectator, not just on the absorbed spectator who ‘lives’ in the drama, such as one finds in cognitive studies, or on the reflective spectator who is conscious of the artifice of drama, such as in metatheatrical studies, but rather on participatory spectators, and on spectators moving between the two positions of absorption and reflection. The case studies in this thesis are reflective of the contexts of early English dramatic performance: they show how similar issues were controlled differently in different contexts; that there might be no clear boundary between Catholic and Protestant drama in terms of spectator management; that some playwrights had political reasons to believe it best if they did not manage their spectators’ experience, while other playwrights displayed a deep commitment to controlling not only spectators’ experiences and responses during the performance but also afterwards, suggesting that risk management is not an act but rather a process; that dramatic performance could cause disaster if not sufficiently managed, or if the performance context in which the drama was performed, was misjudged, but that the use of the dramatic medium could also be recuperated by later events of a similar nature. Examining drama in its specific literary and historical context, this thesis reconstructs the play-experience not only through the plays, but also through a study of how plays were described in Star Chamber records, ambassadorial records, eye-witness accounts, and other records. It clarifies early drama’s most fundamental characteristic to be an intervention in society, and as such always relating to non-dramatic issues, and inevitably carrying risk with it.
Supervisor: Mcgavin, John ; King, Ros ; Hunt, Alice ; Millett, Elizabeth ; Warner, Lawrence Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater