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Title: "The most cunning and curious musick ... out of discords" : John Webster's tragicomic endings
Author: Pearson, Jacqueline
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1976
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When a play ends, the audience must make a complicated readjustment from their absorption in the enacted fiction to their return to real life. In Jacobean tragicomedy a double readjustment must be made. The last act of the play inverts the facts that the play-world seems to have established: the audience must adjust from one fiction to another, and then the play must return them altogether from fiction to their places in the theatre. The tragicomic dramatist must help the audience through this maze of fictions and back to the workaday world, and he does this by describing the play's genre and its fictional nature, by analysing its rhetoric, and by presenting images of play and masque, actors and audience. The tragicomedies of Marston, Beaumont and Fletcher and others seem to establish a special relationship with their audience. Play after play presents the audience, directly or indirectly, by means of induction, prologue and epilogue, or the play within the play. Final acts are especially rich in this kind of imagery as the author leads the audience out of the play. Jacobean tragicomedy was so popular in its own day because of the wide range of emotions it encompassed, and partly because of its double vision, its ability simultaneously to use and to parody its own rhetoric and conventions. Perhaps most important, it was popular because of this intimate relationship it established with its audience: the audience is used as a dramatic character. The plays of John Webster, tragedies as well as tragicomedies, seem to use particularly fruitfully the conventions of tragicomedy. The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi as well as The Devil's Law-case and A Cure for a Cuckold present burlesque of tragedy, use extensively the language of comedy, juxtapose the genres, and are sceptical about the rhetoric of tragedy. Especially important, the end of the play mediates for the audience between the fiction and the return to fact by images of acting and audience, descriptions of genre, and discussions of the nature of drama.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Theater History