Unruly audiences and the theater of control in early modern London


Unruly audiences and the theater of control in early modern London

Eric Dunnum

(Studies in performance and early modern drama)

Routledge, 2020

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Revision of author's dissertation at Marquette University, [2011]

Includes bibliographical references(p.[235]-256) and index



Unruly Audiences and the Theater of Control in Early Modern London explores the effects of audience riots on the dramaturgy of early modern playwrights, arguing that playwrights from Marlowe to Brome often used their plays to control the physical reactions of their audience. This study analyses how, out of anxiety that unruly audiences would destroy the nascent industry of professional drama in England, playwrights sought to limit the effect that their plays could have on the audience. They tried to construct playgoing through their drama in the hopes of creating a less-reactive, more pensive, and controlled playgoer. The result was the radical experimentation in dramaturgy that, in part, defines Renaissance drama. Written for scholars of Early Modern and Renaissance Drama and Theatre, Theatre History, and Early Modern and Renaissance History, this book calls for a new focus on the local economic concerns of the theatre companies as a way to understand the motivation behind the drama of early modern London.


  • Introduction: The Alterity of Early Modern Audiences Chapter 1: Audience Response to Performance: Fear of Riots, Closures and Unruly Playgoers Chapter 2: Performance's Response to Audience: The Relationship among Audience, Performance and Reality Chapter 3: Fictional Audience's Responses to Fictional Performances: The Didactic Role of Metadrama Chapter 4: Unstable Texts, Active Readers
  • Stable Performances, Non-Reactive Playgoers Chapter 5: Anti-Mimetic Drama: Performance's Relationship to Reality and the Playgoer's Interpretive Agency Coda: Return to Malfi: The Secrecy of Performance and the Consequences of Constructing Playgoing

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