UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Admission : figuring the early modern theatre Preus, Eve


Drawing from theories of the theatre that interrogate the master image/metaphor of theatre-as-life, my thesis “Admission: Figuring the Early Modern Theatre” develops a poetics of admission, or a theory of early modern theatrical form that takes into account its penchant for metatheatrical device and its obsession with the incorporation of strangers. What is a stranger? What might it mean to integrate the Other into the self and into society? The theatre stages a face-to-face encounter between two ostensible strangers—the performers and the audience. At the level of the medium, then, is an interest in the ways we come to know and let others in. The early modern stage was extremely interested in this process, self-consciously experimenting with, interrogating, and evaluating the tensions and possibilities inherent in the articulation of the human via live illusion. While the influx and management of strangers were growing concerns in the burgeoning metropolis of early modern London, the theatre became a sight to organize these concerns in a way that, perhaps unconsciously, returned them to their metaphysical origins. My thesis examines several early modern characters that are strangers, or become strangers, within the communities of their respective play realities: the deposed King Richard II; the outcast Jewish money-lender, Shylock; the bastard son of Troy, Thersites; and the revenge tragedians and madmen, Hieronimo and Hamlet. These characters, I argue, double as constitutive elements of theatrical practice: the character that seems to pre-exist its live iteration; the actor who must embody a character; the audience who watches on the periphery; and the theatrical event as a whole, or the constructed world that recedes once the performance is over. The metatheatrical effect of these characters who double as strangers and theatrical practice is a stage whose illusions and performance conditions consistently render the process of becoming human— of being recognized and incorporated into new worlds—as a process of admission.

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