Rewriting the Elizabethan Stage (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a fall 2000 semester seminar.

How did theatre entrepreneurs, actors, playwrights, audiences, and patrons collaborate to create the theatrical culture of Elizabethan England? Building upon The Elizabethan Stage, E. K. Chambers' monument of scholarship, the seminar will reconsider the public playhouses, 1593–1603, as material, economic, professional, and sociopolitical entities. The seminar explored a broad selection of issues, including theatrical construction, acting companies (their structure and management), aspects of performance, patronage, touring, theatrical politics, and the evolution of the playhouse as a capitalist enterprise. The seminar attended to the scholarly process of writing theatre history, as well as to the narratives historians have produced in their attempts to define and configure the sociopolitical and professional culture of the Elizabethan stage. Drawing upon the resources of the Folger Library and the holdings of various English record offices, participants worked to fulfill several goals: to familiarize themselves with central issues currently facing theatre historians; to reevaluate some of the most seminal sources relating to the playhouse as a locus of economic and cultural exchange; and to examine some of the myriad methodologies through which the Elizabethan stage is being rewritten. Consequently, the readings and preparation for weekly meetings addressed a combination of twentieth-century writings that revise aspects of Chambers' work along with early documentary materials. Additionally, Sally-Beth MacLean (University of Toronto) introduced participants to the work of the REED Project.

Director: S. P. Cerasano is Professor of English at Colgate University. She coedited Readings in Renaissance Women's Drama (1998), Renaissance Drama by Women: Texts and Documents (1996), and Gloriana's Face: Women, Public and Private, in the English Renaissance (1992) with Marion Wynne-Davies, and is the author of numerous articles on Elizabethan theatre history. She is currently writing a biography of the actor-entrepreneur Edward Alleyn.