Early modern character lists, frequently overlooked but vital paratexts, have a manifest ability to shape readers' understandings of the plot and characters. This article traces their origins from performance-oriented guides in Tudor interludes, through the para-textual scarcity of playbooks associated with the emergence of professional theaters in the 1580s and 1590s, to their reinvention as maps of fictional social spaces in Stuart and Restoration drama. It argues that, far from being mechanical lists, dramatis personae offered authors a space to revisit their characters and in this bear evidence of authorial self-reflection; furthermore, it evaluates lists provided by stationers as early editorial responses to the dramatic texts. The trends promoted by authors and stationers, however, did not go uncontested by readers who readily appropriated character lists to better suit their needs. Considering the influence of these agents, the article examines the evolution of character lists in the context of publishing and theatrical enterprises, as well as that of turbulent social changes in the seventeenth century.


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pp. 312-342
Launched on MUSE
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