Abstract

This essay discusses how shame in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is developed in moments of outright mutual recognition between two entities-early modern playgoers and drama. I suggest that spectators did more than merely respond to shame in Twelfth Night; as seminal collaborators in theatrical culture, they expressly produced and perpetuated the passion. Put differently, Renaissance theatergoers participated in the exchange of feeling between stage and world by mutually co-creating both the passion's conditions for production as well as its dissemination. Further, spectators to Shakespeare's comedy might have assisted the drama in shame cultivation only to, perhaps surprisingly, reject the play's affective demand for it. As I explain, the characters portrayed on stage in Twelfth Night were unruly entities characterized by humoral excess and distemper. Through interaction with these stage figures and their temperaments, playgoers likely felt a heightened-and, I submit, shameful-awareness of their own affective susceptibility. Put out by the play's scathing insistence that they embodied the same impassioned intemperance as its emotionally unkempt characters, playgoers created and engaged shame only to refuse to bear full witness to that passion. In Twelfth Night, we see a unique emotional transaction in which early modern audiences cultivated performed passion to then overtly disregard-affectively disavow-the emotional demands made of them by Shakespearean comedy.

Keywords

Affective reciprocity,Early modern theater,Early modern spectators,Shame,Emotional exchange,Dynamism,Humours,Passions,Renaissance playgoing

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 131-134
Launched on MUSE
2006-09-12
Open Access
No
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