This article establishes how modern cultural mores and movements have led to renewed interest in Marlowe by exploring the presentation of Helen of Troy in Doctor Faustus in four RSC productions, spanning three decades, of the play. It is particularly interested in the company's consistent association of the character with illicit or alternate sexualities, arguing that the persistent centralization of the silent and small role of Helen in publicity and in reviews ultimately displaces the aural pleasures of Marlowe's great versifier with a spectacle of taboo sexuality: a concept that has changed significantly in the twenty-year history of Faustus at the RSC. The varying presentations of the character, the article suggests, therefore provide an intriguing index of what is sexually-and politically-illicit, offering a glimpse of how period culture responds to taboo by approving or rejecting the specific theatrical choices that create a production's "face that launched a thousand ships" and the body to which it is attached. In so doing, the essay seeks to demonstrate how well Marlowe lends himself, in the modern day, to the allure and anxiety surrounding sex and nudity on stage, which in turn allows the RSC to reproduce him as "Other," simultaneously appealing to a contemporary desire for titillation while, at the same time, reiterating its-and Shakespeare's-mainstream status.


Marlowe,RSC,Faustus,Helen of Troy,Sexuality,Taboo,Nudity,Performance history,Politics,Mainstream


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pp. 69-79
Launched on MUSE
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