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Reviews485 sumably as a function of expense (like many of the engraved plates used in emblem books) and may have had little or nothing to do with the subject they purportedly illustrate. He warns against taking on trust even those woodcuts purporting by caption to represent actual characters from the early editions of such plays as Hick Scorner and Everyman . This book is a welcome and significant addition to the study of performance arts in England before 1580. Here and there one might feel a twinge of disappointment that there is not more reference to or debate with other scholars who have worked in the field such as Glynne Wickham, V. A. Kolve, and T. W. Craik. Nevertheless, Illustrations ofthe Stage and Acting in England to 1580 is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the visual component in performance arts in England before the time of Shakespeare and who knows that what we see is as important to our understanding as what we hear or read. CHRISTOPHER WORTHAM University of Western Australia Peter Thomson. Shakespeare's Professional Career. Cambridge: University Press, 1992. Pp. xvi + 217. $39.95. Peter Thomson's Shakespeare's Professional Career seems to be aimed more at undergraduate students taking a first course in Shakespeare than at scholars and professors. Thomson's avowed aim is not to interpret the plays but to explain the political, economic, and dramatic environment in which Shakespeare wrote. For students not familiar with the politics and politicians of the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods, or with the theaters and acting companies of the time, this book should be enlightening. For those who have been teaching Shakespeare for thirty or forty years, the book does not offer much, but addressing that audience probably was not Thomson's intention. Beginning with Shakespeare at Stratford, while Thomson admits that there is no good evidence about Shakespeare's activities between the birth of his twins in 1585 and the first reference to him at London in 1592, he spends much time on the Stanley family, hinting that Shakespeare might have been a tutor for that family. And he suggests that Shakespeare might possibly by that means have connected with Henry Stanley's acting company and later with Ferdinando Stanley's company. (It is not clear why Henry is called the fourth Earl of Derby instead of the thirteenth or Ferdinando, Lord Strange, the fifth earl instead of the fourteenth.) A more convincing theory to explain how a local lad from Stratford could hook onto a nationally known acting company would seem to have been when the Earl of Leicester's company came to Stratford in June 1587, having been on tour for two 486Comparative Drama years and thus short of new plays, and having two weeks earlier had an actor killed in the freak accident of being run over by a beer wagon. Perhaps Shakespeare read them his translation of Plautus' Comedy of Errors and convinced them of both his writing and acting abilities. When Leicester died a year later, Shakespeare may well have joined Lord Strange 's company (at least his cohorts Kempe, Bryan, Pope, and Sly did). As for acting style, Thomson quite rightly rejects the modern notion that Elizabethan actors preceded Stanislavski in any concern for method acting, but it may be going a bit far the other way to suggest that "the primary purpose of an Elizabethan actor was to deliver his part of the story" or that "Edward Alleyn was a rhetorician, not an actor of characters." If the essence of drama is action and reaction, as Aristotle and a long line since have asserted, surely Elizabethan actors would not simply stand and orate their roles, as Thomson seems to suggest. Thomson also is reluctant to accept Ann Jennalie Cook's argument that the audiences of Shakespeare's time were the privileged upper and middle classes, because the history of the theater "is peppered with stories of riots." It should be pointed out that most of these "riots" occurred on Pancake Tuesday when lower-class apprentices got the day off and were famous for destroying bawdy houses as well as for going to the theater. On any other...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 485-487
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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