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596Comparative Drama text of family and national economies. Though the plays and sermons ofthe time do not explain the economic implications, the possession and wearing of trendy clothing probably were in fact a burden on many families, as we will see when we look into the very high cost of imported silks and other expensive kinds of cloth that became available in the course of the fifteenth century. Further, the importing of luxury goods probably did affect the balance of trade adversely in England and may have helped to bring on the economic depression that afflicted the provincial cities through much of the sixteenth century. Part of Sponsler's difficulty lies in her habit of frequently taking modern (or self-proclaimed postmodern) critics, often speaking with doubtful validity, as authorities on a par with earlier documentation. Hence in her discussion of such matters as blood or nudity she is very far off the mark, and in her imposition of the idea of plays as commodities that are consumed by consumers she is applying economic concepts that are not really appropriate, especially for the pre-capitalist society that was late medieval and early modern England. Commodities —costumes, pageant wagons, platform stages, paint, even pyrotechnics —are used in the staging of the plays, but the plays themselves cannot be reduced to mere things. In the case of the great civic plays of York, Coventry, and Chester, audiences were not customers either, though some, as the York records indicate, paid for seating on stands along the pageant route. People came to these religious plays not as purchasers of theatrical commodities but as viewers with various motives. And surely a major purpose was for playgoers to imagine themselves connected spiritually to the scenes of salvation history not so differently from the ways in which the Blackburns placed themselves in relation to sacred figures in the glass above the images that depicted themselves in All Saints, North Street. Seeing plays was a cognitive experience in which one's eyes were believed literally to touch the living images of men depicting the working out of good and evil on the stage. So-called "postmodern " theory is not very helpful in establishing the full range of dynamics of such a theater, but Sponsler's application of it nevertheless is useful in making us think seriously about many aspects of the early stage. Serious engagement with this book will make one come away with a thorough reexamination of one's thinking about the early drama. CLIFFORD DAVIDSON Western Michigan University Jonathan Baldo. The Unmasking of Drama: Contested Representation in Shakespeare's Tragedies. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996. Pp. 213. $39.95. In recent years the impact of semiotics and phenomenology on the study of drama has yielded much work addressing, in one way or an- Reviews597 other, the concept of representation. Jonathan Baldo expands the scope of this body of work by linking notions of dramatic representation in Shakespearean tragedy with evolving ideas about political representation . This fundamental linkage allows Baldo to take up some of the most hotly contested questions in current political and critical debate: who is authorized to speak? who may speak for, or in the interests of, another? While the implications of his study are strongly to the moment, Baldo's argument is well grounded in historical evidence. He contends that Shakespearean tragedy negotiates the shifting grounds between a late-medieval notion of monarch and Parliament as symbolic presences embodying the entire realm and the modern sense whereby a kingly or political representative functions as an agent acting on behalf of other individuals. For Baldo, whereas the earlier tragedies evince a normative confidence in a corporeal concept of representation, the Jacobean tragedies actively contend with the notion of a leader standing for a group of people in any general sense. Like Pauline Kiernan's recent Shakespeare's Theory of Drama, Baldo's The Unmasking of Drama argues against a notion of Shakespearean drama as illusionistic or mimetic, and holds instead that the plays advance reflexive consideration of their own mode. But whereas Kiernan documents a complex set of Shakespearean reflections on theatrical performance, Baldo's concerns lie more resolutely in the sphere of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 596-600
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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