Placing and Playing the Past: History, Politics, and Spatial Ambiguity in Richard Mulcaster’s The Queen’s Majesty’s Passage and Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II
- Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association
- Midwest Modern Language Association
- Volume 48, Number 2, Fall 2015
- pp. 71-94
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- Additional Information
This paper explores how, with England’s history as narrative vehicle, performance becomes an opportunity to locate past in present in early modern England--redefining past’s significance in the now and to the now of the audience. However, as Richard Mulcaster’s The Queen’s Majesty’s Passage and Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II illustrate, the political projects historical dramatization can serve vary greatly in the sixteenth century. In The Queen’s Majesty’s Passage, all of London turns into a civic stage that, through allegorically re-conceiving historical figures, reaffirms existing hierarchical structures and presents their new monarch as the fulfillment of England’s mythic past: as tradition and national identity exemplified. In Edward II, the playhouse becomes a place which re-imagines the past to problematize the very same concepts that the Passage seeks to unify by leaving concepts of monarch, royal authority, and Englishness open and ambiguous. So, while both performances blur lines--doubling and troubling distinctions between past-present-future and spaces in performance--these historical dramatizations diverge at the site of the spectator: on the role of individuals in defining identity, nation, community, and king for themselves.