This essay brings together two Renaissance illustrations (or sets of illustrations) that have for a long time been held apart, despite the clear potential for their mutual explication—an interpretive correspondence that, in turn, bears on speculation about early modern acting. The Longleat manuscript contains the only surviving sketch of a Shakespeare performance made in his lifetime, but many of its elements have raised more questions than answers, including the significance of its arm and hand gestures. John Bulwer’s illustrations and analysis of gestures in Chirologia. . .Chironomia (1644) would seem to be instructive in this case, but because of the text’s current estimation as a wholly prescriptive rhetoric or book of sign language for the deaf, it has rarely been thought relevant to the popular stage. The discussion begins by rethinking the aims of Bulwer’s text and, through an analysis of Hamlet 2.1, outlining its connection to an idea of gesture typical of Shakespeare’s plays. After then situating Bulwer’s illustrations among earlier manuscript and print examples of drawn eloquence, the study ends by comparing the Longleat gestures with those described in the Chirologia. . .Chironomia. Rather than a series of simplistic associations, the comparisons offered here highlight the copiousness within formal expressions of emotion, and the subtle ways in which these fixed meanings might have been exploited on stage.


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pp. 65-96
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