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Palgrave Macmillan

The Aesthetics of Spectacle in Early Modern Drama and Modern Cinema

Robert Greene's Theatre of Attractions

ISBN 9781137332417
Publication Date September 2013
Formats Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) Hardcover 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

This is a highly original study, which offers an innovative new approach towards the study of early modern drama. This book examines the work of the Elizabethan playwright, Robert Greene, arguing that his plays are innovative in their use of spectacle. This study's most striking feature is the use of the one-to-one analogies between Greene's drama and modern cinema, in order to explore the plays' stage effects.
While recent Shakespearean criticism interprets his drama through the lens of performance, criticism of non-Shakespearean drama continues to disconnect the plays from even the scarce performances of them today. This book aims to bring the study of performance into the realm of non-Shakespearean drama so that the plays of Shakespeare's contemporaries might not descend further into obscurity.
This innovative study advocates the rejection of a purely text-based interpretation of drama and emphasizes the powerful visual dimension of the early modern stage.

Jenny Sager has taught early modern drama at the University of Oxford and Bath Spa University, UK. She has published articles in Early Modern Literary Studies, the University of Durham's Postgraduate Journal and the Lost Plays Database. She is currently editing a special issue of the Shakespeare Bulletin on the subject of early modern drama and film.

List of Illustrations
1. The Aesthetics of Spectacle
2. Stage Properties
3. The Leviathan in Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene's A Looking Glass
4. Resurrecting the Body in James IV
5. The Brazen Head in Alphonsus and Friar Bacon and Friar Bacon
6. Stage Conventions
7. Madness and Creativity in Orlando Furioso
8. The Aesthetics of Violence in Selimus


"Jenny Sager's The Aesthetics of Spectacle cleverly reimagines the use of popular cinema as a critical context to rethink the hidden aesthetic prejudices that surround current scholarship's neglect of the material, iconic spectacle of early modern drama." — Craig Dionne, Eastern Michigan University, USA
"...offers a novel corrective to those who would put too much stock into the derision for professional theater that so permeates Greene's most quoted line. As The Aesthetics of Spectacle in Early Modern Drama and Modern Cinema succeeds in showing, Greene's plays — Groatsworth's suspicion of "upstart Crows" and "Players hydes" notwithstanding — frequently manifest a deep and sophisticated investment in the properties and conventions of the early modern stage." — Kirk Melnikoff, Renaissance Quarterly
"Gravity broke a record in 2013 by taking $400 million in October at the box-office. Some time between 1611 and 1615, some twenty years after Friar Bacon first played, a riotous crowd shouted their suggestion for a play to be staged: 'Friars, Friars' (Sager 141). Sager's fresh and lively study shows that Robert Greene and his spectacular plays were themselves sixteenth- and seventeenth-centurybox-office sensations; from emblem images and whale pamphlets through stoicism to early modern melancholy and religious tension, her monograph makes a series of eloquent and historically-informed readings that suggest why they were so popular—and why the 'wonder, terror and possibility' generated by a film like Gravity are essential intellectual and aesthetic aspects of the early modern theater, too." — Callan Davies, Shakespeare Bulletin
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