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Early Modern Actors and Shakespeare's Theatre
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What skills did Shakespeare's actors bring to their craft? How do these skills differ from those of contemporary actors? Early Modern Actors and Shakespeare's Theatre: Thinking with the Body examines the `toolkit' of the early modern player and suggests new readings of the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries through the lens of their many skills. Theatre is an ephemeral medium. Little remains to us of the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries: some printed texts, scattered documents and records, and a few scraps of description, praise, and detraction. Because most of what survives are printed playbooks, students of English theatre find it easy to forget that much of what happened on the early modern stage took place within the gaps of written language: the implicit or explicit calls for fights, dances, military formations, feats of physical skill, song, and clowning. Theatre historians and textual editors have often ignored or denigrated such moments, seeing them merely as extraneous amusements or signs that the text has been `corrupted' by actors. This book argues that recapturing a positive account of the skills and expertise of the early modern players will result in a more capacious understanding of the nature of theatricality in the period.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Mindful Bodies: Skill Ecologies in Early modern England Chapter 2: Opening Simon Jewell's Box: The Player's Toolkit Chapter 3: `Skill of weapon' Chapter 4: Dancing, Music, and Song Chapter 5: The Skill Behind the Skills: Elocution, Memory, `Vigilancy,' and `Pregnancy of Wit' Chapter 6: Conclusion: Reading Through the Lens of Skill Bibliography; Index

Promotional Information

An examination of Shakespeare's theatres through the lens of the skills actors needed to perform it.

About the Author

Evelyn Tribble is Donald Collie Chair and Professor of English at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Reviews

Tribble (Univ. of Otago, New Zealand) has written a study that will be of great use to those interested in Shakespeare or English Renaissance drama. As the subtitle infers, the volume engages the idea of the specific skills Renaissance actors needed in order to perform, and how they differ from the skills of contemporary actors. The author devotes chapters to dance, stage combat and fighting, improvisation and wit, and gesture and movement. Drawing on scripts, contemporaneous accounts, and the work of other scholars, Tribble is convincing in framing her contentions and constructing the notion of "mindful bodies" of actors trained to perform dances and fights for an audience knowledgeable about such practices. In the introduction the author contextualizes the book in the larger body of scholarship on Renaissance performance practice, the theoretical framing of skills, and the examination of kinesic intelligence on reconstructed stages. A conclusion focuses on how re-creation of "original performances" is often disappointing to contemporary audiences, who are not used to such practices and whose expectations are not trained by film and television. This volume will valuable to the scholar, but even more valuable to contemporary artists who perform Renaissance drama. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. * CHOICE * Early Modern Actors and Shakespeare's Theatre flips a critical switch and reminds us that we are constantly reading each other's bodies, and that we continually struggle to control our own ... I look forward to deploying Tribble's appealing, lucid prose in my own classroom, and using her work to encourage students to think `with the body' when?launching their own interpretations. It's worth noting how effortless Tribble makes rather sophisticated intellectual labor appear. Throughout her writings, she demonstrates exhaustive knowledge not only of early modern theater and culture, but also cites studies from cognitive science, sociology, anthropology, and dance-really, anything that might be helpful to our understanding. This interdisciplinary, resourceful, and imaginative pursuit of a largely absent target synthesizes a wealth of thinking. It models what can only be described as profoundly skillful scholarship. * Marginalia Review of Books * Evelyn Tribble is one of the foremost scholars of early modern acting working today ... This detailed study of the physical and cognitive demands of the early modern playhouse sheds new light on the skills possessed by the first performers of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Situating early modern actors in a "distributed cognitive ecology" markedly different from that inhabited by actors today, Tribble offers sensitive and well-historicized considerations of, on the one hand, the physical skills required of players and remarked upon by playgoers (gesture, movement, dance, swordplay) and, on the other, "the skills behind the skills": qualities such as wit and variety which, while not visible or tangible, were paramount to successful and memorable performance. In doing so, she provides inventive-and often brilliant-re-readings of early modern plays from the ultra-canonical to the most neglected. A masterful bridging of texts and disciplines, the work is important-even essential-reading for any early modern performance scholar ... The book offers a new and exciting framework for the study of even the best-known plays. It can only be hoped that future scholars will continue, so inventively, to bring early modern actors center stage. * Shakespeare Bulletin *

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