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'Played o 'th' stage': Jacobean and Caroline revenge tragedy at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre

posted on 2010-12-09, 14:18 authored by Reem Dababneh
This thesis is a systematic investigation of the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of all the Jacobean and Caroline revenge tragedies performed to date at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon since its opening in 1986. The main plays studied are Tourneur's/Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy (1606), Webster's The White Devil (1612) and The Duchess of Malfi (1614), Middleton's and Rowley's The Changeling (1622), and Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore and The Broken Heart (both first printed in 1633). Also, Marston's The Malcontent (1603) and Massinger's The Roman Actor (1626) are discussed briefly in the conclusion. My analysis of the plays aims to provide key insights about the theatrical potential of each play, and how it was externalised on the stage of the Swan. The introduction of the thesis is in two main parts. It begins with an exposition of my approach and methods, and an outline of the literary context of Jacobean and Caroline revenge tragedies and some of the problems in staging them for a present-day audience; then it describes in detail the history and structure of early modem playhouses and of the Swan Theatre at Stratfordupon- Avon. A chapter on each of the six plays whose production is analysed at length next follows. The plays are considered for the most part according to their chronological order rather than the chronology of their staging at Stratford. The reasons for this are that all were discrete productions for which different directors were responsible, and that no development of production strategy or other clear pattern between them is evident, other than their common aim of striking a balance between the staging of a seventeenth-century playtext and the need to make it exciting and accessible for a modem audience. As a result, the six chapters that analyse specific productions in detail focus principally on each of the main plays studied, producing insights that, I hope, advance knowledge about them but also develop issues in common between them where apposite. The key questions raised by all productions are how to deal with scenes or moments of horror, and, relatedly, of bizarre or macabre comedy; how to present female characters constructed according to different assumptions from those of a present-day audience, and, similarly, how to handle misogynistic discourse; whether or not to update the play through costume, setting and topical parallels; and, more generally, how to use the stage of the Swan Theatre most effectively.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • English and Drama


© Reem Dababneh

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University. If you are the author of this thesis and would like to make it openly available in the Institutional Repository please contact: repository@lboro.ac.uk

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  • en

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