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Does Howard's own study participate in the methodological evasions that she observed in others? Happily, the answer is no. She is concerned here with lhe discourse of theatricality, as it is deployed in the playscripts of the early modern theater in England and in the recurrent attacks on that contested institution.

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Concurrently, in perhaps the most interesting aspect of her inquiry , she examines the material practices by which those plays were produced to discover how these could reinforce or subvert the ideological work of the scripts. For example, as a representation Much Ado may condemn theatrical deceptions practiced by women and social inferiors while confirming the theatrical power of the elite especially when operating to tame rebels like Beatrice and Benedick into socially acceptable marriage , but the experience of seeing the play at the public theater undermined this ideological message in some important ways.

When spectators watched lowborn actors dressed as noblemen or as women, having paid the entrance fee that afforded them not only equal access to the spectacle with the privileged classes but the same stance as observer and judge rather than obedient congregation, subordination of class and gender was challenged.

Howard sifts and deconstructs the antitheatrical tracts of Northbrooke , Gosson, and Stubbes, uncovering their internal contradictions and significant omissions and speculating on the fears that produced these. Even Sidney's Apology for Poetry, often set up as the urbane antithesis of such Philistine views, shares their anxiety about who should control the powers of theatrical representation.


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What Sidney defends is a refined poesy of the elite, while he heaps scorn on popular art. Howard finds in Gosson and his ilk a fear of the theater as attracting , even institutionalizing versions of the '"out of place": Reviews Observing this dangerous social fluidity, they train their guns not just on stage players but on any who are involved in deceptive dressing and behavior that threatens hierarchies of class and gender. This focus on "transgressive shape-shifting" and its potential for social disruption is the key to much that follows in Howard's study, including the Much Ado analysis I have already cited.

What is presented in the first tetralogy as a demonic outside force taking advantage of unstable rule and threatening it further , becomes in the second tetralogy something not only inside the power structure but intrinsic to effective rule.

The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England

In language that is both lucid and theoretically sophisticated, Jean Howard examines the social and cultural facets of early modern theatre. She looks at the ways in which some theatrical practices were deemed deceptive and unreliable, while others were lent legitimacy by the powerful. An exciting and challenging work by one of the leading writers in the field, The Stage and Social Conflict in Early Modern England is important reading for anyone interested in the period.

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Her arguements are never narrow; … she fashions analytical ensembles, covering more bases than much critical argumentaion can lay claim to. Learn More about VitalSource Bookshelf. An eBook version of this title already exists in your shopping cart.