In this socio-cultural study of the history of the theatre in early modern England, author Paola Pugliatti investigates the question of why, in the Tudor and early Stuart period, unregulated and unlicensed theatrical activities were equated by the English law to unregulated and unlicensed begging. Starting with English vagrancy statutes and in particular from the fact that, from 1545 on, players were listed as vagrants, the book discusses from an entirely new perspective the reasons for the equation, in the early modern mind, of beggary with performing. Pugliatti identifies in players' aptitude for disguise and in the fear raised by their proteiform skills the issues which encouraged the assimilation of beggars and players. She argues that at the core of provisions against vagrancy was an attempt to marginalize people who, because of their instability in location and role (that is, in their theatrical quintessence), were seen as embodying potential for subversion.
Placing the topic in a European context and relying on the reading of primary documents in several languages, Pugliatti discusses efforts to control beggary from Justinian's Codex to 17th-century statutes, locates the origin of anti-vagrancy and antitheatrical writings in anxieties about idleness and disguise, and analyses the ways in which various kinds of representation demonized both beggars and players. Finally, by carefully distinguishing between the traditions of rogue pamphlets, conny-catching pamphlets and the picaresque, she offers fresh readings of a number of texts which appear to have been entirely disregarded by recent scholarship, such as pamphlets by Walker, Harman, Greene and Dekker.
Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Group