Shakespeare's Medieval Craft: Remnants of the Mysteries on the London Stage (Hardback)
  • Shakespeare's Medieval Craft: Remnants of the Mysteries on the London Stage (Hardback)

Shakespeare's Medieval Craft: Remnants of the Mysteries on the London Stage (Hardback)

Hardback 280 Pages / Published: 01/08/2014
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In Shakespeare's Medieval Craft, Kurt A. Schreyer explores the relationship between Shakespeare's plays and a tradition of late medieval English biblical drama known as mystery plays. Scholars of English theater have long debated Shakespeare's connection to the mystery play tradition, but Schreyer provides new perspective on the subject by focusing on the Chester Banns, a sixteenth-century proclamation announcing the annual performance of that city's cycle of mystery plays. Through close study of the Banns, Schreyer demonstrates the central importance of medieval stage objects-as vital and direct agents and not merely as precursors-to the Shakespearean stage.As Schreyer shows, the Chester Banns serve as a paradigm for how Shakespeare's theater might have reflected on and incorporated the mystery play tradition, yet distinguished itself from it. For instance, he demonstrates that certain material features of Shakespeare's stage-including the ass's head of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the theatrical space of Purgatory in Hamlet, and the knocking at the gate in the Porter scene of Macbeth-were in fact remnants of the earlier mysteries transformed to meet the exigencies of the commercial London playhouses. Schreyer argues that the ongoing agency of supposedly superseded theatrical objects and practices reveal how the mystery plays shaped dramatic production long after their demise. At the same time, these medieval traditions help to reposition Shakespeare as more than a writer of plays; he was a play-wright, a dramatic artisan who forged new theatrical works by fitting poetry to the material remnants of an older dramatic tradition.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801452901
Number of pages: 280
Weight: 595 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 22 mm


"Shakespeare's Medieval Craft makes a substantial contribution to the growing number of studies on the continuing influence of the mystery plays on Elizabethan theatre. Kurt Schreyer's approach is both original and illuminating.... Schreyer's large argument about the importance of spectacle, of things on both the pageant wagons and the public stage, and their capacity to transmit significance into a new age, is an important one, as is his plea for a recognition of the value of the past to the Elizabethans, a value made all the more urgent by the Protestant assault on it."

-- Helen Cooper * Early Theatre *

"Shakespeare's Medieval Craft offers consistently creative and original analyses of a wide range of objects, including plays, theatrical spaces, paintings, civic documents, and ritual practices."

-- Glenn Clark * Modern Philology *

"In Shakespeare's Medieval Craft: Remnants of the Mysteries on the London Stage, Schreyer explores physical continuities between medieval and early modern playmaking.... Shakespeare's Medieval Craft offers a compelling vision of theatrical sustainability-'old' [artifacts] kindling the creative energies of playwrights, who fashion them into `new' materials for eager audiences. It will no doubt spark further studies of these persistent, potent remnants."

-- Karen Sawyer Marsalek, Oxford University Press * Review of English Studies *

"Kurt Schreyer has given us a persuasive and innovative study of medieval theater's influence on its early modern English successors.... The major theoretical contribution of this monograph is its use of the Late, or Protestant, Banns of the Chester mystery cycle. These Banns, as Schreyer argues, offer a way of understanding the paradoxical yet direct way that older and potentially controversial medieval drama remained relevant to early modern audiences, revealing some medieval as well as self-consciously post-Reformational dimensions to Shakespeare's plays."

-- Matthew J. Smith * Speculum *

"Schreyer consciously engages theories of history and of materiality, and... makes a strong case for the relevance of his research to the fields of literature, theater history, and cultural studies. He has written a smart, readable, and lively argument that shows how the author function in Renaissance drama encompasses a crafting of diachronic language, history, and ovjects into a synchronic synthesis of both past and present."

-- Tony Lilly * Sixteenth Century Journal *

"Schreyer's book is rich in illustrative analysis.... I learned a great deal from this book's ability to address familiar topics with a great wealth of new data and insights."

-- David Bevington * Renaissance Quarterly *

"Kurt A. Schreyer's work advances and enriches scholarship on English literary periodization by demonstrating the endurance-and material memory-of medieval theatrical traditions on the early modern stage. This book's agile arguments and original readings should command wide attention."

-- Theresa Coletti, Professor and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher of English, University of Maryland, author of Mary Magdalene and the Drama of Saints

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