McEvilla, Joshua (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
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The present study considers Brome’s playbooks and his reputation as a dramatist from the perspective of different approaches to ‘the history of the book.’ It examines various methods of critical discourse while it re-evaluates the worth of a dramatist whose work has been underappreciated. The study takes seven unconventional approaches as the Complete Works of Richard Brome Project (forthcoming 2010) will be addressing the theatricality of Brome’s plays; and, because Matthew Steggle’s 2004 monograph, Richard Brome: Place and Politics on the Caroline Stage, synthesises most discoveries about Brome’s life and career found in recent years. Chapter 1 speculates on how the commercial and political context of play publication can impact the received meaning of plays as texts. It reflects on how bibliographical environments can create meaning. Chapter 2, on the other hand, looks at the effect that delayed publication had on Brome’s late-Caroline revivals. It explores twentieth-century ideas of “decadence” once associated with Brome. Chapter 3 addresses a series of related issues bearing in mind certain print conventions and performance practices. In it, I contend that certain print conventions had yet to become standardised in the 1630s. I do so using a cast list and a pamphlet to suggest community expectation behind the staging of Brome’s Antipodes. Chapter 4 examines Brome’s syncretic texts. This examination is founded upon an understanding that play-writers could act as ‘play patchers’ – Tiffany Stern’s term – and that such ‘patching’ must be acknowledged in the study of printed books. Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 show how Brome’s career as an author, which has been studied through his plays, involved theatrical and non-theatrical creativity. Brome’s commendatory verses allow me to address issues of “paratext,” i.e., concerns that have become apparent because of English translations of Seuils. Brome’s non-theatrical publications indicate to me that Brome, as a dramatist, was more than simply aware of print – as Lukas Erne has argued of Shakespeare. Brome’s skills as a literary contributor (c. 1639) provided him with opportunities for employment (c. 1649). My final chapter stresses the significance of playtexts of the 1630s and playtexts of the 1650s by reconsidering the reception of Brome’s plays as playbooks. It also suggests that the Commonwealth period – a period in which the public performance of Brome’s plays was forbidden – became a defining force in his twentieth-century biography.
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