The English clown: print in performance and performance in print

Ishikawa, Naoko (2011). The English clown: print in performance and performance in print. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis examines how and why the English clown emerged and declined by focusing on jest-books and comic actors such as Tarlton, Kemp and Armin. The jest-book, Tarlton’s Jests is the key publication in the development of jester-clowns in Renaissance drama. This account traces the authoring, editing, and printing of jest-book publications, along with the transmission of their copy-texts to clarify the dissemination of theories of clownery. The thesis explores the English clown tradition based on the presences of Kemp and Armin, who in their writing practices link the development of clowning in print to the theatre stage. This study then offers a critical analysis of the influence of jesting heroes on comic characters in play-texts from Shakespeare to Dekker and Heywood. By considering the rich resources of jests appropriated by these playwrights, the various forms of the clowns’ development are clarified. The tradition and characteristics of the English clown resulted from a unique cultural synergy: the connection between the stage clowning of the time and its underlying theories. This interaction between societal change and the resultant cultural products is considered as an achievement of the Early Modern interdependence between print and performance.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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