The staging of battle scenes on the Shakespearean stage

Fusillo, Robert J. (1966). The staging of battle scenes on the Shakespearean stage. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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In the period from the opening of the first public theatre in London in 1576, until the death of Shakespeare in 1616, over one-third of all extant plays, and almost one-half of those written for Public playhouses, include battle scenes: scenes in which wars between large-scale forces are depicted. They are the product of a tradition of publicly performed mock battles which dates far back into the Medieval period, combined with the new subject matter of Elizabethan drama which dealt much with tales of adventure and chronicle history. They are also a product of the times, for they seem to reach a height shortly after the Armada, and to slowly fade from new plays during the reign of James I and after. Although there was, even from the early part of the period, an element among both playwrights and critics that did not look kindly upon them, they stayed popular on the public stage until the closing of the theatres.
Few of the almost 150 battle sequences available for study are explicit about stage activity, and the modern scholar and theatre producer are often at a loss to know exactly what was intended. This thesis is an attempt to piece together all the information available from the plays and contemporary report, and to analyse the convention as a whole and in its component parts. A section is devoted to a close analysis of the oft-used terms such as alarums and excursions, and another to a study of the stage and its equipment. Although the focus is on battles and their presentation, a great part of the thesis is devoted to textual problems. Many ambiguous and incomplete sequences have been examined, and attempts made to clarify them. The plays of Shakespeare and Heywood, both of whom wrote many such scenes, have been treated at length.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Arts
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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