The development of the pre-show in English Shakespearean performance, 1932-2014

Stewart, Alison (2015). The development of the pre-show in English Shakespearean performance, 1932-2014. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The development of the pre-show in English Shakespearean performance, 1932-2014 Productions of Shakespeare’s plays often feature an interpolated opening scene or ‘pre-show’. My thesis examines this phenomenon. Proposing threshold theory as a framework, I consider the interfaces between the classic text, the enacted play and the audience. Previous studies of modern pre-shows suggest three key purposes for the pre-show: narrative, concept, and theatricality, which I adopt as the structure of the second half of my thesis. Studies of early prologues and inductions trace cultural and artistic developments that pre-figure developments I trace in modern production.
I consider in some detail Shakespeare’s own pre-show and introductory strategies and the problems they present to modern directors, before examining the earliest pre-shows of modern productions, in the 1930s to 1950s, the cultural and artistic circumstances that gave rise to them, and their reception among reviewers and scholars. Thereafter I trace the development of narrative pre-shows and the staging of embedded narratives, the rise of conceptual pre-shows and their origin in design and the New Criticism, and changing pre-show relationships with, and impact upon, audiences, ranging from the political to the commercial. I conclude that the pre-show is a significant innovation that has both accompanied and led a remarkable renaissance in Shakespearean 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 > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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