The places of the stage : drama and culture in early modern London
Kozusko, Matthew Behen
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The “place” scholars have assigned to the stage in early modern London is as much a reflection of the politics of contemporary literary criticism as a reflection of the cultural function of popular drama in the early modern period. Modern critics are generally not engaged in reexamining available data, preferring instead to rest on a conjectural paradigm or heuristic that has hardened, over the past couple of decades, into a New Historicist version of “fact,” an attitude toward or conception of social energies that collapses boundaries and subtle distinctions in the interest of a unified critical narrative. That critical narrative has characterized the theater as a culturally marginal phenomenon relative to early modern London. Using complementary frameworks for classifying cultural space and the space of the stage, this dissertation reevaluates the place of the stage by approaching popular drama as an important, and central, site of cultural production. Situated on a boundary between what Raymond Williams has called “dominant” and “emergent” cultural space, the playhouse offered a construction of reality that was simultaneously “central” and “marginal,” in Stephen Mullaney’s terms. Combining Williams’s and Mullaney’s paradigms of cultural geography, this dissertation argues that popular drama was both mimetic and constitutive, conservative and revolutionary. The stories of the stage mingled dominant narratives with emergent ones. When those stories are given credence and currency as fundamentally “like” or reflective of reality, the drama’s cultural authority can be highlighted. That Elizabethan and Jacobean drama was afforded such a currency and credence is apparent in the popularity of the theatrum mundi metaphor and the popularity of the theater industry itself. This popularity combines with the drama’s power to shape reality as it re-presents reality to make Elizabethan and Jacobean drama a significant, constitutive force in the writing of popular culture of early modern London.