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Barabas's Fall

Hutchings, M. (2015) Barabas's Fall. Theatre Notebook, 69 (1). pp. 2-16. ISSN 0040-5523

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Early modern play-texts present numerous puzzles for scholars interested in ascertaining how plays were (or may have been) staged. the principal evidence of course for a notional "reconstruction" of practices is the apparatus of stage directions, augmented by indications in the dialogue. in conjunction a joining-of-the-dots is often possible, at least in broad-brush terms. But as is well known, the problem is that stage directions tend to be incomplete, imprecise, inaccurate ­ or missing altogether; more significantly, even when present they offer only slight and indirect evidence of actual stagecraft. Some stage directions are rather more "literary" than "theatrical" in provenance, and in any case to the extent that they do serve the reader (early modern or modern) they cannot be regarded as providing a record of stage practice. After all, words can be no more than imperfect substitutes for (and of another order from) the things they represent. For the most part directions serve as a guide that provides the basis for reasonable interpretation informed by our knowledge of theatre architecture, technology, and comparable play-situations, rather than concrete evidence of actual practice. Quite how some stage business was carried out remains uncertain, leaving the scholar little option but to hypothesize solutions. One such conundrum arises in christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta. the scenario in question is hardly an obscure one, but it has not been examined in detail, even by modern editors. the purpose of this essay is to explore what sense might be made of the surviving textual evidence, in combination with our knowledge of theatre architecture and playmaking culture in the late sixteenth century.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Early Modern Research Centre (EMRC)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:37551
Publisher:The Society for Theatre Research

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