Shakespeare and the Power of Performance: Stage and Page in the Elizabethan Theatre

Focussing on the practical means and media of Shakespeare’s stage, this study envisions new horizons for his achievement in the theatre. Bridging the gap between today’s page- and stage-centred interpretations, two renowned Shakespeareans demonstrate the artful means by which Shakespeare responded to the competing claims of acting and writing in the Elizabethan era. They examine how the playwright explored issues of performance through the resonant trio of clown, fool, and cross-dressed boy actor. Like this trio, his deepest and most captivating characters often attain their power through the highly performative mode of ‘personation’ – through playing the character as an open secret. Surveying the whole of the playwright’s career in the theatre, Shakespeare and the Power of Performance offers not only compelling ways of approaching the relation of performance and print in Shakespeare’s works, but also new models for understanding dramatic character itself.

• Surveys the whole of Shakespeare’s works, giving readers a complete understanding of Shakespeare’s achievement in the theatre • Restores the all-important category of ‘character’ to Shakespeare studies • Gives both readers and theatre-goers a new way of seeing Shakespeare’s plays in all their dimensions by bridging the current gulf between Shakespeare on the page and in the theatre


Introduction; 1. ‘Moralize two meanings’ in one play: contrariety on the Tudor stage; 2. Performance, game, and representation in Richard III; 3. Mingling vice and ‘worthiness’ in King John; 4. Clowning: agencies between voice and pen; 5. Clowning at the frontiers of representation; 6. Cross-dressing and performance in disguise; 7. Personation and playing: ‘secretly open’ role-playing; 8. Character/actor: the deep matrix; 9. Character: depth, dialogue, page; 10. King Lear: representations on stage and page.


\'Learned, readable, and provocative, this extraordinary book brings the range and depth of Robert Weimann\'s and Douglas Bruster\'s rich knowledge of the early modern stage to bear on a theoretically engaging reading of the interplay between dramatic writing and stage performance.\' W. B. Worthen, J. L. Styan Collegiate Professor of Drama, University of Michigan

\'This convincing study radically extends our understanding of the productive interplay between text and theatre in Shakespeare’s work. Weimann and Bruster brilliantly analyse the actor-playwright’s skill in turning to advantage the potentially uneasy relation between the imagination of the author and the material reality of his actors.\' Catherine Belsey, Research Profesor of English, University of Wales, Swansea