This essay aims to discuss the performativity of portraits used as props in early modern English drama. There are more than 75 plays from the Elizabethan period up to the closure of the playhouses in 1642 that feature the use of a portrait on stage (see Wassersug 2015; Stelzer 2019). Portraits are a particular type of prop because they can produce a special type of metatheater that can foreground as well as interrogate the concepts of mimesis and representation. As Keir Elam notes, “The material inclusion of a painting . . . often entails the construction of an entire scene or episode, sometimes solo scenes, which place the character alone onstage with his or her picture(s)” (2017, 6). At the outset of my analysis, I discuss the difference between written messages and iconic objects as regards semiotic communication and meaning-making practices affecting the actor–spectator transaction. In order to achieve this, I examine the actors’ use of written texts and posters and the spectators’ markedly different reactions to each type of prop in the staging of the “forum scene” (3.2) in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Nicholas Hytner’s 2018 production at the Bridge Theatre, London. Next, I consider which effects could be produced in the early modern English playhouses by different formats of pictures. I would like to challenge traditional views which maintain that the manipulation of sizable portraits was an anomaly on the early modern stage and, thus, I list here some criteria for identifying when a miniature was not used in these plays. Finally, I concentrate on the use of portraits in John Webster’s The Devil’s Law-Case (1623) to test my arguments.

Performing Portraits: The Portrait as Prop and Its Performative Dimension in Early Modern English Drama

Stelzer, Emanuel
2019

Abstract

This essay aims to discuss the performativity of portraits used as props in early modern English drama. There are more than 75 plays from the Elizabethan period up to the closure of the playhouses in 1642 that feature the use of a portrait on stage (see Wassersug 2015; Stelzer 2019). Portraits are a particular type of prop because they can produce a special type of metatheater that can foreground as well as interrogate the concepts of mimesis and representation. As Keir Elam notes, “The material inclusion of a painting . . . often entails the construction of an entire scene or episode, sometimes solo scenes, which place the character alone onstage with his or her picture(s)” (2017, 6). At the outset of my analysis, I discuss the difference between written messages and iconic objects as regards semiotic communication and meaning-making practices affecting the actor–spectator transaction. In order to achieve this, I examine the actors’ use of written texts and posters and the spectators’ markedly different reactions to each type of prop in the staging of the “forum scene” (3.2) in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Nicholas Hytner’s 2018 production at the Bridge Theatre, London. Next, I consider which effects could be produced in the early modern English playhouses by different formats of pictures. I would like to challenge traditional views which maintain that the manipulation of sizable portraits was an anomaly on the early modern stage and, thus, I list here some criteria for identifying when a miniature was not used in these plays. Finally, I concentrate on the use of portraits in John Webster’s The Devil’s Law-Case (1623) to test my arguments.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11562/1055747
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