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Synopsis

The public playhouses of Jacobean London, and the popular drama they produced, were a vital part of English theatre history. Yet this work has too often been neglected by conventional literary criticism. Jacobean Public Theatre recovers this vigorous popular drama for the modern reader by presenting the plays not as literary texts, but as scripts and using them to examine contemporary acting, production and performance values. The imaginative use of spectacle, the social meaning of theatrical gesture, the close proximity of actor and spectator, the shared moral and political values, made theatregoing at these playhouses a highly communal experience. In addition to its close study of popular dramaturgy and performance conventions, Jacobean Public Theatre surveys the nature of the popular audience, its culture and its contribution to the performance. It concludes with a close examination of four major plays, including King Lear, which emerges in an unexpected light as a play that draws creatively on the conventions of popular theatre. This book should stimulate fresh thinking about the nature of the theatrical occasion. It will appeal to students of literature, drama, theatre history and popular culture.

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