Caught in the act: the stage as a backdrop for defining crime in early modern England
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This study seeks to explicate the complex relationship between crime and drama in early modern England. In a historical context of social, political, and religious upheaval, defining criminality becomes an essential component of maintaining social control when class conflicts often color the administration of justice. Several social stages, including the ceremony of the church, the pomp of the royal court, and the spectacle of criminal punishment, provide a setting in which criminals can be compared to actors. With old power structures reluctantly crumbling in response to economic change, the theater itself emerges as a forum for discussion where themes of corruption in the church and government are introduced. Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, and Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair offer examples of the relative nature of criminality and the unique role of the stage in conglomerating all of the societal stages to comment on their transgressions and shortcomings before an audience comprised of varying social classes.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 62-64).
Orman, Lindsay Erin (2004). Caught in the act: the stage as a backdrop for defining crime in early modern England. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from