Authors, Audiences, and Elizabethan Prologics
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In examining examples of prologues, inductions, and choruses from early modern drama, Authors, Audiences, and Elizabethan Prologics tries to frame a more comprehensive picture of dramatists’ relationships with the plays they write and the audiences for whom they write them. It suggests that these various prologics are imbued with an intrinsic authority that provides something of a rubric, perceptible by both playwright and playgoer, through which one can measure the crucial negotiations with and within the shifting valences of dramatic representation in the early modern period. The project develops a way of thinking about the prologic as a hermeneutics unto itself, one which allows us to contextualize more adequately the manner in which playwrights conceptualize and construct their own relationship to nascent notions of authorship and authority. My first body chapter (Chapter II) considers the rhetorical construction of audiences’ silences in various Elizabethan interludes, suggesting that such ideal silences register one’s contemplative engagement with the performance and, thus, work to legitimize early drama. The prologues to John Lyly’s plays—my subject in Chapter III—exemplify the desire to legitimize, instead, the playwright. Reading Lyly’s plays alongside his letters of petition to Queen Elizabeth and Sir Robert Cecil, one can see the manner in which Lyly creates an authorial persona rooted in his rhetorical skills. In Chapter IV I examine Shakespeare’s sparse but measured use of prologues to manipulate his audiences’ preconceptions of theatrical conventions and to guide them toward a consideration of what it means to have interpretive agency, how far that agency extends, and where to locate the limits of narrative in the necessarily liminal domain of the theater. Finally, I argue in Chapter V that Thomas Nashe’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament expands the prologic space, mimicking in the playspace the critical, interactive stance that he assumes in the printed marginalia of his prose writing. This is to say that Summer’s Last Will echoes—or in many cases prefigures—the authorial anxieties that Nashe expresses elsewhere in his work, and chief among them is an anxiety over the interpretational agency of the reader and auditor.
Heil, Jacob Allen (2009). Authors, Audiences, and Elizabethan Prologics. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from