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Rude Mechanicals: Staging Labor in the Early Modern English Theater

Kendrick, Matthew Rude Mechanicals: Staging Labor in the Early Modern English Theater. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.

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    Abstract

    This dissertation explores the relationship between the early modern theater and changing conceptions of labor. Current interpretations of the theater’s economic dimensions stress the correlation between acting and vagrant labor. I build on these approaches to argue that the theater’s connection to questions of labor was far more dynamic than is often thought. In particular, I argue that a full understanding of the relationship between the theater and labor requires that we take into account the theater’s guild origins. If theatricality was often associated with features of vagrant labor, especially cony-catching and rogue duplicity, the theater also drew significantly from medieval guild practices that valued labor as a social good and a creative force. I contend that the theater’s residual guild structure invests representations of labor with an ennobling and humanizing support. In a variety of plays, from Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour to Rowley’s A Shoemaker, A Gentleman, theatrical techniques like disguise and deception gesture towards vagrancy while also enabling laborers of various stripes to affirm their skillful creativity. Plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest depict theatricality as an act of labor, a craftsmanlike endeavor rather than a commodity or mere function of commercial forces. In doing so, the plays carve out a space of artistic autonomy for the theater while affirming the creative power of labor.


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    Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
    ETD Committee:
    ETD Committee TypeCommittee MemberEmail
    Committee CoChairTwyning, Johntwyning@pitt.edu
    Committee CoChairWaldron, Jenniferjwaldron@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberColes, Nicholascoles@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberTrubowitz, Rachelrt@cisunix.unh.edu
    Title: Rude Mechanicals: Staging Labor in the Early Modern English Theater
    Status: Published
    Abstract: This dissertation explores the relationship between the early modern theater and changing conceptions of labor. Current interpretations of the theater’s economic dimensions stress the correlation between acting and vagrant labor. I build on these approaches to argue that the theater’s connection to questions of labor was far more dynamic than is often thought. In particular, I argue that a full understanding of the relationship between the theater and labor requires that we take into account the theater’s guild origins. If theatricality was often associated with features of vagrant labor, especially cony-catching and rogue duplicity, the theater also drew significantly from medieval guild practices that valued labor as a social good and a creative force. I contend that the theater’s residual guild structure invests representations of labor with an ennobling and humanizing support. In a variety of plays, from Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour to Rowley’s A Shoemaker, A Gentleman, theatrical techniques like disguise and deception gesture towards vagrancy while also enabling laborers of various stripes to affirm their skillful creativity. Plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest depict theatricality as an act of labor, a craftsmanlike endeavor rather than a commodity or mere function of commercial forces. In doing so, the plays carve out a space of artistic autonomy for the theater while affirming the creative power of labor.
    Defense Date: 29 September 2011
    Approval Date: 01 February 2012
    Submission Date: 02 November 2011
    Release Date: 01 February 2012
    Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
    Patent pending: No
    Number of Pages: 196
    Institution: University of Pittsburgh
    Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
    Refereed: Yes
    Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
    Uncontrolled Keywords: labor, drama, theater, class, performance, vagrancy, guilds
    Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
    Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2012 07:40
    Last Modified: 01 Feb 2012 07:40

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