Access Points: Stage, Space, and/as Interface in the Early Modern Playhouses

Johnson, Laurie ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2408-0602 (2023) Access Points: Stage, Space, and/as Interface in the Early Modern Playhouses. In: The Routledge Handbook of Shakespeare and Interface. Routledge Literature Handbooks. Taylor & Francis (Routledge), New York, United States, pp. 285-296. ISBN 9780367420888


Abstract

How did audiences of the early modern playhouses access the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries? Walter Ong wrote in Interface of the Word (Cornell, 1977) that language in the Renaissance shifted from orality to literacy as a result of the emphasis on visual culture and printed text, a shift 'from the world of sound to the surface of the page, from the aural to the visual' (163). Refusing to forget the importance of performance culture to the English Renaissance, Robert Weimann countered this bias toward print culture by re-examining the tensions between author’s pens and actor’s voices and giving consideration to the 'peculiar and highly theatrical type of interface' that a play in performance generates between the two ('Playing with a Difference,' 1999, 42). While Weimann’s work has been a necessary step in helping scholars of early modern drama to shift their focus from words on a page to words on a stage, the answer to the question of how audiences accessed plays may still elude us so long as our focus remains fixed on the play. Current debates about audience reception of plays are at risk of being bogged down by a reiteration of the old battle for supremacy of the senses by reductively asking whether audiences went to a playhouse primarily to hear a play or to see a play. My goal in this chapter is to disrupt notions of reception (which ultimately hinge on the idea that a play is a message sent through an aural or visual medium) by invoking the notion of access, restoring agency on one side of the equation to the people who came to playhouses. Access covers all aspects of the point of contact between audience and play, from the manner of ingress to the orientation of the bodies of audience members (with all of their senses, and this includes less obvious senses like spatial awareness or proprioception) and the degree of involvement they have in the entertainments of which a play may represent just one part. The chapter thus seeks to shift thought of the interface from “the word” to the whole of the space in which early modern theatrical contact took place.


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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2022 03:07
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2022 03:07
Uncontrolled Keywords: Interface theory; Elizabethan playhouses; Shakespeare; audiences
Fields of Research (2020): 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470504 British and Irish literature
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4702 Cultural studies > 470207 Cultural theory
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430304 British history
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1307 Understanding past societies > 130704 Understanding Europe’s past
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280116 Expanding knowledge in language, communication and culture
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780367821722
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/51061

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