'Welcome to the Renaissance/Where everything is new': Finding Ourselves in Dramatisations of Theatrical History

O'Brien, Richard (2021) 'Welcome to the Renaissance/Where everything is new': Finding Ourselves in Dramatisations of Theatrical History. In: The Past is Back on Stage - Medieval and Early Modern England on the Contemporary Stage. Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle Upon Tyne. ISBN 9781527571273

[img] Text
Welcome to the Renaissance paper - Montpellier chapter (1).pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 1 September 2026.

Download (121kB) | Request a copy
Official URL: https://www.cambridgescholars.com/product/978-1-52...


Douglas Lanier sets out a central principle guiding fictions representing historical authors, whereby ‘authorial biographicality … is often positioned against rival models of authorship that the writer must reject to become 'authentic’’. This paper will argue that a comparable journey – from rejection of past models to authentic (and implicitly proto-modern) self-fulfilment – is a recurring trope in plays and films which dramatise theatrical history, precisely because such works themselves represent the teleological end-point of their own narratives. The idiosyncracies of period underwrite emerging modernity. A line from Antony Burgess’s bio-fiction, A Dead Man in Deptford (1993), provides the model for this pattern, as Sir Walter Raleigh tells Christopher Marlowe: ‘You are of us, who look to the future and are bent on disassembling the old way.' The works under consideration exploit anachronism and promote evolutionary narratives of theatrical history to present historical authors and performers who are already, or are becoming, ‘of us’. In Lee Hall’s stage adaptation of Shakespeare in Love (2014), Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn (2015), the Broadway musical Something Rotten by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, and the 2015 film Bill by the team behind the BBC’s Horrible Histories, dramatisations of the theatrical past are offered partly as origin myths for the modern entertainment industry. By performing theatrical history in, and with an eye towards, the theatrical present, they delight audiences with their appeals to our own participation in a continued tradition: we pay homage to our theatre’s roots as we celebrate its current cultural value.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Q300 English studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2020 08:22
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 10:34
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/43457

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics