Richard Dutton

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697861
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature


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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
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Early modern properties challenge the theatre historian. On the one hand, inanimate stage objects are everywhere — so basic to theatrical commerce that it is hard to know what can profitably be said about them as a group, apart from the fact that they were crucial to performance and hence a necessary expense for the professional playing companies. On the other hand, props are elusive, giving historians the slip as soon as we try to pin down their movement and significance in performance. This article argues that the stage dynamics of stage props can be at least partially reconstructed from a hitherto underutilised source: the property-bill. In particular, it examines what property-bills might reveal about the performance life of theatrical objects, and what sorts of rehearsal and production demands a typical play might make on a particular company as that company migrated from venue to venue. It describes the property demands made on a single company, the King's Men, by two plays securely in the company's repertoire by 1611: Ben Jonson's The Alchemist and William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Keywords: King's Men; plays; Ben Jonson; The Alchemist; William Shakespeare; The Tempest; stage props; theatre; property-bills; properties

Article.  7406 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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