Article

Eyewitnesses to History: Visual Evidence for Theater in Early Modern England

Thomas Postlewait

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697861
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199697861.013.0035

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Eyewitnesses to History: Visual Evidence for Theater in Early Modern England

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This article explores the scholarly uses of visual sources as historical evidence in the early modern theatre in England, focusing on four related problems: the tendency of theatre scholars to depend upon reproduced illustrations, rather than original visual sources; the application of iconography and iconology to visual documents in theatre history; the seductive appeal of arguments by analogy, often put forward without supporting historical evidence; the interpretive dichotomies between a priori and a posteriori arguments, which evoke, in turn, the related dichotomies between deductive and inductive analysis, rational and empirical evidence, necessary and contingent propositions. It then presents a survey of some uses and misuses of visual sources since the publication of the first issue of Shakespeare Survey (1948), which featured visual evidence. In turn, the article sets up two cases studies that consider a few key aspects of scholarship on the Swan theatre drawing and the Longleat manuscript drawing, which apparently is based upon an eyewitness observation of a production of Titus Andronicus.

Keywords: England; visual sources; historical evidence; theatre; reproduced illustrations; iconography; iconology; visual documents; theatre history; drawing

Article.  13381 words. 

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

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