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'Explain this dark enigma': The Queen's Men and performance-as-research in Stratford-upon-Avon

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Publication details

JournalShakespeare Bulletin
DateAccepted/In press - 23 Apr 2017
DatePublished (current) - 17 Jun 2017
Issue number2
Original languageEnglish


While extensive provincial performance by Elizabethan professional companies is now widely acknowledged, little has been done to investigate their plays in the context of the venues they once visited. Unlike the lost London theatres, these venues survive throughout the country and offer us a chance to reintroduce performance into an original space. This article argues that performance was constrained both by the material conditions in which it was situated and by the local social and political contexts of that material space. Therefore, by studying both the spaces and places that informed and framed them, we can achieve a greater understanding of both text and performance. This article therefore considers performances of scenes from
The Troublesome Reign of King John, a Queen’s Men play, which were staged at Stratford in 2011. It demonstrates how an archaeological and historical understanding of the Stratford Guildhall not only enhances contextual understanding, both of its inhabitants and visiting players, but directly shapes the performance choices and decisions taken by those players. This in turn has implications both for our wider understanding of early modern staging, and for the role of buildings in approaches to performance-as-research.

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