The Stuff of Memory

Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


This chapter explores Distributed Cognition through examination of two major elements that comprise the stuff of memory: the physical environment of the stage and the cognitive artifacts used by the players to inform and shape their work. My key assumption is that the early modern theatre is a workplace. While this point is scarcely debatable, its full implications are not always realized. In fact, there is a strong strain of Shakespearean criticism overtly or implicitly hostile to the idea of the theatre as a business. One persistent strand of argument, for example, contrasts the purportedly dodgy business practices of Henslowe’s company with the more artistically high-minded practices of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. F. G. Fleay suggested that Henslowe’s diary reveals not the practices of Shakespeare’s company, but instead “set[s] before us the selfish hand-to-mouth policy on which its principal rivals were guided” (1890/1964: 118). As C. C. Rutter (1999) and Knutson (1991: 15–20) document, this mythical distinction between commercial money-grubbing and the artistic aim of producing “plays of lasting interest” (Fleay 1890/1964: 117) had a strong hold on later theatrical historians.


Situation Awareness Cognitive Artifact Entry Door Stage Direction Restoration Stage 
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© Evelyn B. Tribble 2011

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