In the midst of a discussion about the theatrical tradition of dumb-shows in The Shakespearean Stage (1994), Andrew Gurr observes that as ‘a general rule the better the playwright the less spectacle there was likely to be in his plays’. According to Gurr, whilst Shakespeare’s predecessors contented themselves with ‘affairs of pure spectacle’, the majority of Shakespeare’s work could have been performed on ‘a completely bare stage platform’.1 Gurr’s cursory observations expose a wider assumption prevalent throughout early modern literary criticism that while Shakespeare was a poetic genius who only needed language to ignite his audience’s imagination, less gifted playwrights had to rely on garish visual effects to entertain their spectators. As Gurr’s comments demonstrate, this widespread disdain for spectacle, as an indicator of poor artistry, has fuelled one of the biggest misapprehensions of early modern theatre criticism, that the Shakespearean stage was bare.2 Certainly, it is difficult not to detect a taint of Puritanism and anti-theatricalism in this maxim, which appears in a book that is still recognised as an essential introduction to the early modern stage. For surely if we dismiss spectacle, we dismiss the theatre in its entirety because, ultimately, theatre is spectacle. The purpose of this book, in short, is to use Greene’s drama to prove Gurr’s supposition wrong.


Title Page Authorial Identity Early Modern Period Stage Property Methodological Stance 
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Copyright information

© Jenny Sager 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NottinghamUK

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