Being-in-Light at the Early Modern and Reconstructed Theatres
Being-in-Light explores how people experienced light in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and to what extent these experiences impacted upon theatrical experience and practice in the period. Furthermore, it considers how reconstructions of early modern theatres (e.g. The Globe Theatre and Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (SWP)) deal with the disparity between early modern and contemporary experiences of light. This thesis shifts critical focus away from the material study of light towards a phenomenological analysis of the experience of light. Crucially, light is not an object but a medium of perception: to see is to-be-in-light. The visual experiences of early modern theatre audiences were built on a history of inhabiting light in particular ways on a daily basis. These people spent roughly half their lives in darkness with only rudimentary artificial lights as a means to illuminate their immediate environments. Thus, in order to understand how early modern people saw in the theatres of the period, we must first of all examine how they experienced light on a daily basis. The first part of the thesis focuses on early modern experiences of light. The opening chapter considers the daily habitats of light in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England—nocturnal, diurnal, and artificial—using examples from drama and other literature. Chapter 2 turns to light in the early modern theatres. It explores the “weather-world” of the early modern amphitheatres, before shifting focus towards the evidence for lighting at the indoor playhouses of the period. Following this analysis, Chapter 3 encompasses three case studies of early modern plays in which lighting plays a significant role. These case studies span a period of almost 30 years and show the evolution of stage lighting on the indoor English stage. The second part of the thesis documents the author’s eight-month research stay at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. An introduction outlines the construction, design, repertoire and research focus of the SWP (a reconstructed Jacobean indoor playhouse opened in January 2014). Chapter 4 looks at general lighting practices in the candlelit SWP, comparing the use of stage chandeliers and handheld lighting instruments with evidence for lighting practices in the early modern indoor playhouses. The final chapter discusses the 2014 “Globe Outside In” experiment in which the Globe productions of Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra were performed in the SWP for one and two nights respectively. This experiment enabled scholars to not only compare theatrical practices between the two theatres, but to also juxtapose the respective experiences of theatregoing at both theatres. The second part of the thesis concludes that early modern theatre scholars can open up a dialogue with the past by comparing theatrical practices at the Globe and SWP with those of the early modern theatres.
Advisor: Tribble, Evelyn; Karim-Cooper, Farah
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: English and Linguistics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Light; Early Modern Theatre; Renaissance Theatre; Shakespeare's Globe; Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; Phenomenology; Anthropology; Merleau-Ponty; Tim Ingold; Lighting; Shakespeare
Research Type: Thesis