Early Modern Dramatic Records

February 25, 2013

symeIn the scant records of Elizabethan drama, one document that stands out is the ‘plot’ of the second part of a play on The Seven Deadly Sins (digitized images of which are available at the Henslowe-Alleyn digitization project). In a CEMS works in progress session on ‘Doing Things with Records in Early Modern Theatre History’, Holger Schott Syme (Toronto), author of Theatre and Testimony in Shakespeare’s England: A Culture of Mediation (CUP, 2012) and Bart van Es, author of Shakespeare in Company (OUP, 2013) van esdiscussed the difficulty of moving from such records to firm grounds in literary history. Exploring a detailed image of the plot, Syme warned against the tendency to simplify elements that are in fact ambiguous palaeographically and in other ways. Van Es raised a different set of problems: critical value judgements often weighed the interpretation of documents without being fully scrutinized. If the discussion failed to produce a new consensus, it did help to raise some salutary doubts.

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