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Title:"For craft recoils in the end": The oppositional stagecraft of Thomas Middleton
Author(s):Glynn, F. Martin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Graves, Robert B.
Department / Program:Theatre
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Fine Arts
Literature, English
Abstract:This study examines the wittily ironic "oppositional" stagecraft of Thomas Middleton in the following plays: The Changeling; A Chaste Maid in Cheapside; A Mad World, My Masters; Michaelmas Term; More Dissemblers Besides Women; The Revenger's Tragedy; The Second Maiden's Tragedy; A Trick to Catch the Old One; The Witch; and Women Beware Women. Although traditional criticism of the plays is taken into account, the approach throughout is stage-oriented; this study shows how the theatrical dimension modifies the verbal discourse of each text. Through a manipulation of aural, kinetic, and visual media, Middleton generates vibrant contrasts, contrarieties, and contradictions; develops a complex theatre event which involves an equivocal interplay of interpenetrating layers of meanings; and "compromises" the presumptive moral signification of dramatic metaphor and action. Setting theatrical element against itself or other elements, Middleton creates a double perspective of the staged event and, ultimately, evokes a double, ambivalent response from his audience.
Middleton uses props variously, often as "visual similes"--as analogues to the human form--or as "visual metaphors"--as carriers of oblique associations. Concretizing metaphors, he not only turns props into body counterparts but transforms human appendages and entire bodies into hand props. However they figure, the props operate in a field of opposed theatre elements and verbal images.
Middleton "counterpoises" theatrical spaces, sometimes dividing the stage into imaginarily contiguous areas, either only momentarily adjacent or more extensively so; other times exploiting physically, architecturally separate areas. Theatrical space can appear "double," as demarcations of coincident or coterminous areas "blur"; when structurally divided, space can occasion "scenic oscillation." Involved in a recurrent strategy of "beholding" are the deployment of bodies, movements, properties, and actions onstage. Asides and surveillance involve "dysopic" characters and a double vision, one invariably directed at women. Activating the double consciousness of his spectators, Middleton stimulates their apprehension of the disparity between the shifting planes of performance and actuality, and thereby exposes the psychosocial dichotomous view of woman and morality.
With a double awareness, extreme tonal oscillations, duplicitous performances, Middleton facetiously deconstructs his stagecraft in his denouement, many of which become self-ironical, staged practical jokes that produce theatrical disorientation. Such denouement, like the theatrical oppositions throughout, tend to sabotage the literary, purposely imposed "dramaturgical" endings and moral tags. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
Issue Date:1993
Description:503 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1993.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9411635
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1993

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