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date: 11 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines some of the techniques by which the early modern theatre invited its audiences into the shared production of stage space. It focuses in particular on the ways in which Shakespeare’s comedies ask spectators to see across, within, and through physical barriers, enabling the pleasurable transgression of both social and corporeal boundaries. Looking at early modern theories of visual perception, it provides a historical context for some of Shakespeare’s most compelling strategies for imagining comic space, including the ‘lock-out’ scene in The Comedy of Errors, the parodic use of a character to play ‘Wall’ in Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the use of a ‘dark house’ to imprison Malvolio in Twelfth Night. It concludes by analysing contemporary performances of the comedies against more recent notions of sight and spectatorship, suggesting that comedy tends to invert the visual regimes dominant in any given period.

Keywords: space, vision, comic pleasure, transgression, spectatorship, theatrical representation, theatrical presentation, visuality

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