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date: 26 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how travellers to the New World and to India made sense of their encounters by framing them specifically in reference to the performance techniques and even the architecture of the theatre, in ways both positive and negative. It first considers John Smith’s description of what he calls a ‘Virginia Maske’ in his Generall History of Virginia (1624), a reminder of how the specific textures of early modern theatricality rather than a generalized, abstract notion of performance shaped travellers’ understandings of ‘all the world’s a stage’. It then looks at the case of Thomas Coryate, England’s first travel writer, to show how theatrical performance became a means of self-transformation in both mind and body, an act of imaginative self-incorporation that blurred subject with object and dissolved the boundaries of cultural identities. It also discusses the theatricality of the court of the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, as described in 1616 by Coryate and Sir Thomas Roe.

Keywords: travellers, New World, India, theatre, early modern theatricality, Thomas Coryate, theatrical performance, self-transformation, Jahangir, Sir Thomas Roe

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