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date: 01 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that in early modern England, dance scenes were among the most radically collaborative components of a play’s text, prone to complicating questions of authorship and attribution. Arguing that dances rarely circulated between contemporaneous plays without significant alteration, it also takes a long view of collaboration, noting the successive alterations to the play made by Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, and William Davenant, whose transtemporal collaborations leave dance spanning multiple compositional temporalities. Relatedly, the fictional world within plays also depicts dance as complexly authored, and playwrights often attribute choreographic authorship to one or multiple characters in order to explore broader thematic tensions concerning origins and responsibility. In The Two Noble Kinsmen, the dancing of the Jailer’s Daughter is attributed to several men who have had a share in her suffering; in The Tragedy of Macbeth, the witches’ fidelity to necromantic choreographies proves inseparable from the question of how and whether they author human misfortune. Macbeth also proved a key play in the development of choreographers as a class of professionals in the commercial theater, and the chapter closes with a reflection on how scripts shaped their work as “composers,” one of the terms used to characterize their work before the word “choreographer” was in use.

Keywords: dance, drama, authorship, collaboration, choreography, Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, William Davenant

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