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date: 22 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the use of ekphrasis in early modern theatre, with particular emphasis on its effect on the stage and the relationship of ekphrastic speech to the ongoing action in which it is enunciated. It maps the parameters of ekphrasis on the early modern English stage by considering a few examples of the ways in which ekphrasis instantiates early modern theatricality. It also discusses the expressive potential of ekphrastic speech and its transmission to the listener as well as the ironic uses of ekphrasis as a mode of persuasion, whether directed to oneself, an on-stage auditor, off-stage auditors, or all three. It argues that ekphrasis creates nothing less than what it calls ‘the psyche of the play’ and explains how the unusually flexible capacity of the staged word allows it to be used for a wide range of theatrical techniques, including the usual sense of ‘word-painting’. Finally, it looks at William Shakespeare’s deployment of ekphrasis in his work such as Hamlet.

Keywords: ekphrasis, early modern theatre, stage, ekphrastic speech, theatricality, persuasion, off-stage, psyche of the play, word-painting, William Shakespeare

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