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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the importance of the ‘line’ in the composition, reading, editing, interpretation, and performance of early modern drama. It considers the gradual emergence of the poetic verse that is characteristic of early modern drama and one of the most obviously ‘textual’ units of early modern theatre. It shows that the line, before it became a formal verse element, persisted as a graphic mark, a technology of performance shared by musicians and singers as well as actors and playwrights. It explains how the line, through the printing of plays and poems, became the immaterial metaphysical unit we associate with the period’s finest ‘literary’ writing. It also discusses physical and metaphysical lines and their attempt to regulate silence. Finally, it argues that attention at the level of the line pushes performance towards the typographic, even advancing a kind of ‘typographical acting’ alert to every piece of punctuation, every line break, every diacritically pricked out metrical inflection.

Keywords: line, early modern drama, poetic verse, early modern theatre, performance, plays, poems, silence

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