Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This study examines eight Renaissance plays containing the bodily figurations of madness, ghosts, death, and violence. My thesis is that these figurations can be best understood using a psycho-semiotic theoretical approach employing concepts devised by Jacques Lacan and by Julia Kristeva--especially their concepts of "Otherness" and "abjection."
I contend that the audiences of each of these plays, in responding to the staged tensions between the social and the corporeal identities of the subject--that is, between the social Other and the psychic other--would particularly recognize the inadequacy of language to voice the central concerns of the play. My thesis questions the representational power of the word for the mortified bodies staged in the "non-verbal" register of madness, ghosts, death, and violence, who refute the unfitting misrepresentations of Symbolic signification and who refuse to be alienated in its system. The compensatory bodily performance in the "non-verbal" register interrogates what language does to, and what it fails to do for, the subjects who use it. My readings explore the linguistic impediments to the self's disclosure--they deconstruct the symbolically constructed subject to show how much of the subject is excluded from conventional characterizations.
The first chapter outlines my critical approach. Subsequent chapters consist of readings of the individual plays: The Maids Tragedie, Phila∫ter, Bu∫∫y D'Ambois, The Spanish Tragedie, The Tragedie of Philotas, The Tragedy of the Dvtchesse of Malfy, 'Tis Pitty Shee's a Whore, and The Atheist's Tragedie. I believe that the conditions of the Renaissance theatre--the great variety of weekly performances, ad hoc rehearsals and spontaneous player modifications--would have compelled the playwright to stress key phrases and key ideas that are readily translated to the performance text of the play from the written one. It is a focus on these key elements that directs the present study.
Grizans, Mary Ann, "Censored Subjects: Indirection on the English Renaissance Stage" (1994). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3926.