"He takes false shadows for true substances": Madness and Metadrama in The Spanish Tragedy and Titus Andronicus




Williams, David Higbee

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Although scholars have written extensively about madness and metadrama, they have rarely discussed the relationship between the two on the early modern stage. In many plays, however, mad characters become acutely metatheatrical, oftentimes putting on spectacles, consciously performing in front of others, and gaining various levels of dramatic awareness. In this thesis, I analyze the ways that two influential plays, The Spanish Tragedy and Titus Andronicus, present madness theatrically and suggest an association between lunacy and drama. The Spanish Tragedy and Titus Andronicus offer a unique opportunity to study this issue. Not only are they relatively early plays, showing theatricalized madness at early stages in its development, but they were both added to later. These additions present more developed, explicit manifestations of the link between madness and metadrama. By viewing the original plays and the additions as four texts, we can trace the gradual establishment of the link in early modern drama, as lunacy and theater become united by their shared mistaking of “false shadows for true substances.” Through this connection, we can detect a simultaneous anxiety and fascination regarding the illusory nature of drama.



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