Dressing for the Part(s): Costume Transformations on the Early Modern English Stage
2020-04-28T18:28:34Z (GMT) by
This dissertation brings together studies of early modern subjectivity, material culture, and dramatic performance in ways that address the myriad ways in which material objects—in this case, clothing and costumes—can act as catalysts for change in a work of the dramatic literature of the period. Literary studies of the twenty-first century has done little to examine the ways in which costumes on the early modern English stage functioned to convey relationships between outward expression and inner self. Despite critical agreement that staged objects in early modern England were significant for creating meaning in theatrical performances, the presentation of material objects in early modern English drama with respect to a performed selfhood continues to be underappreciated or misunderstood, if not entirely neglected.
In response to this problem, I argue that an examination of the history of costumes on the early modern English stage is necessary to discover how costumes functioned over time to indicate both complete and incomplete transformations in performance. On-stage clothing, particularly when it is removed from or placed upon an actor’s body, effectively added to the performed narrative. Within any given work of drama, of course, the act of changing costumes often coincides with the potential for a change of one’s character. Examining elements of identity including political alignment, social status, religion, gender, and sexuality as features that can be defined and redefined through costuming, it is possible to trace the ways in which costumes have the power to transform.