Notes towards an analysis of early modern applause

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4 Citations (Scopus)


At the first performances of Shakespeare’s plays, what did the applause sound like? When in the performance did it occur, and what was it triggered by? How loud was the applause at the end? When audience members used their limbs in this way, clapping their hands repeatedly together, what did they think they were doing?.

Such questions speak to the concerns of the new direction within literary studies described by Katharine A. Craik and Tanya Pollard in the Introduction to this volume: a fresh, historicized interest in how literature, broadly defined, acts upon the minds and bodies of those who experience it. These concerns are relevant when studying early modern literature of all sorts, but particularly relevant to drama, a machine for communal, demonstrative, and participatory engagement with literature. Francis Bacon described it, with justice, as “a plectrum to play men’s souls with.”Applause, the most ubiquitous of the effects produced by that plectrum, is worthy of study both in itself and as a gateway to the wider questions of early modern theatrical affect.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShakespearean Sensations
Subtitle of host publicationExperiencing Literature in Early Modern England
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781139235587
ISBN (Print)9781107028005
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


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