No Respecter of ‘Place, Persons, Or Time’: Festivity as Coercive Power in Twelfth Night and The Puritan Widow
Yates, Robert Olin
Scholars of early modern England have recently renewed their interest in festivity—the religious and social concept and practice of feasts, fasts, processions, celebrations, gatherings, and other rituals associated with the holidays and seasons of the Christian liturgical calendar. Scholars have turned much of their attention to the term as it relates to theater and English culture more broadly. Whether it is Erika T. Lin (2013), who argues theater was not a “culmination of” but rather an “active negotiation with contemporaneous festive performance practices,” Phebe Jensen (2008), who historicizes late medieval and early modern Catholicism’s theological unease about festivity, or Leah Marcus (1986), who theorizes that the “lawless topsy-turvydom [of festivity] can both undermine and reinforce” authority, scholars suggest that festivity helped to define and shape communities, even as those same communities fiercely debated its meaning over time. With this growing historiography in mind, I see an opportunity to reconsider the literary and social meanings of early modern comedies as they relate to festivity’s complicated history. Drawing on discourses of Catholic and Protestant theology, religious memoirs, and recent early modern English scholarship, this thesis investigates festivity in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Thomas Middleton’s The Puritan Widow. I argue that characters in Twelfth Night and The Puritan Widow exercise power through festive occasions to coerce non-conformist characters into religious and social conformity across religious and gendered axes by appealing to anxieties about time, space, and bodies. After an analysis of scholarship on festivity, followed by readings of Twelfth Night and The Puritan Widow, I conclude by considering what is at stake for festivity’s dialectical relationship between ideology and practice, when commercial theater represents, or perhaps reveals, festivity as coercive on the early modern stage.
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.