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Wooden Os

Wooden Os: Shakespeare's Theatres and England's Trees

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Wooden Os
    Book Description:

    By considering works includingFriar Bacon and Friar Bungay, the revisedSpanish Tragedy, andThe Tempest, Nardizzi demonstrates how the "trees" within them were used in imaginative ways to mediate England's resource crisis.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6417-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Prologue: Evergreen Fantasies: Utopia’s Trees and Early Modern Theatre
    (pp. 3-5)

    In a passage that, according to a marginal gloss in the 1597 English edition of Thomas More’s Latin text, records the “wealth and delcription [sic] of the Vtopians,” the traveller Raphael explicates the island’s program of woodland maintenance. He relates that Utopians “plucked up by the rootes” “a whole wood [silvam] by the handes” “in one place, & set [it] againe in an other place.”¹ In his telling, this outlay of communal labour, which appears to our eyes as extravagant, proves altogether mundane. Raphael links it explicitly to “those things which husbandmen doo commonly in other countries, as by craft & cunning...

  6. Introduction: Wood, Timber, and Theatre in Early Modern England
    (pp. 6-31)

    The late sixteenth-century English translation of More’sUtopiaprovides no inventory of the explicit uses to which Utopians put the island’s transplanted trees. We could follow Richard Halpern’s lead and classify such woodland management as an example of the “blank absence of any motivation” on the island (156). We could also argue that since woodlands, like farms and fields, supplied many of the polity’s most basic – and banal – wants,¹ to tell the story of what Utopians do with their trees after the Herculean feats of clearance and redistribution have occurred would make for dull conversation at the humanist...

  7. 1 “Vanish the tree”: Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay at the Rose
    (pp. 32-58)

    Near the midway point of Robert Greene’sFriar Bacon and Friar Bungay,¹ a tree prop takes centre stage for roughly eighty lines. “[L]eav’d with refined gold” (9.79), it may be the “tree of gowlden apelles” listed in the late sixteenth-century inventory of the Admiral’s Men’s stage props – or, at least, a forerunner of it. Thrust through the stage floor’s trapdoor, the tree and the magicians interacting with it also “hold[] … with a long suspense” (9.155) the attention of a double audience: the patrons who paid their coins for a performance ofFriar Baconat the Rose and the...

  8. 2 “Come, will this wood take fire?” The Merry Wives of Windsor in Shakespeare’s Theatres
    (pp. 59-83)

    At the close ofThe Merry Wives of Windsorthere is a late-night invasion of Little Park,¹ a game preserve adjacent to Windsor Castle,² within the bounds of Windsor Forest, and thus the property of the English monarchy.³ This trespass on crown land is not a terrifying literary realization of the woodland spoliation that the Spanish were alleged to have devised for Gloucestershire’s woods in the late 1580s. Instead, in this first “nocturnal” park scene “in English drama” (Barton,Essays353), the play’s cast assembles to stage and watch amateur theatricals. Some of Windsor’s children don fairy costumes to “publicly...

  9. 3 “Down with these branches and these loathsome boughs / Of this unfortunate and fatal pine”: The Composite Spanish Tragedy at the Fortune
    (pp. 84-111)

    In 1601, theatre impresario Philip Henslowe recorded an order for additional scenes to be used in a revival of Thomas Kyd’s revenge dramaThe Spanish Tragedyat the new Fortune playhouse. He furnished Ben Jonson a handsome sum for “writtinge of his adicians in geronymo,” a reference to the father Hieronimo whose son is murdered on a “fatal” tree in Kyd’s play (4.2.7).¹ A year later Henslowe logged another disbursement to Jonson, a portion of which he earmarked specifically for “new adicyons for Jeronymo” (182, 203). Despite such evidence fromHenslowe’s Diarypointing to Jonson, there is no scholarly consensus...

  10. 4 “There’s wood enough within”: The Tempest’s Logs and the Resources of Shakespeare’s Globe
    (pp. 112-135)

    At the sound of a thunderclap, Caliban throws down the “burden of wood” he has hauled onstage in act two, scene two of Shakespeare’sTempest. Having done so, he launches into a speech act that has come to distinguish him in postcolonial criticism and literature: “All the infections that the sun sucks up / From bogs, fens, flats, on Prospero fall, and make him / By inch-meal a disease!” (2.2.1–3). Such bravura skill in employing Prospero’s “language” (1.2.366) has made Caliban, as Jonathan Goldberg observes, “a byword for anticolonial riposte” (Tempestix).¹ But what should we make of the...

  11. Epilogue: The Afterlives of the Globe
    (pp. 136-138)

    Wooden Oshas thus far elaborated the richly interwoven histories of early modern England’s woodlands and London’s outdoor theatre industry. Its central claim about the theatres dotting the cityscape – that, in an era marked by a perceived scarcity of wood and timber, the cultural imagination typecast playhouses as virtual woodlands where an array of eco-fantasies and nightmares about that shortage could be staged – requires that we see (as many early modern writers and dramatists seem to have done) the English woods inhering in the superstructure of the wooden O. But when the cost pegged to the construction and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 139-168)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-194)
  14. Index
    (pp. 195-205)