The Whole Play of Parts: a Study of Cued Parts in English Renaissance Drama 1590 – 1620

Gilmore, Nicola A (2012) The Whole Play of Parts: a Study of Cued Parts in English Renaissance Drama 1590 – 1620. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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The chief objective of this doctoral thesis is to identify the feasibility of interpreting non-Shakespearean plays written during the English Renaissance period in terms of their integral actors’ cued parts. The cued part is defined herein as the prevalent type of theatrical script received by an early modern professional actor. Unlike the familiarly linear, holistic guide to a play typically received by a twenty-first century actor, such a unique text consisted solely of the lines to be spoken by the player on behalf of the individual character he was to represent. Each moment of speech was prefaced by a short cue to facilitate effective timing on the stage. An actor’s cues, visually indicated on the part by ‘cue-tails’, the long horizontal lines which preceded them, would themselves be crucially distinguished from the speaking part, thus forming a detached peripheral ‘cue-text’ of their own (Palfrey and Stern, 2005). This thesis is situated in the context of seminal work by Simon Palfrey and Tiffany Stern (2005, 2007). Although the authors’ ground-breaking publications currently saturate the newly-emerging discipline, their content is almost exclusively confined to the plays of Shakespeare despite the non-Shakespearean provenance of extant early modern cued parts. Originality is demonstrated herein through extension of the field’s existing sphere of influence. The current study thus seeks to resolve whether the practice of performing from cued parts was unique to Shakespeare or common to a cross-section of Renaissance playwrights, united for analysis within the following chapters by one of two factors: the theatrical association of the dramatists’ plays with the Lord Admiral’s Men, the playing company for whom the known part-conversant actor Edward Alleyn performed and/or the existence of their plays in bibliographically inferior yet dramatically enlightening ‘bad’ quarto (Pollard, 1909) or ‘minimal text’ (Gurr, 1999) form. Whilst it has been largely critically overlooked, the cued part is hypothesised within this study to be an all-encompassing complete unit of text, performance and meta-performance. Although the original rationale for its production was firmly rooted in the practical, the revised agenda set by this thesis is predominantly interpretative. Adopting an actor-centred methodology, the present investigation represents an active contribution to understanding within the field, its most innovative inputs centring upon selected key areas. In terms of the dramatic, the study proposes an archetypal technical composition for the early modern professional actor’s customised text, venturing to assert a series of original classifications of cue type with far-reaching semantic repercussions, reinforced by supporting literary and cultural analysis. Establishing new terminology for the analysis of cued parts, the vast editorial potential inherent in the form begins to emerge. The comparative relationship between cued parts and ‘minimal text’ editions of plays written and performed during the period 1590 to 1620 is elucidated, the latter bibliographic grouping critically neglected on account of its compromised literary value. The surprising influence of the actor in shaping the composition, performance and direction of Renaissance plays is subsequently promoted. Finally, in the realm of the meta-dramatic, the thesis recommends the multi-dimensional self-reflexive potential of the cued part form. New evidence is provided for the existence of alternative texts within both play and part, tendering shifting perspectives on the whole play and simultaneously boasting immeasurable creative potential to contemporary directors, actors and scholars alike. Orienteering far beyond the accepted segmentation of the whole play into parts, the cued part itself is dissolved into interior and exterior meta-parts. The reader is ultimately presented with a selection of avant-garde reflections upon the broad interpretative facility of the small and quirky Renaissance theatrical text.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: English Renaissance Plays, Acting cued parts
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education & Humanities > Humanities
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2015 13:14
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 21:29

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