Editor's introduction

Gabriel Egan
Shakespeare's Globe and King's College London

Gabriel Egan. "Editor's introduction." Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 13 (April, 2004): 1:1-3
<URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-13/intro.htm

  1. This special issue of Early Modern Literary Studies is concerned with computer modelling of performance venues used to present early modern drama. Recent advances in technology have brought powerful 3-dimensional modelling tools within the reach of academics using office-standard computing equipment, and the contributors to this issue exploit these tools to generate knowledge about the venues and practices of dramatic performance. Christie Carson of Royal Holloway University of London's Drama Department leads a large project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board to produce an archive of materials concerned with the performance of Shakespeare in major English venues between 1960 and 2000. Here Carson provides a report on that project and reflects on how the new technologies incorporated in it might modify the methods of academic theatre history. Also from a Drama Department, the one at the University of Hull, Christian Billing explores the structural analogies between the 'performance' of public dissection and its relation to theatre performance in early modern Europe, especially London. Starting from a likeness in the design of the performance venues in each case, Billing explores the expectations roused by the final moments of Cyril Tourneur's play The Atheist's Tragedy and later works by John Ford, and locates these within a context of changing conceptions of the inside of the human body.

  2. The other two articles in this issue of EMLS use computer modelling to study pictures of the second Globe playhouse. In August 2003, as copy for this issue was being completed, John Orrell of University of Alberta died. Orrell's extraordinary contributions to early modern studies were centred on the design of playhouses and culminated in the construction of the replica Globe theatre that now stands near to the site of the original in South London. The dimensions and architecture of this 'Shakespeare's Globe' (or, 'Wanamaker Globe') were based on Orrell's brilliant new interpretations of the scant evidence for the design of the original, especially as described in his book The Quest for Shakespeare's Globe. The attempt at a full-scale reconstruction based on limited evidence was bound to produce differences of scholarly opinion, and not even the entire academic committee of the project agreed with the final decision to make a 20-sided, 100-foot diameter polygonal amphitheatre.

  3. The articles presented here by Tim Fitzpatrick and this editor take up the ongoing disagreements about the size and shape of the Globe playhouse and find reason to suspect that the chosen design was not quite as safely indicated by the evidence as Orrell thought. As a doctoral candidate in the mid-1990s I repeatedly communicated with Orrell by email as I double-checked some of the work in The Quest for Shakespeare's Globe and I found that his intellectual generosity, openness, and amenability to debate were examples of the highest ideals of the academic profession. Since then I have met many people who also held this opinion of him, and I do not doubt that he would have engaged with what is offered here in his characteristic spirit of shared exploration. It is a loss to the field of theatre history that the articles about his work presented in this issue of EMLS cannot be subject to Orrell's own piercing criticism, their faults (of which no publication can be free) politely but firmly pointed out to their authors.



2004-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).