‘Scene of the Murder’: Arden of Faversham and Local Performance Cultures

Catherine Richardson


Notions of site-specificity have become increasingly important in our understanding of early modern drama. On the surface, domestic tragedies in particular have much to offer to and gain from site-specific research. Often based on historical events, they can exhibit a level of geographical specificity that is almost documentary – juridical or journalistic – in its levels of detail. Although much has been said about this particularity, however, less has been done to think through how it might have been read in performance, and the impact it may have had on its early modern audiences. This article aims to make some interventions into our discussions of site-specificity as they pertain to Arden of Faversham, and to draw conclusions that might have a wider resonance in terms of the way we conceive and analyse the range of specifically early modern relationships between site and performance.

Perhaps the most insistently geographically rooted of domestic tragedies, Arden is situated in a county with a long and rich history of both travel in and out, and antiquarian chorographical writing – two facts which rather fundamentally shaped Kent’s sense of itself as a county across the early modern period. This self-knowledge was developing in a strand of antiquarian texts that begins just before Arden’s murder, and continues to at least the eighteenth century; simultaneously, the local performance cultures of the drama were developing in their relationship to one another, as professional drama, as amateur performance and as a puppet play. The movement of these two tectonic plates of site-specificity against each other is the subject of this article.


domestic tragedy; Arden of Faversham; site-specific drama; antiquarian writing; puppet play; amateur performance; provincial culture

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