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"The Fashion of Playmaking": Cloth in Middleton's City Comedy

Russell, Melanie (2019) "The Fashion of Playmaking": Cloth in Middleton's City Comedy. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis focuses on the dramatic uses of cloth within the works of the playwright Thomas Middleton (1580-1627). In a developing urban setting within which cloth enjoyed increasing cultural significance, the evolving London cloth trade augmented Jacobean dramatists’ material lexicon. The individual and collaborative efforts of Thomas Middleton reveal a particularly dense amount of references to foreign and domestic cloth, cloth merchants, and the overall cloth trade. This project examines in detail how cloth functioned as a tangible center around which Middleton could build a common frame of reference, creating a conduit for social content and commentary. Five Middleton city comedies are discussed (two are solely authored by Middleton, three are collaborative works), based on their density of cloth references, as detailed in an appendix. These plays are: The Patient Man and the Honest Whore (1604), Michaelmas Term (1606), Your Five Gallants (1608), The Roaring Girl (1611), and Anything for a Quiet Life (1621). This project works to demonstrate how a cloth-centered analysis allows for fruitful discussion of expectations, inconsistencies, tensions, and boundaries during the early modern period. This thesis explores the tension surrounding the expectations of patient masculinity in a commercial setting in Chapter One, the contradictory nature of a social system based on unreliable visual markers in Chapter Two, the inconsistency-generated identity of the prodigal gallant of display in Chapter Three, the tension generated by unconventional display and malleable gender expectations in Chapter Four, as well as the shifting perceptions of England’s cloth trade in a post-Cokayne climate in Chapter Five. This project endeavors to show how a focused literary analysis of cloth specifically can further advance current scholarship, allowing for increased insight into the early modern perspective in matters such as identity, gender, and commerce.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.786600
Depositing User: Dr. Melanie Russell
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2019 10:20
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24937

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