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Thinking Through Place on the Early Modern English Stage$
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Andrew Bozio

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198846567

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198846567.001.0001

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Bartholomew Fair and the Performativity of Place

Bartholomew Fair and the Performativity of Place

(p.154) 5 Bartholomew Fair and the Performativity of Place
Thinking Through Place on the Early Modern English Stage

Andrew Bozio

Oxford University Press

This chapter uses Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair to theorize the performativity of place on the early modern stage. The Induction establishes what will be a central concern for Jonson’s play: namely, how can Bartholomew Fair contend with the memories that playgoers have of the fair’s setting in Smithfield, when such memories may reveal the inadequacy of the theatrical enterprise? Tracing the play’s efforts to resolve this problem in its engagement with the perceptions and the memories of playgoers, the chapter shows how the Induction functions as a cognitive system for managing thought within the playhouse, to the specific end of creating a theatrical Smithfield. Similarly, the play’s depiction of Smithfield shows how perception, movement, and other forms of embodied thought work together to bring place into being. Like the atoms of the Lucretian universe, which shape the cosmos through continual swerving, the characters of Bartholomew Fair create Smithfield through their collective movement, revealing that space is not an a priori dimension but rather an emergent entity. By figuring Smithfield as a site in which individuals and ideologies repeatedly collide with one another—most notably in the interaction of Bartholomew Cokes and Zeal-of-the-land Busy—the play foregrounds the generative potential of disruption and displacement to suggest that disorientation can alter the physical contours of a place.

Keywords:   Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, Smithfield, the Hope Theater, performativity of place, Bartholomew Cokes, Zeal-of-the-land Busy

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