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Chapter 3 - Acting, Preaching and Oratory in the Sixteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2020

David Wiles
Affiliation:
University of Exeter
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Summary

Because there was no equivalent in Renaissance England to the Roman Forum and Senate, the stage actor was free to inherit the mantle of Cicero and Quintilian. I shall ask in this chapter how far stage actors did in practice follow a path mapped out by the ancient orators. Italian accounts of the actor’s art: De Sommi, Cecchini and Scala were Italian stage directors who contested appropriation of the rhetorical tradition by intellectuals, and the improvisatory tradition placed them as makers of embodied speech. Erasmus and the act of speaking: although Erasmus fostered a culture of the book, his sense of language was grounded in orality. Vives offers a vivid account of the fleshiness of the spoken word. A case study from ‘Merchant of Venice’ illustrates how Shakespeare wrote for different rhetorical registers. Sacred rhetoric: Erasmus straddled a tension between the Catholic tradition that emphasized form and the nascent Protestant tradition that required the preacher to be driven by the spirit. Donne and Alleyn: I focus on the relationship between England’s greatest preacher in the early seventeenth century and his son-in-law, who had been England’s greatest stage actor, bringing out the different conceptions of rhetoric.

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The Players' Advice to Hamlet
The Rhetorical Acting Method from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment
, pp. 70 - 108
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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