Domestic Drama and Political Culture in Early Modern England

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Eoin Price (The Shakespeare Institute) and Iman Sheeha (University of Warwick)
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In the early modern period, the household was commonly perceived as analogical to the state, the head of the household, a king, the servants, his subjects: "An houshold," John Dod and Robert Cleaver wrote in 1598, "is as it were a little Commonwealth." Towards the end of the sixteenth-century, the domestic received particular attention from political theorists, moralists and writers of household guides alike. Running alongside this extensive public interest in the household, writers for the theatre produced a series of plays that took the domestic, the private and non-elite household as its subject matter. Given the commonplace household/state analogy, the political could be read into many situations and scenarios depicted in many of these plays. Invited to see a play that apparently deals with households like their own, early modern audiences were offered more than a domestic situation to look at, examine, criticize and think about—they were offered scenarios that invited them to think beyond the micropolitics of daily existence to the macropolitics of kingly governance. Domestic plays deal with a range of vital political questions: gender relations, resistance theory, active citizenry, and good governance. Calling for papers to be edited into a collection provisionally titled Domestic Drama and Political Culture, we invite contributions that will investigate the place of domestic drama in the political culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. What, we want to know, can drama tell us about domestic politics? What can domestic politics tell us about drama?

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