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Stage, Stake, and ScaffoldHumans and Animals in Shakespeare's Theatre$
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Andreas Höfele

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199567645

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567645.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Stage, Stake, and Scaffold
Author(s):

Andreas Höfele

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567645.003.0001

The introduction specifies the proximity of theatre and bear-baiting in the cultural topography of Shakespeare’s London. The two entertainments were not just physically close but joined in active collusion, generating a perceptive overlap which included the scaffold of public execution as a third partner. This overlap provided a highly productive matrix for synopsis (‘seeing together’) of human actors and their animal counterparts in both their likeness and unlikeness. Evidence for the physical presence of animals on Shakespeare’s stage is scanty at best – even the bear in Winter’s Tale could well have been a human actor – but their imaginative presence is all the more powerful and far from innocent. The stage may have been tainted by the messy company of stake and scaffold, but its very closeness to the rending, tearing and killing also made it a unique platform for evoking sympathy for the suffering fellow creature.

Keywords:   early modern theatre, bear-baiting, public execution, London, cultural topography, Globe theatre, Bear-garden, philosophical anthropology, animality, Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

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