From revelation to commodity: Performing messengers, language and news from the York cycle to Ben Jonson

Lloyd Davis, Greg Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper examines the importance of messengers, messages, and the circulation and receipt of news in a representative range of late-Medieval and Renaissance plays. Focusing on the medieval Cycle plays of York and Coventry, Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra; and Ben Jonson's Staple of the News, the authors suggest how the different ways in which these plays treat the roles of messengers and messages reflect contemporary developments in the practice of news gathering and dissemination. Whereas the medieval plays confidently deploy messages, proclamations, and news as variously vehicles for and perversions of different kinds of truth (both human and divine), the later drama tends to take a more anxious and relativistic approach, treating the desire for news and information and the mechanisms by which they are generated and circulated as indices of both dramatic character and wider social forces. In the information networks of Caesar's Rome and the commercial news brokers of Jonson's London one sees precursors of more modern obsessions with spying, surveillance, and the rehearsal of gossip as a commodity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalCahiers Élisabéthains: A Biannual Journal of English Renaissance Studies
Volume70
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Information
  • Jonson, Ben
  • Medieval drama
  • Messengers
  • News
  • Shakespeare
  • Staple of the News

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