The Vice of the interludes and the Mannerist tradition: A family resemblance?

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Abstract

In this essay I will revisit the much discussed figure of the Vice of the Tudor interludes, his particular brand(s) of folly, and his dramatic progeny. My aim is not fundamentally to redefine the nature of the Vice, but more modestly to suggest an additional angle from which his stagecraft and dramatic function might be viewed. The familiar landmarks in the authoritative historiography of the Vice will thus remain important for the analysis. I shall discuss once more the Vice’s relationship with the audience, his employment of the mode of playing associated with the platea which stands between the world-in-the-play of the dramatised narrative and the play-in-the world of the spectators, his emotional volatility, and his energetic, often acrobatic performativity. But, rather than seeing these things as completely idiosyncratic and unique to the Vice tradition, I will suggest possible parallels with aspects of representative techniques observable elsewhere, specifically in the visual arts of the sixteenth century. Again, the aim will not be to claim some unnoticed and revolutionary influence between the drama and the fine arts, whether in one direction or the other, but simply to note some suggestive similarities, and to ponder how they might inform and inflect the way we think about the Vice of the interludes and (briefly, by way of conclusion) his dramatic descendants in the works of Shakespeare. In so doing I hope to offer a more nuanced account of both features of the Vice tradition and Shakespeare’s uses of it than has been hitherto suggested, and to engage with an important contribution to our understanding of the history of representation in the period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-218
JournalTheta
Volume12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016

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