Entertaining Uncertainty in the Early Modern Theater: Stage Spectacle and Audience Response
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Lauren Robertson's original study shows that the theater of Shakespeare and his contemporaries responded to the crises of knowledge that roiled through early modern England by rendering them spectacular. Revealing the radical, exciting instability of the early modern theater's representational… practices, Robertson uncovers the uncertainty that went to the heart of playgoing experience in this period. Doubt was not merely the purview of Hamlet and other onstage characters, but was in fact constitutive of spectators' imaginative participation in performance. Within a culture in the midst of extreme epistemological upheaval, the commercial theater licensed spectators' suspension among opposed possibilities, transforming dubiety itself into exuberantly enjoyable, spectacular show. Robertson shows that the playhouse was a site for the entertainment of uncertainty in a double sense: its pleasures made the very trial of unknowing possible.