Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2016


"Over the last three decades, antitheatrical authors like Stephen Gosson, Phillip Stubbes, and William Prynne have become increasingly visible in the literary and cultural studies of the early modern period. Even so, the tendency has been to treat these authors as ideological extremists: reactionary hacks whose opposition to stage plays originates in outrageous ideas of the self, impossible notions of right and wrong, and bizarre beliefs about humanity’s susceptibility to external suggestion. This characterization can be traced back to several of the pioneering studies in the field, including Jonas Barish’s The Antitheatrical Prejudice (1985) and Laura Levine’s Men in Women’s Clothing (1994), each of which takes the irrationality of the antitheatricalists as a starting point, as well as a structuring assumption. Both of these books have shaped our critical discourse: virtually everyone who has written about antitheatricalism in recent years has been influenced by and is indebted to the readings that these books present. Nevertheless, I believe that these groundbreaking studies plowed the field in such a way as to distort some of its contours. In the present essay, I offer a careful response in hopes of giving us a better sense of the lay of the land."


This article was originally published in Criticism, volume 58, issue 2, in 2016. DOI: 10.13110/criticism.58.2.0231

Peer Reviewed



Wayne State University Press



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