Performing Identity: Early Modern Players and the Crafting of Professional Legitimacy
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Professional theater developed in Europe during the sixteenth century. Though it quickly became a popular form of entertainment, some viewed professional actors with skepticism and hostility. This thesis seeks to contextualize hostile responses to the theater and professional player by examining the social, religious, and economic conditions perceived by critics of the theater. This thesis begins with an examination of the commedia dell'arte and Jesuit school dramas to gain a broader understanding of perceptions of theater across social and religious boundaries. It then turns to England for a close examination of anti-theatrical literature and the methods players employed to craft an aura of professional respectability that contradicted the claims of their detractors.