Discovering the kinetic language of violence on the early modern stage

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Matthew Charles Carter (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jennifer Feather

Abstract: “Discovering the Kinetic Language of Violence on the Early Modern Stage” addresses the concern that scholars of early modern literature do not frequently historicize sword combat in their analyses of moments of violence. This project seeks to demonstrate the fruitful areas of inquiry that wait to be discovered. In this project, I theorize sword combat as a conversation, employing a variety of other theoretical frameworks to explain the various ways that swords influence our understanding of embodiment. I describe the conversational model of combat as the “kinetic language of violence,” and I locate this conversation in the movements of swordsmen and the historical valences of their weapon choices. I begin my analysis with a focus on the falchion, a brutal medieval sword that had almost disappeared by the early modern period. Here, I argue that the sword is a “fecund arm” that bridges the gap between the body and the social self. I employ this construction to analyze the representation of disability in Shakespeare’s history plays. The second chapter examines the way that the ballock dagger, which has a phallic hilt, negotiates gender in Macbeth, The Maid’s Tragedy, and Merchant of Venice. The third chapter understands race as a prosthetic notion that can be troubled and naturalized through swords such as the curtle-ax and the scimitar. I focus on constructions of race in Tamburlaine I & II, Titus Andronicus, and Othello. Finally, I examine the extremely popular rapier in Romeo and Juliet, The Little French Lawyer, Othello, and The Roaring Girl to explain how the rapier renegotiates the line between the body and the social self.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Body, Combat, Renaissance, Shakespeare, Sword, Theatre
English drama $y Early modern and Elizabethan, 1500-1600 $x History and criticism
English drama $y 17th century $x History and criticism
Violence in the theater
Swordplay in literature
Swords in literature
Stage combat

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