The Merry Devil’s Reveries

An introduction

“Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris” (2.1.38-41) Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe

(Woodcut image from the title page of Doctor Faustus courtesy of Luminarium)

Gute Abend meinen fellow Dämonen,

My name is Conrad Leibel and I am an independent researcher newly graduated from the University of Victoria’s MA in English Literature program. Since I have nothing better to do, I have decided that I will write bi-monthly blog entries to record my thoughts on both medieval and early modern plays. For those acquainted: you are likely already aware of how bizarre early theatre can be. What is so delightful about these works is that there is no such “Theatre” to speak of – playwrights are developing a craft which is very much in flux and subject to much awkwardness, bizarre errors and fantastic lapses into the carnivalesque.

My interest in early theatre began in 2012, after I had taken a course on medieval theatre with Dr. Garrett Epp at the University of Alberta. While I have long been acquainted with the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe (thanks, Mom and Dad), I had never had the opportunity to discover just how truly open the early stage is to all types of chaos. What made “Theatre” boring for me was the fact that it was always taught as an institution – completely developed, monolithic and resistant to change. This is obviously completely untrue of performance art and avant-garde theatre, however, as someone who was taught that theatre could only be performed in one highly restrictive Stanislavskian manner, medieval theatre opened new worlds for me. It demonstrates that capital L Literature is often just as much a collection of screw ups as a group of amateur performers.

At UVic, I tried writing an unsuccessful thesis on Morality Plays and morality play in video games which went just about nowhere. I had no scope and no sense of my own direction outside of the fact that I thought it would make for a fun project. Huge mistake – but I had a chance to work on witchcraft plays so…

My purpose with this blog is to share not only my own thoughts and reflections on this highly diverse and chaotic world of early theatre, but also that underworld of early theatre with the less acquainted, who may believe (like I had once believed) that contemporary theatre is dead and gone (it’s with my grandpa in the grave…etc…etc…) I hardly share those same thoughts, being much better acquainted with the variety of performance art in existence than I had been while attending a Theatre program.

My first blog post will be coming by the end of this week: expect The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.

Until we meet again.


Categories Journal reflections

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