Chloe Kathleen Preedy, Aerial Environments on the Early Modern Stage: Theatres of the Air, 1576-1609 – OUP, September 2022
During the early days of the professional English theatre, dramatists including Dekker, Greene, Heywood, Jonson, Marlowe, Middleton, and Shakespeare wrote for playhouses that, though enclosed by surrounding walls, remained open to the ambient air and the sky above. The drama written for performance at these open-air venues drew attention to and reflected on its own relationship to the space of the air. At a time when theories of the imagination emphasized dramatic performance’s reliance upon and implication in the air from and through which its staged fictions were presented and received, plays written for performance at open-air venues frequently draw attention to the nature and significance of that elemental relationship.
Aerial Environments on the Early Modern Stage considers the various ways in which the air is brought into presence within early modern drama, analyzing more than a hundred works that were performed at the London open-air playhouses between 1576 and 1609, with reference to theatrical atmospheres and aerial encounters. It explores how various theatrical effects and staging strategies foregrounded early modern drama’s relationship to, and impact on, the actual playhouse air. In considering open-air drama’s pervasive and ongoing attention to aerial imagery, actions, and representational strategies, the book suggest that playwrights and their companies developed a dramaturgical awareness that extended from the earth to encompass and make explicit the space of air.