We are pleased to invite you to the fifth session of the Paris Early Modern Seminar (PEMS) for 2022, which will be held both in person and online on May 13, 2022 from 5.30 to 7pm (Paris time). We will meet in Room D116, Maison de la Recherche Sorbonne Université, 28 rue Serpente, 75006 Paris. The session will also be streamed via Zoom:
ID de réunion : 856 0991 5482
Code secret : 641715
“Burbage’s bereavements and the performance of apocalypse”
The end of the world loomed large in early seventeenth-century London theaters. “Is this the promised end?,” Kent wonders in the final moments of King Lear (c.1606). In Shakespeare and Middleton’s Timon of Athens (c.1606), Timon uses his last words to announce, “Sun, hide thy beams! Timon hath done his reign.” After “all the works / Are flown in fumo” in Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610), Sir Mammon Epicure announces “I will go mount a turnip cart and preach / The end o’the world within these two months.” Contrary to predictions, life continues in these plays – Albany steps up to rule England, Alcibiades goes to battle under Timon’s name, and Lovewit enjoys a new wife and wealth won by others – but in each the disappearance of a larger-than-life figure spurs self-conscious reflections on catastrophe. Although these plays span different authors and genres, they share a playing company – the King’s Men – and each features a misanthropic central figure embodied by leading actor Richard Burbage. The centrality of extinction-fears in these chronologically close plays raises questions about the possible significance of these other shared elements. Through tracing Burbage’s life, career, and position in the King’s Men at this time, this paper explores what he might have contributed to these plays’ interest in apocalyptic endings.
Tanya Pollard is Professor of English at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her books include Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages (2017), Drugs and Theater in Early Modern England (2005), two edited anthologies of primary texts, and three co-edited collections of essays. She is Chair of the Council of Scholars at Theater for a New Audience, and works with other New York theater companies, including recently as consultant on The Wonder of Women (Red Bull, 2022), The Alchemist (Red Bull, 2021), and Kiss Me Kate (Roundabout, 2019). She is currently editing Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist for Arden Early Modern Drama, and writing on actors and their roles in shaping Shakespeare’s plays.
Respondent : Charlotte Coffin