Article Title

Actor, Maschera, and Role: An Approach to Irony in Performance


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The humanist, dealing as he does with human actions and creations, has to engage in a mental process of a synthetic and subjective character: he has mentally to re-enact the actions and to re-create the creations. - Erwin Panofsky

Gammer Gurton's Needle is well known as one of the two earliest "regular comedies" surviving in English. In its five-act intrigue plot it sustains dramatic conventions of Graeco-Roman "New Comedy" reintroduced by Ariosto, Dovisi de Bibbiena, and Machiavelli during the first decades of the sixteenth century in plays written for the courtly festivities of fashionable Italian noblemen. The title page of its earliest edition (1575) tells us that the comedy was "played on stage, not longe ago in Christes Colledge in Cambridge" and was "made by Mr. S., Mr. of Art." A reader new to the play would surely be pardoned for surmising that he was about to encounter a small, bright flower of Renaissance humanism in the North, sprung from the soil of the New Learning. In the disputations assemblies of a university galvanized by religious, political, and philosophical jolts,1 would not a Latinate comedy, no matter how lighthearted, seek its audience through urbanity of wit, and wear its erudition on its academical sleeve?

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