Honest Clothes in The Merry Wives of Windsor

Richardson, Catherine (2015) Honest Clothes in The Merry Wives of Windsor. In: Mirabella, Bella and Lennox, Patricia, eds. Shakespeare and Costume. Arden Shakespeare . Bloomsbury, London. ISBN 978-1-4725-2507-9. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

What might early modern performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor have looked like, and how did the play make its meaning from the costumes its characters wore? This essay takes the play’s interest in ordinary everyday experience as a cue to read it against a rich source of evidence for the use of early modern clothing, and in doing so it seeks to reconstruct aspects of early modern performance practice which are currently lost to scholarship. It offers an analysis of valuable information from contemporary court depositions which shows the significance of the discourses and gestures associated with items of dress, and asks what happens if we translate such meaningful social practices onto the early modern stage. After analysing what is at stake in the materialisation of social distinctions through dress, the second section of the essay explores the extent to which clothing carries such distinctions in Merry Wives. From Slender’s ‘by these gloves’, through Falstaff’s ‘An old cloak makes a new jerkin’ and Quickly’s courtiers, ‘all musk; and so rustling’, to the cross-dressed fairies in the forest, it investigates the textual evidence for the significance of clothing in the play. But it then goes one step further, suggesting the ways in which we can bring the evidence of the early modern courts to bear in order to explore what we can no longer see or hear because it is not represented in the text – the range of gestures and ideas associated with dress – suggesting partial answers to how actors might have used their costumes on Shakespeare’s stage, and what information that use might have carried for the representation of gender, social status and morality.

Item Type: Book section
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1655 Drama
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Catherine Richardson
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2015 20:05 UTC
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2015 15:13 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/51365 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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