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The meanings of space in society and drama: perceptions of domestic life and domestic tragedy c.1550-1600

Richardson, Catherine Teresa (1999) The meanings of space in society and drama: perceptions of domestic life and domestic tragedy c.1550-1600. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86142) (KAR id:86142)


This thesis has two intimately related aims. It investigates socially-distinct perceptions of domestic life in a provincial society closely linked to London in the second half of the sixteenth century. It then demonstrates the difference which those perceptions make to individuals' responses to representations, specifically of households in the genre of domestic tragedy. The method is interdisciplinary: close analysis of testamentary and judicial sources is used to imaginatively construct the perceptions of theatre audiences. Wills and inventories are used in Chapter 2 to analyse the material composition of domestic space, and these sources make possible an understanding of domestic process, of the formation of identity, and of the expression of social distinction through the objects which were kept in each room of the house. Chapter 3 uses ecclesiastical court depositions to show how space was moralised in contemporary life, and how it formed a part of the strategic discourses of public morality through which individuals understood their actions. The coherence of this evidence, for the provincial centres of Kent, makes it possible to understand the relative meanings of objects and spaces, and therefore the internal logic of provincial society. Chapter 4 investigates the consumption of representations of domestic life, using the evidence for socially-distinct perceptions to construct different responses to the plays. It explores the mechanics of such representations, focusing on the meanings of stage properties, and upon audience members' conceptions of the moralised relationship between house and community. This analysis prioritises contemporary perceptions of dramatic productions, and insists upon a consideration of the divergent responses of heterogeneous audiences. It challenges less carefully historicised approaches to representations by demonstrating that it is only through an examination of the evidential context of historical sources that an understanding of the internal logic of societies (and therefore their perceptions and representations) can be reached.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Butcher, Andrew
Thesis advisor: O'Connor, Marion
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86142
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Tudor studies
Subjects: A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > LA History of education
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:30 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2022 09:30 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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