Research in Action: Laughter and madness in Commedia dell’Arte…


King Lear


Hamlet


As You Like It


Macbeth

Research in Action: Laughter and madness in Commedia dell’Arte and English stage comedy

Do you know me my lord?
Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.

Hamlet 

How do you react when you watch scenes from early modern dramatic works containing comic portrayals of frenzied, distracted or apparently ‘mad’ figures?

We are undertaking a research project aimed at investigating the relationship between laughter and power. We want to know more about the way laughter in the early modern theatre reflected and produced dynamics of power in early modern culture. What are the dramatic consequences of those dynamics? And how do the dynamics differ today?

On Monday 11 June at 6pm join us for a Research in Action workshop that explores present-day audience responses to scenes from early modern dramatic works containing comic portrayals of frenzied, distracted or apparently ‘mad’ figures.

We’ll be looking at extracts from the Commedia dell’Arte scenario ‘The madness of Isabella’ by Flaminio Scala, and The Honest Whore Part 1, by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton. We’re interested in investigating how different styles of performance influence an audience’s emotional attitude to these ‘mad’ characters. When, for instance, do audiences laugh? When do they feel uncomfortable – perhaps about their own laughter?

We’ll unpick different interpretations of the symptoms of madness that these two works present: from tragic expression of despair, to comic physical awkwardness, and verbal nonsense.

Cast includes: Jamie Askill, Beth Park, Ruth Siller, Tok Stephen and James Wallace.

Exploring audience response to representation of madness on the early modern stage with Dr Bridget Escolme, Dr Maria Turri and Dr Will Tosh on 11 June.