"The Persons of the Play: Early Modern Drama and Readers’ Annotated Character Lists"
(The following abstract will serve as the precirculated material for this talk.)
The character list, or dramatis personae, is a paratext that should tell us something about early modern perceptions of dramatic characters. Recent work on character lists has focused on just that: using them to read dramatic character or to reexamine manuscript plays, but these studies were mainly concerned with authorial or editorial representations of characters. Marginalia on character lists in printed playbooks has received relatively little attention despite providing evidence of how readers thought about characters. Character list annotations often include traits such as social roles and familial relationships, which sometimes appear in printed character lists too. Yet the descriptions that some readers added do more than just repeat the conventions of printed character lists; they demonstrate the ways those early modern readers imaginatively engaged with dramatic character. I will be discussing some of this marginalia and what it suggests about readerly perceptions of dramatic characters with particular attention to how these annotations work against modern conceptions of a character’s interiority or personhood.