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The Summons of Death on the Medieval and Renaissance English Stage

Phoebe S. Spinrad

“In the great age of the English drama, death walked the stage in many guises, constantly reminding Renaissance man and woman that all endings were one end. But such a vivid reminder was not new to the Renaissance audience, and in fact was not only a mutation but a muting of the Death that had frightened and comforted audiences for two centuries before. Without the medieval Legends and Dances of Death, without the Dreary Deaths that brandished spears from medieval painting and stage, there would have been no Doctor Faustus, no Bosola, no Yorick.

“It is the purpose of this study, then, to examine the way in which four centuries of art managed to grapple together Everything and Nothing into the greatest drama of the English language—only to lose sight, at the end, of what they were grappling with, and to wrestle helplessly with the scenery as the curtain came down.” —from the preface

Phoebe S. Spinrad is associate professor of English at The Ohio State University.

1987   334 pp. This title is no longer available in a traditional print edition. Click here for free access to the book's full text.