The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0055 Wednesday, 23 February 2011
From: Matthew Steggle <
Date: Thursday, February 3, 2011 4:49:23 AM ET
>Does anyone know of any references in early modern drama or associated materials to
>the phenomenon now known as "corpsing" where an actor becomes seized by laughter in
>the middle of a performance?
Tom Bishop might want to look at my book, _Laughing and Weeping in Early Modern Theatres_ (Ashgate,
2007), which hoovers up early modern references to laughing on stage: how it was done, how it was notated
in surviving scripts. Also in there (in Chapter 7) are various early modern accounts of mishaps on stage-
actors forgetting their lines, etc -- that provoke unintended audience laughter. None of them (I can
think of) refers to actors _laughing_ uncontrollably. About the nearest you get is this typically unfunny
[A] Master of Art in one of the Vniuersities, hauing acted in a Tragedy, and his body lying seeming dead
on the Stage, for the time, was not yet come that hee should be taken away, a passion took him that he
was forced to cough so loud that it was perceived by the generall auditory, at which many of them falling
into a laughter, hee rising vp excused it thus: you may see Gentlemen what it is to drinke in ones
porridge, for they shall cough in their graue.
[attr. Archie Armstrong], A Baquet of Jeasts. Or Change of Cheare. Being a Collection of Moderne Jests.
Witty Jeeres. Pleasant Taunts. Merry Tales (London: Richard Royston, 1630), 103.
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