The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1119  Tuesday, 21 June 2005

From:           Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 20 Jun 2005 10:52:54 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Celebrity and the Theatre of Idols

POET: All those which were his fellows but of late--
Some better than his value--on the moment
Follow his strides, his lobbies fill with tendance,
Rain Aacrificial whisperings in his ear,
Make sacred even his stirrup, and through him
Drink the free air.


I have been pondering these lines from Timon of Athens (1.1.83-88) for
this past week, including as the Michael Jackson verdict was announced.
It occurs to me that Timon is something like a celebrity, and that the
idolatry that appends to him resembles the use of "idol" in current
popular discourse-teen idol, screen idol, American Idol, etc. I also
recall that early modern anti-theatrical discourse speaks of the
theatres as encouraging a kind of idolatry. My questions: (a) Whom else
would we regard among theatrical characters as celebrities? Cleopatra
comes to mind, but I'm not sure of others. (b) Was there a notion of
celebrity in early modern culture? (c) Were performers and/or
playwrights becoming celebrities? (d) Is there a way to tie the
antitheatrical arguments equating theatre and idolatry to notions then
current of celebrity? (e) Has celebrity been a focus of anyone's
research? What should I read on this?

Jack Heller

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