The Trappings of Ceremony: Setting the Table and Other Theatrical Practices
This chapter presents the circulation of stage objects in two slightly different, but firmly historicized contexts. First, it explores the shifting status of the handkerchief in Shakespeares Othello in light of the emerging discourse of the trifle in early modern England. Second, it turns to the long history of Shakespearean performance, and to the conventions through which mere properties became relics thanks to their association with famous British and American actors. Both these approaches allow for a more theoretically-oriented consideration of the relationship between the stage propertys value off stage and the meanings it takes on within dramatic fictions. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of a twentieth-century novel that satirizes the practice of enshrining old properties as sacred objects while underscoring the powerful memorializing impulse behind such acts. It hopes to account for the various meanings assigned to these relics, objects that link us not to some original moment of transcendent genius but to a dynamic theatrical tradition.