chapter  III
5 Pages

III.22 Gestures


Recent scholarship into early modern emotions, their manifestation and reception in a range of staged contexts, has been informed by research into gesture.1 Throughout the early modern period, the educated elite was able to learn how to ‘perform’ emotions by applying a set of codified uses of the voice as well as physical gestures that were learned from detailed treatises on the ‘Art of Rhetoric’ – itself developed from Ancient Greek culture. Learning rhetoric as a specific set of skills was a crucial requirement of any person who needed to orate: a lawyer, politician, teacher, actor or opera singer. By understanding this art form, we are able to gain crucial understanding about how performers of these gestures looked and sounded, but more particularly, how the emotions themselves were generated through this embodied action. Reading texts, looking at illustrations and experimenting with these materials through practical bodily engagement offer a toolkit to investigate how emotions were practised using gesture.