Date of Award

Fall 2001

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gillespie, Michael P.

Second Advisor

Asp, Carolyn

Third Advisor

Curran, John


Many scholars have noted that the Renaissance in England placed a particular emphasis on role-playing. This study address the important problem of understanding role-playing as a component of cultural change within the Renaissance and the capacity of human agency in that process. The theories of Victor Turner provide a helpful way of understanding the dynamics of Renaissance literature. Turner's processual approach allows for a way of understanding the flexibility of human identity through role-playing. But at he same time, his theory allows for the place of human agency in creating and adapting to personal as well as social change as demonstrated in Renaissance literature. The Faerie Queene, Book VI reveals that external adherence to a fixed notion of courtesy limits the possibilities for courteous behavior. Shakespeare's As You Like It examines the potential for human change through improvisational role-playing, while King John examines through role-playing the attributes of kingship. John Donne employs the performative aspects of ars moriendi to contemplate human attitudes toward death. The dramatic aspects of Paradise Lost reveal that role-playing is processual and identity is influenced by performative choices.



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