Taking Liberties

  • Matt Kozusko Ursinus College


The 'place' scholars have assigned to the stage in early modern London is as much a reflection of the procedures of contemporary literary criticism as a reflection of the cultural function of popular drama in the early modern period. Modern critics are often not engaged in re-examining available data, preferring instead to rest on a conjectural paradigm or heuristic that has hardened, over the past couple of decades, into a New Historicist version of 'fact'. Critics have collapsed boundaries and important distinctions in London jurisdiction and geography in the interest of a unified critical narrative that characterizes the theatre as a culturally marginal phenomenon. This article questions the 'marginal' model of popular theatre by revising the current critical notion of the term 'liberties' and by re-examining jurisdiction and city authority in early modern London.