Staging the Henrician Court : Utopia and the court space or the space of court.

This page last changed on Oct 01, 2009 by Eleanor Rycroft.

Utopia was famously written at that point in Thomas More's life when he was considering whether or not to entry the King's service. It contains numerous courtly motifs and ideas that relate to The Play of the Weather. One of think that has not been fully noticed is the way in which Utopia imagines public space. In the place Utopia public space is entirely transparent and open. In this world there is no room for the kind of allusions and indeed comedy that Heywood deploys in his work. At the same time one could see Weather as staging a failed utopian moment. If Jupiter at the end of the play did impose a whole new order on the weather then he would become a figure like Utopus - creating order out of chaos. But also creating sterility, a disturbing lack of difference or colour. Heywood's Jupiter, perhaps particularly in his appointment of Merry Report ensures that the space of the court is not transparent, free from nonsense, laughter, bawdiness and allusions, and this is presented By Heywood as a commendable.

We spoke during rehearsals of Merry Report's 'levelling effect' by which we meant, not that all the characters were elevated to the same status as in the valued citizens of Utopia, but rather they that were degraded by his bawdy to the same low level.

Do you think that we missed a trick in having the suitors come in from the same end of the Hall?  If they came in from 'hierarchised' entrances, perhaps this effect might have been realised in performance to a greater extent.  On the other hand, I cannot imagine anyone entering from behind the high table while Henry is present via the Watching Chamber, but perhaps through the Horn Room?  I wonder that other ways we could manifest the levelling effect of Merry Report in a space which, as you say, is patently not transparent and open. 

Eleanor Rycroft at Oct 01, 2009 17:08

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