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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Adam Zucker

Second Advisor

Jane Degenhardt

Third Advisor

Marjorie Rubright

Fourth Advisor

Harley Erdman

Subject Categories

Disability Studies | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | European History | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Performance Studies | Renaissance Studies | Social History | Theatre and Performance Studies | Theatre History | Women's History | Women's Studies


In periods of social and political upheaval like ours, it is more important than ever to interrogate constructions of identity and difference and to understand the histories of alterity that separate us from one another. Stranger Compass of the Stage: Difference and Desire in Early Modern City Drama reimagines the cultural and social effect of alien, foreign, and stranger characters on the early modern stage and re-envisions how these characters contribute to, alter, and imaginatively build new epistemologies for understanding difference in early modern London. Resisting the field’s current critical inclination toward English identity formation, this project works intersectionally to exhume the delicate cultural and theatrical networks in which difference was negotiated. In doing so, it rescopes the limits of what counts as difference in the period. Stranger Compass addresses fundamental questions of how early modern theater navigated difference on the stage by looking to four areas of performed difference: geographic and social difference, sexual difference, physical difference/disability, and gender non-conformance. Each chapter focuses on one of these areas, and each chapter is treated with a similar analytical framework that draws on transformation and desire as socially constitutive forces. Rescoping the cultural and theatrical landscape of London allows this project to begin with geographic and social difference and to work ever closer to negotiations of individual difference in the theatrical space. Ultimately, Stranger Compass brings together methodologies that demonstrate how theatrical performance stimulated audience members to engage, participate, and revise their intimate attitudes toward difference. Looking to Thomas Middleton’s Michaelmas Term (1604) and A Trick to Catch the Old One (1605), the anonymously authored Fair Maid of the Exchange (1607), Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton’s The Roaring Girl (1607/10), and Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour (1616 folio), I highlight that figures of difference are also often figures of familiarity and locality, who were integral to London’s most basic social relationships as a growing city with a malleable culture. Vital in their difference and desirable in their tangible divergence, the characters in these works call on us to reconsider difference, identity, and desire.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License