Games and Manhood in the Early Modern Theater


ACLS Fellowship Program




This study examines how early modern dramatists staged table-top games—from chess and cards to children’s spinning tops and adult drinking games—to teach their audiences gaming competencies considered necessary to male identity: exercising reason in making decisions; negotiating incomplete information; employing analogic thinking; and finding pleasure in rule-bound systems. The project throws into historical relief current scholarship on games, which, focusing on contemporary digital technology, has treated these gaming competencies as transhistorical and universal. It argues for the early modern theater as an early interactive gaming technology, one that offers new insights into the relationship between gaming and manhood in the seventeenth century as well as today.