Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

English Language and Literature

Committee Member

Craig Dionne, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

John A. Staunton, PhD


Because Shakespeare’s plays have been performed consistently for four hundred years, Shakespearean performance is in an ideal position to demonstrate how performance transmits the meanings of texts. This thesis argues that performances of Shakespeare’s plays create meaning through the transmission of affect. Renaissance conventions of audience-actor engagement were based on character tropes and staging practices of medieval theater, to which audiences responded viscerally. To illustrate these responses, I draw upon 3 Henry VI and Richard III. I then examine Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It for their treatment of representation, empathy, and the power of affect. These plays include latent affective cues; I demonstrate how, instead of attempting to become characters, many contemporary actors examine their lines for affective cues, as actors did in the Renaissance. Establishing performance as a site of varied meaning creates conversation across disciplines that will lead to fruitful adaptations and interpretations of Shakespearean works.