Hoarding the Renaissance:

The Matter of Ecology in Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Middleton


My dissertation envisions the Renaissance theater (1576-1642) as a hoard, or a constellation of objects, actors, and language that survive from prior contexts before taking their places on stage. I argue not only that small properties, textual fragments, costumes, and even actors’ bodies recycle onto the stage to communicate to audiences themes of accumulation and survival, but also that hoarding motivates the very plots of four central texts: Doctor Faustus, The Tempest, Cymbeline, and A Trick to Catch the Old One. My dissertation is informed by material cultural studies, scholarship which traces the historical conditions of nearly all of the objects that composed the early modern theater. In addition, I draw out ecocritical resonances latent in the scholarship of early modern material culture to suggest that nothing was ever really thrown out in Marlowe and Shakespeare’s London. Instead, pawned objects were recycled into properties, threadbare livery was pulped into paper, and new ships were built from the salvage of wrecked ones. In other words, I reroute the hoard, the stuff that Gil Harris calls the “positive residua” (116) of the theater, which is expressed at both the level of fiction and at the material level of objects and actors who transmit that fiction, through contemporary ecocritical terms to explain the how networks of material persist over time. Ultimately, I contend that the constant cycling and recycling of linguistic and material substrates that compose the Renaissance theater suggests methods on which we might draw to survive the contemporary dangers of anthropocentric climate change.