Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage

"Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage" provides the first sustained reading of Restoration plays through a performance theory lens. This approach shows that an analysis of the conjoined performances of torture and race not only reveals the early modern interest in the nature of racial identity, but also how race was initially coded in a paradoxical fashion as both essentially fixed and socially constructed. An examination of scenes of torture provides the most effective way to unearth these seemingly contradictory representations of race because depictions of torture often interrogate the incongruous desire to substitute the visible and manipulable materiality of the body for the more illusive performative nature of identity. In turn, "Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage" challenges the long-standing assumption that early modern conceptions of race were radically different in their fluidity from post-Enlightenment ones by demonstrating how many of the debates we continue to have about the nature of racial identity were engendered by these 17th century performances.


Ayanna Thompson is a professor of English at Arizona State University, where she directs the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Praise for this book

Covers valuable ground, productively interweaving literary and theoretical territory both established and neglected.

Theatre Journal