From Props to Prosopopeia

Making After Cardenio

Authored by: Jane Taylor

The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance

Print publication date:  July  2014
Online publication date:  July  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415705400
eBook ISBN: 9781315850115
Adobe ISBN: 9781317911722


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Let me begin with the pairing of terms in my chapter title: I start with “props.” In theatrical terms, the prop is something that makes no claims to agency. We get some good sense of what props are from Philip Henslowe, the Elizabethan theatrical entrepreneur, who lists the following props amongst his company’s assets on March 10, 1598:

1 rock, 1 cage, 1 tomb, 1 hell mouth, 1 bedstead, 8 lances, 1 pair of stairs for Phaeton, 1 globe and golden scepter, 3 clubs, 1 golden fleece, 2 racquets, 1 bay tree, 1 lion’s skin, 1 bear’s skin, Phaeton’s chariot, the city of Rome, Neptune fork and garland, one pot for the Jew, one boar’s head and Cerberus’ three heads. 1

(Henslow 1845: 273) A workable definition of the prop is that it is an object used on stage by actors to further the plot or storyline. Although for all the passivity implied by this definition, the prop can also be at times that without which the plot cannot advance. (Let us think of the letter that Hamlet discovers and then rewrites in order to contrive the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.) 2

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