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English Literature   >   Shakespeare and Material Culture

What is Material Culture?

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Shakespeare and Material Culture

In this course, Professor Catherine Richardson (University of Kent) explores how an understanding of Early Modern English material culture can enrich our understanding of two of Shakespeare's most famous plays, Macbeth and Othello. We begin with an introduction to the concept of material culture and its vital place in Early Modern England. In the second module, we look at the role of the stool in Act 3, Scene 4 in Macbeth. In the third, we think about how the bed and the bed linens set up the tragedy of Othello.

What is Material Culture?

In this module, we introduce the concept of material culture and explore its place in Early Modern England, focusing especially on: (i) material culture as the environment and objects within which and through which meaning is made, (ii) the crucial role non-human actors play in our activities, (iii) the consumer revolution in Early Modern England, and how important 'things' were in people's lives, especially given the population's semi-literacy, (iv) the crucial role dress played in social hierarchy, and the ability to challenge this hierarchy through the costumes of the actors on the stage, and (v) how an understanding of an object's role in different social contexts can help us understand how audiences experienced and interpreted Shakespeare's plays.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Richardson, C. (2023, July 05). Shakespeare and Material Culture - What is Material Culture? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Richardson, C. "Shakespeare and Material Culture – What is Material Culture?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Jul 2023,