In Elizabethan England, dramatists and painters were both achieving the greatest degree of artistic excellence yet witnessed, but they were also in a state of transition, vying for social status and patronage, as well as struggling against religious reformers' accusations of idolatry and eroticism. This interdisciplinary study brings to light the radical, inventive ways in which dramatists such as Shakespeare, Lyly, and Marston appropriated painting and subtly competed with painters to advance their own art and defend theater against Puritan attacks. They transformed painting into a provocative stage property and trope that enhanced the language of their scripts and the audience's imaginative participation in the drama. At the same time, they reflected a profound ambivalence towards painting by staging scenes with painters and pictures that emphasized the dangerous powers inherent in visual images and image-making, thus drawing attention to the controversial moral and social status of English painters during the Reformation. Marguerite Tassi is Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
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