Early Modern Studies

Image -  Early Modern Studies

Welcome to the early modern studies research group! Our staff and students work on both the canonical and the forgotten sides of early modern literary culture.

Jane Kingsley-Smith is writing the first book-length study of the reception of Shakespeare's Sonnets, showing the very different critical and creative histories of these poems, Clare McManus's work on female performance and the dramatic canon challenges the preconception that women were excluded from early modern performance, and Andy Kesson is interested in the plays, playwrights, playhouses and playing styles that most often get forgotten in conventional accounts of the period. We have three post-doctoral researchers working in the department: Morwenna Carr on early modern and Restoration stagings of the body, and particularly props and prosthetics, Callan Davies on theatre history, immigration and technology, whilst Dustin Frazier Wood's wide-ranging work includes a focus on the relationship between medieval literature and English identity from the early modern period onwards. Our three current PhD students are Robin Craig, working on the representation of transgender and disabled bodies in contemporary Shakespeare performance, Kim Gilchrist, studying  Elizabethan chronicles and their construction of English history, and Robbie Hand, investigating the visual culture of the earliest Elizabethan playhouses.

Funded PhD studentships are offered through the TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership consortium. For further information please visit the TECHNE website and send expressions of interest to ECWTechne@roehampton.ac.uk.

Before Shakespeare: The Beginnings of London Commercial Theatre, 1565-95

Andy Kesson

Before Shakespeare asks how and why commercial playhouses came to be built in London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. We engage in performance and archival research to explore the world of the sixteenth-century playhouses and the plays performed in them. 

Prof. Clare McManus, Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2017-18) for Early Modern Women’s Performance and the Dramatic Canon. 


Performance by women in early modern England is currently hidden in plain sight. It is well-known that boy-actors played women on stage - but not that they did so in a world full of women who also performed. In streets and alehouses women were paid for song, dance and acrobatics; noble women danced and acted at court; travellers wrote of virtuoso foreign actresses. This book explores the performance records of England, France, Italy and Spain to show how taking these female performances into account offers new ways of reading the plays of Shakespeare, Fletcher and their contemporaries. 


In summer 2017, Clare was Security Pacific Fellow at the Huntington Library, San Marino, and short-term fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, carrying out research for this project. 

Research Centre Members

Research Centre Students