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Name: Ben Haworth

PhD: Early Modern English Literature

Thesis Title: Rogues Gallery: Liminality and the Politics of Power in Early Modern Texts


Thesis Description:

This thesis seeks to present the first comprehensive study of radical power politics within early modern theatre based on the voice of marginalised figures. By focusing on writers such as Beaumont, Greene, Jonson, Marlowe, Middleton, and Shakespeare, I will examine the manner in which liminal characters such as fools, fairies, actors, witches, and magicians, subvert conventional power structures within the potentially rebellious space occupied by the early modern stage. This will directly contribute to the debate on issues of containment and subversion of power on the Renaissance stage begun by Greenblatt and Dollimore in the 1980s and continued in new historicist and cultural materialist theory. Literary and cultural historians have explored the stage as an exceptional and incipient liminal space that naturally fostered challenges to social order yet ultimately relied on, and hence supported, patriarchal authority. However, this thesis focuses on the means by which playwrights used this unique space to invert social paradigms by introducing liminal characters that failed to conform to contemporary socio-political models. By paying particular attention to the extremities of hierarchy that are peculiar in featuring marginal characters, I will argue that a place within a structure of power, especially one on the edge, has the potential to upset, destabilise, and challenge the social stasis. I aim to show that the deliberate inclusion of marginal characters in early modern plays, effectively giving them a voice, inevitably applied pressure to the patriarchal order by creating new power dynamics and undermining received ideologies. 
This study extends my BA dissertation (First Class) on folklore and subversive theatre, and my MRes dissertation (Distinction) on Shakespearean folly, fools, and licence; providing me with the subject knowledge and research skills crucial for my proposed thesis.


Supervisors and Institutions: Dr Peter J. Smith (Nottingham Trent University), and Dr Peter Kirwan (University of Nottingham)



  • 'Nottingham Playhouse's The Revenger's Tragedy, A Review', Cahiers Élisabéthains, Vol. 92, April 2017, p. 105-107.
  • 'The RSC's Titus Andronicus, A Review', Cahiers Élisabéthains, Vol. 94, November 2017, p. 131-133.
  • 'Dog's Day: Natural Folly and Subversion in Much Ado About Nothing', Metacritic Journal for Comparative Studies and Theory (forthcoming).
  • 'The RSC's Twelfth Night, A Review', with Dr Peter J. Smith, Cahiers Élisabéthains, Vol. 97, p. 99-101.
  • 'The Rose Theatre's Much Ado About Nothing, A Review', Shakespeare,14 April, 2018, DOI: 10.1080/17450918.2018.1482951
  • 'The National Theatre's Macbeth, A Review', Cahiers Élisabéthains, (forthcoming).
  • Review of Monographs and journals for 2017 in The Year's Work in English Studies (forthcoming).
  • 'Shakespeare and the Politics of Commoners - a review' in Early Theatre (forthcoming).


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

year: 2016

  • NTU Research Fair 16/03/16 'The Politic Fairy: Oral Tradition and Subversion of Authority in Early Modern Literature.'

  • RAISE Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement – Loughborough University 08/09/16 ‘"Experts by Experience": Students Talk about Improving Their Academic Experience at University.'

year: 2017

  • EMRG Early Modern Research Group – University of Worcester 28/04/2017, 'Of Clowns and Corruption: Shakespearean Folly and Radical Subversion.'
  • NTU Postgraduate Research Seminar 03/05/2017, 'Of Clowns and Corruption: Shakespearean Folly and Radical Subversion.'
  • English Research Seminar Series 2017-18 - Nottingham Trent University 25/10/2017, ‘Death-Jesters, Tragedy, and Memento Mori: Shakespeare’s Unconventional Clowns.'
  • Early Modern Academic Advisor on The Black Rose - Shakespeare and His Black Mates (2017) a play by Fran Hajat, performed at the Nottingham Playhouse 02/11/2017.
  • HEA Event 'Grow Your Skills in Academic Writing', Nottingham Trent University 06/11/2017, guest speaker on the subject of personal approaches to academic writing.
  • ClujLit International Conference, 'Unmasked - The Rule of Convention' - University Babes-Bolyai, Romania 23-25/11/2017, 'Dog's Day: Natural Folly and Subversion in Much Ado About Nothing.'
  • Teaching experience ENGL215 Early Modern Literature, Nottingham Trent University, November 2017.

year: 2018

  • Shakespeare Connected, An Online Exhibition for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  'Not to Be: Death in the Collections', 14/04/2018
  • Panellist at 'A Much Ado About Nothing Colloquium', The Rose Theatre, Kingston on Thames, 21/04/2018
  • British School at Rome Workshop, Rome, 25/06/2018 - 01/07/2018 
  • Princes Teaching Institute. Guest lecturer at Shakespeare: from Page to Stage, St James the Less Westminster,12/07/2018
  • Panelist at Radical Mischief: A Conference Inviting Experiment in Theatre, Thought and Politics, The Other Place, Stratford upon Avon, 20-21/07/2018

Postgraduate Training Courses And Qualifications:

  • A Practical Look at Core Teaching Skills (UoN) 22/01/2018
  • Marking and Assessment (UoN) 13/02/2018
  • Prince2 Foundation in Project Management 25/04/2018
  • Mental Health First Aid (UoN) 14-15/06/2018


  • American Literature Module ENGL117
  • Literary Foundations Module ENGL017
  • Early Modern Poetry and Prose ENGL301


  • Pat McLernon Prize for highest achieving mature student graduating at NTU (2015)
  • Grand Prize for best paper at ClujLit International Conference. The paper presented and subsequently published was 'Dog's Day: Natural Folly and Subversion in Much Ado About Nothing' (2017)


University email address:

Twitter: @houseofmotley



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