ABSTRACT

Sixteenth-century audiences expected to be spoken to. Direct address had always been part of their theatrical experience, always enmeshed in the ways stories were told and spectators made sense of the action.1 In the transitional years between 1585 and 1595 playwrights experimented with the devices of monologue, soliloquy and aside, none more so than Marlowe, whose plays offered new ways for players to speak to the audience and for the audience to engage with the action on stage. Direct address is yet another aspect of Marlowe’s transformation of the popular drama: the refashioning of cultural and, importantly, theatrical traditions that underpin the “mighty line” and the spectacle, the astounding heroes and the disturbing ideas.2 This essay looks at some of Marlowe’s innovations to direct address in the context of earlier and contemporary plays from the 1560s to the mid 1590s. After considering some definitions and surveying the traditional uses of direct address, I argue that Marlowe’s plays transformed the soliloquy and liberated the aside. And the revolution began with The Jew of Malta.