This dissertation challenges the misconception of post-Reformation England as iconophobic. On the contrary, it argues that early modern English poets and playwrights adapt Continental theories and techniques from painting, translating them into their own poetic and dramatic forms. It explores how allusions to contemporary perspectival images serve as governing metaphors and structural devices for the works in which they appear. Particularly in the genre of the Elizabethan epyllion and in works by Shakespeare, it suggests that texts are designed to be read “perspectively,” to borrow Shakespeare’s coinage, so that they are open to ambiguity and multiplicity, and capable of being interpreted in conflicting or complementary ways. In chapters on the Elizabethan epyllion, it examines how the rhetorical superfluity and linguistic play of Marlowe’s Hero and Leander and the satirical experience of “curious viewing” in Marston’s Metamorphosis of Pigmalion’s Image effect a shift in the period’s understanding of artistic invention. In chapters on Shakespeare, it reveals how the modern interest in Shakespearean metatheater — where the theater draws attention to itself as theater — is in fact grounded in the contemporary language of visual perspective. It shows how Shakespeare cues his original audiences to view his plays as perspectival double images, constituted not only by the embodied characters within the fictional worlds of his plays, but also as the physical, human actors of his professional playing company in early modern London. It contends that Shakespeare’s plays become increasingly visual and perspectival, changing meaning and resonance depending on venue, after his professional playing company, the King’s Men, acquire their second playhouse, the Blackfriars. This dissertation therefore traces evolutions in aesthetics and dramatic form occasioned by contemporary developments in the period’s larger visual culture, breaking new ground on the confluences between the visual, poetic, and dramatic arts.

Degree Date

Summer 2023

Document Type


Degree Name





Daniel Moss

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License