Professor Janet Clare’s work focuses on Renaissance and early modern literature with particular reference to the drama. Publications span a period from c.1550-1685 and range from women’s writing in the Renaissance to the censorship of drama during the Exclusion crisis of the late Stuart period. Her first book ‘Art made tongue-tied by authority’: Elizabethan and Jacobean Dramatic Censorship (1990; second edition 1999) explored the impact of literary and dramatic censorship on the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The debate about early modern censorship is ongoing and she has continued to contribute articles and lectures on the subject.
Her next book, Drama of the English Republic, 1649-1660 (2002; reprinted in paperback 2005) is an edition of, and comprehensive introduction to, the plays and entertainments performed during a period when theatre was in retreat and/or opposition. Three of the five texts (William Davenant’s The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru and The History of Sir Francis Drake, together with the anonymous Tragedy of that Famous Roman Orator Marcus Tullius Cicero) were edited for the first time. The study breaks away from the familiar binary of Puritanism and theatre to reveal complex and shifting allegiances and the adaptation of the theatrical medium to contain folk celebration, current affairs and pamphlets. She argues that, far from being a dramatic backwater, drama of the Commonwealth provided the impetus for much that was to follow in the drama of the Restoration. She also focuses on the complex reception of classical republicanism, the appropriation of the ‘black legend’ and of Elizabethan materials (the Drake legend, for example) during the period of the Commonwealth.
Revenge Tragedies of the Renaissance (2006) is published in the series ‘Writers and their Work’, and includes the drama of Kyd, Shakespeare, Chettle, Marston, Middleton, Webster and Ford, amongst others. The book considers the classical legacy of revenge plays, and asserts their historical position while addressing them from contemporary critical perspectives, including gender, national identity and aesthetics of performance. Her argument is that, rather than conforming to a genre that rehearses convention, revenge plays show themselves to be unpredictable in their ways of projecting ethical dilemmas and unstable in their recourse to farce, satire, parody and melodrama.
Her book Shakespeare’s Stage Traffic: Imitation, Borrowing and Competition in Renaissance Theatre (2014; pbk 2017) situates Shakespeare’s plays within the flourishing and competitive trade of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. By attending to the often overlooked question of dramaturgy, Clare uncovers the theatrical transactions at the heart of Shakespeare’s plays, demonstrating in detail how Shakespeare worked with materials that had already entered the dramatic tradition, moulding and converting them to his own use. Clare shows how Shakespeare was highly eclectic in practice, and developed adaptation into its own form of originality.
Her most recent publication is her edited collection of essays Republic to Restoration: Legacies and Departures (Manchester University Press, 2018).
For the Oxford Marston she is editing What You Will.