Working from the premise that the stage performer's primary functions dervice from celebrative rituals, this book describes the figure of the actor as "anti-character" in premodern popular theatre. Particularly in plays belonging to the popular, performative tradition, the actor simultaneously impersonated and subverted the character of the playtext. By doing so, he affirmed the ritual-celebrative authority of the performer and audience over the ideological authority of the written text. Included are close analyses of three major playtexts in performance: Aristophanes' Frogs, the medieval mystery plays, and Shakespeare's As You Like It. The introduction briefly lays out the basic theatrical theory underlying the phenomenon of actor as anti-character. The book then explores three paradigmatic figures: the god Dionysus, archetypal model of the comic actor; the Devil, as both farcical individual and wild demonic chorus, who brought carnival disruption to medieval religious drama; and the Elizabethan boy player of Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It who, using the marketplace techniques of traditional popular performance, colluded with his rowdy audience to subvert a sophisticated character from a literary romance.
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