This article analyzes the ability of archival resources to make the especially transient and unstable performances of early modern mountebanks accessible and meaningful for performance studies research. Because mountebanks were itinerant performers and medical practitioners whose multiple roles challenged regulatory authorities and generated few lasting records, this article argues that mountebank performances may be best recovered and accessed by approaching the available archival materials not as records of fact, but of function. Documents like handbills associated with mountebanks were, after all, functional, inviting their readers to witness performances and test medical services. Self-authored documents like bills as well as representational and fictional texts replicate and reenact performative strategies attributed to mountebanks, namely, the cultivation of ambivalent rhetoric and compulsion to independent judgment of truth.

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