Comedy was at the centre of a critical storm that raged throughout the early modern period. Shakespeare's plays made capital of this controversy. In them he deliberately invokes the case against comedy made by the Elizabethan theatre haters. They are filled with jokes that go too far, laughter that hurts its victims, wordplay that turns to swordplay and aggressive acts of comic revenge. Through a detailed study which considers tragedies and histories as well as comedies, Maslen contends that Shakespeare's use of the comic mode is always calculatedly unsettling, and that this is part of what makes it pleasurable.
While much has been written on Shakespeare's debt to the classical tradition, less has been said about his roots in the popular culture of his own time. This is the first book to explore the full range of his debts to Elizabethan popular culture. Topics covered include the mystery plays, festive custom, clowns, romance and popular fiction, folklore and superstition, everyday sayings, and popular songs. These essays show how Shakespeare, throughout his dramatic work, used popular culture. A final chapter, which considers ballads with Shakespearean connections in the seventeenth century, shows how popular culture immediately after his time used Shakespeare.
Readers of Shakespeare's language, from the playhouse to the classroom, have long been aware of his peculiar interest in legal words and concepts - Richard II's two bodies, Hamlet's quiddities and quillets, Pandarus' peine forte et dure. In this new study, Andrew Zurcher takes a fresh, historically sensitive look at Shakespeare's meticulous resort to legal language, texts, concepts, and arguments in a range of plays and poems. Following a preface that situates Shakespeare's life within the various legal communities of his Stratford and London periods, Zurcher reconsiders the ways in which Shakespeare adapts legal language and concepts to figure problems about being, knowing, reading, interpretation, and action.
In challenging new readings of plays from King John and Henry IV to As You Like It and Hamlet, Shakespeare and Law reveals the importance of early modern common legal thinking to Shakespeare's representations of inheritance, possession, gift-giving, oath-swearing, contract, sovereignty, judgment, and conscience - and, finally, to our own reception and interpretation of his works.
Music permeates Shakespeare's plays. This comprehensive study explores the variety of its theatrical functions, situating them in the context of the Early Modern period's understanding of music.From the trumpet calls which animate the battle scenes of the histories and tragedies to the songs which inflect the moods of the comedies and romances, Shakespeare experiments throughout his career with music's potential to contribute to the effect of his dramas. David Lindley sets the musical scene of Shakespeare's England, outlining the period's theoretical understanding of music and discussing the experience of music heard in the streets, alehouses, private residences, courts and theatres, which an audience brought with them to the Globe and Blackfriars. Music could be praised as a symbol of divine and political harmony, or vilified as an incitement to lust and effeminacy; it could heal and cure, or fuel drunken rebellion. Focusing throughout on the plays as theatrical events, this work analyzes Shakespeare's dramatic and thematic exploitation of these conflicting perceptions of music.
This book sets Shakespeare in the religious context of his times, presenting a balanced, up-to-date account of current biographical and critical debates, and addressing the fascinating, under-studied topic of how Shakespeare's writing was perceived by literary contemporaries, whose priorities were more obviously religious than his own. It advances new readings of several plays, including Hamlet, King Lear and The Winter's Tale, and draws on under-exploited contemporary analogues, ranging from conversion narratives, books of devotion and polemical pamphlets to manuscript drama and emblems.
This study describes a writer whose language is saturated in religious discourse but whose invariable practice is to subordinate religious matter to the aesthetic demands of the work. For Shakespeare, as for few of his contemporaries, the Judaeo-Christian story is something less than a master narrative.
Shakespeare, like many of his contemporaries, was concerned with the question of the succession and the legitimacy of the monarch. From the early plays through the histories to Hamlet, Shakespeare's work is haunted by the problem of political legitimacy.
Helen Cooper's unique study examines how continuations of medieval culture into the early modern period, forged Shakespeare's development as a dramatist and poet. Medieval culture pervaded his life and work, from his childhood, spent within reach of the last performances of the Coventry Corpus Christi plays, to his dramatisation of Chaucer in The Two Noble Kinsmen three years before his death. The world he lived in was still largely a medieval one, in its topography and its institutions. The language he spoke had been forged over the centuries since the Norman Conquest. The genres in which he wrote, not least historical tragedy, love-comedy and romance, were medieval inventions. A high proportion of his plays have medieval origins and he kept returning to Chaucer, acknowledged as the greatest poet in the English language. Above all, he grew up with an English tradition of drama developed during the Middle Ages that assumed that it was possible to stage anything - all time, all space.
Shakespeare and the Medieval World provides a panoramic overview that opens up new vistas within his work and uncovers the richness of his inheritance.
Adrian Poole examines the Victorian's obsession with Shakespeare, his impact upon the era's consciousness, and the expression of this in their drama, novels and poetry. The book features detailed discussion of the interpretations and applications of Shakespeare by major figures such as Dickens and Hardy, Tennyson and Browning, as well as those less well-known.
Arden Critical Companions make leading contemporary scholarship accessible and provide fresh insight to the student, scholar and theatre-goer. By putting Shakespeare's work into context, each volume helps the reader develop a richer understanding of both individual plays and his work as whole.
General Editors: Professor Andrew Hadfield, University of Sussex and Professor Paul Hammond, University of Leeds.