2007-08 BM1: Session 8

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Back to 2007-08 BM1 Introduction to the Critical and Scholarly Discussion of Literature, Part 1


Argument 7: The Elizabethan drama prospered both as a popular urban and as a prestigious courtly entertainment

In relation to sh., two views coexist in both scholarly and in wider cultural perspectives:

  1. sh. is of all ages and all nations.
  2. we must be aware of sh.'s historical conditions of living and working.

This has generated a some recurring questions and points of reference, o fwhich it is useful to be aware:

Received Notions about Elizabethan Drama. The Elizabethan world picture (Tillyard), change from Elizabethan to Jacobean (dark), social change theories, Shakespeare greatest English author, popular, courtly author, "Shakespeare does it best", questions of how to edit Shakespeare properly - create the text Shakespeare wanted to write. England as global player (Drake etc.). Elizabeth the central agent. Early modern period-debate. Shakespeare legend - "the dark years", "the lost years".

The working basis of research on Sh. and the early modern period is

  • each (later) period makes its own sh., according to its needs.
  • for the same reason (or: as this shows:) sh. is relevant to all periods.
  • sh. is a central figure for our understanding of the early modern period.
  • All our images of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan / jacobean periods are continually revised; they maintain both Sh and the period(s) in close relation to current concerns and developments (20th century Theatre

two options:

  1. new adaptations and appropriations fo sh.
  2. return to the original sh.

main concerns of scholarly debate on sh.

  • sh.s biography
  • sh.s text
  • sh.s historical or transhistorical significance (Why Shakespeare?)
  • history of reception, appropriation, sh.cult

Renovations in Shakespeare research, the past fifty years

From conflated texts to rediscovery of the different historical documents and conditions of performance

from romantic historicizing stage settings to

Shakespeare cult - from national genius to brilliant popular entertainer

Problematic aspects: construction of the period. Privileged focus on Shakespeare, work and Elizabteh-reductions. The problems of conflated texts. The Elizabethan age did only later - in the 19th century - become the period in which the modern concept of British identity developed.

What to do with an Elizabethan or Jacobean play?

locate contemporary editions (EEBO) and compare them to later printed editions (act and scene divisions, stage directions, asides, title-pages, the text itself). Be attentive to the signs for different contexts and uses which you may discern in each text.

look at the tradition of interpretation and performance.

look at characters, conflicts, information management,

From conflated texts to historical documents available at EEBO.