Making Shakespeare: The Pressures of Stage to Page

Making Shakespeare: The Pressures of Stage to Page

Making Shakespeare: The Pressures of Stage to Page

Making Shakespeare: The Pressures of Stage to Page

Synopsis

Making Shakespeare is a lively introduction to the major issues of the stage and print history, whilst also raising questions about what a Shakespeare play actually is. Tiffany Stern reveals how London, the theatre, the actors and the way in which the plays were written and printed all affect the 'Shakespeare' that we now read. Concentrating on the instability and fluidity of Shakespeare's texts, her book discusses what happened to a manuscript between its first composition, its performance on stage and its printing, and identifies traces if the production system in the plays we read. She argues that the versions of Shakespeare that have come down to us have inevitably been formed by the contexts from which they emerged, being shaped by, for example, the way actors received and responded to their lines, the props and music used in the theatre, or the continual revision of plays by the playhouses and printers. Allowing a fuller understanding of the texts we read and perform, Making Shakespeare is the perfect introduction to issues of stage and page. A refreshingly clear, accessible read, this book will allow even those with no expert knowledge to begin to contextualize Shakespeare's plays for themselves, in ways both old and new.

Excerpt

In our time, the field of literary studies has rarely been a settled, tranquil place. Indeed, for over two decades, the clash of opposed theories, prejudices and points of view has made it more of a battlefield. Echoing across its most beleaguered terrain, the student's weary complaint 'Why can't I just pick up Shakespeare's plays and read them?' seems to demand a sympathetic response.

Nevertheless, we know that modern spectacles will always impose their own particular characteristics on the vision of those who unthinkingly don them. This must mean, at the very least, that an apparently simple confrontation with, or pious contemplation of, the text of a four-hundred-year-old play can scarcely supply the grounding for an adequate response to its complex demands. For this reason, a transfer of emphasis from 'text' towards 'context' has increasingly been the concern of critics and scholars since the Second World War: a tendency that has perhaps reached its climax in more recent movements such as 'New Historicism' or 'Cultural Materialism'.

A consideration of the conditions - social, political, or economic - within which the play came to exist, from which it derives and to which it speaks will certainly make legitimate demands on the attention of any well-prepared student nowadays. Of course, the serious pursuit of those interests will also inevitably start to undermine ancient and inherited prejudices, such as the supposed distinction between 'foreground' and 'background' in literary studies. And even the slightest awareness of the pressures of gender or of race, or the most cursory glance at the role played by that strange creature 'Shakespeare' in our cultural politics, will reinforce a similar turn towards questions that sometimes appear scandalously 'non-literary'. It seems clear that very different and

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