Reading Shakespeare Historically

Reading Shakespeare Historically

Reading Shakespeare Historically

Reading Shakespeare Historically

Synopsis

Reading Shakespeare Historically is a passionate, provocative book by one of the most renowned and popular Renaissance scholars writing today. Charting ten years of critical development, these challenging, witty essays shed new light on Renaissance studies. It also raises intriguing questions about how the culture and history of the past illuminates the key social and political issues of today. Lisa Jardine re-reads Renaissance drama in its historical and cultural context, from laws of defamation in Othello to the competing loyalties of companionate marriage and male friendship in The Changeling . In doing so she reveals a wealth of new insights, sometimes surprising but always original and engrossing. At the same time, these essays also provide a fascinating account of the rise of feminist scholarship since the 1980s and the diversifying of `new historicist' approaches over the same period.

Excerpt

It is more than ten years since I first grappled in print with the relationship between history and the plays of Shakespeare. In that time I have been able to participate in an extraordinarily productive debate amongst scholars of the English renaissance on both sides of the Atlantic. This debate has been broadly concerned to develop our understanding of the ways in which a historically situated study of the works of Shakespeare plays a central part in studies of early modern text and culture. At the moment when western culture as a whole reconsiders the fragments of its heritage and searches its history for some point from which to see itself, once more, reassuringly whole, Shakespeare studies too are preoccupied with the relationship to the past. In both cases the task is not nostalgic reminiscence, but a fresh understanding of the rootedness of our present uncertainties, derived by some kind of engaging dialogue with the textual residue of history.

The process of development of my own thoughts on Shakespeare has been shaped by that vigorously developing debate, and coloured by its various and varied contexts and locations. It has also inevitably been marked by the strong way in which my personal intellectual history (within which literary studies form only a part of an academically diverse collection of interests and areas of expertise) has intersected with those of others pursuing alternative lines of thought, sometimes in entirely different fields of inquiry.

I have learnt more than I would ever have imagined possible from people with intellectual agendas entirely different from my own, and with interests derived from distinct cultural formations. What has characterised the debate as a whole has been a shared energy, and a passionate commitment to deepening our intellectual grasp of the present we inhabit, and of contemporary issues which challenge our understanding. The differences of opinion (occasionally the head-on confrontations on public platforms) have been as important and as formative as the agreements. The alliances formed have at times been unpredictable, the disagreements correspondingly unexpected: in discussions of gender and power, feminists have crossed swords with new historicists; on other occasions specialists in gender studies and those in history have found themselves together proposing alternatives to arguments

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