Shakespeare's Webs: Networks of Meaning in Renaissance Drama

Shakespeare's Webs: Networks of Meaning in Renaissance Drama

Shakespeare's Webs: Networks of Meaning in Renaissance Drama

Shakespeare's Webs: Networks of Meaning in Renaissance Drama

Synopsis

In this book, renowned Renaissance drama critic Arthur F. Kinney argues that Shakespeare's method of composing plays through networks of meanings can be seen as a harbinger of today's information technology. Drawing upon hypertext and cognitive theory--areas that have for some time promised to take on more importance in the sphere of Shakespeare Studies--as well as the central metaphor of the Routledge collection The Renaissance Computer, Kinney looks in detail at four objects/images in Shakespeare's plays--mirrors, maps, clocks, and books--and explores the ways in which they make up networks of meaning within single plays and across the dramatist's body of work that anticipate in some ways the networks of meaning or "information" now possible in the computer age.

Excerpt

Let nothing then hinder us from acknowledging the brain to be the most noble part of the whole body.

-André du Laurens, A Discourse of the Preservation of Sight,
translated by R. Surphlet (1598)

Materialist criticism may…need to begin to consider the implications of the brain as the material site where culture and biology meet and shape each other.

-Mary Thomas Crane and Alan Richardson (1999)

The modern playhouse in England was a theater of easily held things. Hand-held objects figured centrally in plays of all genres there, not just the dramatic adventures of “amorous knight[s]” that Stephen Gosson derides. Indeed, one of the clearest departures that early modern playwrights made from Aristotle's precepts came in the ready employment of those “lifeless things” that the Poetics goes on to criticize when used as a means of recognition. So common was this practice, in fact, that our memories of many early modern plays involve images of characters holding things. With Shakespeare, for example, Hamlet (1601) can suggest a man contemplating a skull; Antony and Cleopatra (1607), a woman with an asp; Romeo and Juliet (1596), a young woman with a dagger. Sometimes this link between character and prop is so strong that certain objects can gesture toward a drama, character, and scene: a severed finger may call to mind

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