Shakespeare's English Histories: A Quest for Form and Genre

Shakespeare's English Histories: A Quest for Form and Genre

Shakespeare's English Histories: A Quest for Form and Genre

Shakespeare's English Histories: A Quest for Form and Genre

Excerpt

This book takes its focus and its title from the Shakespeare Association of America seminar at the 1990 convention in Philadelphia which was its impulse. It is graced and made more comprehensive by the addition of commissioned chapters on two of the Henry VI plays by Alexander Leggatt and by Naomi C. Liebler. G. K. Hunter’s paper in the seminar was already committed for publication elsewhere; he generously came forward with a second paper for this book by way of afterword to it. The seminar came together in the belief that questions of genre and of form in Shakespeare’s English histories had traditionally been somewhat slighted in favor of such questions of political doctrine as preoccupied the generation of E. M. W. Tillyard {Shakespeare’s History Plays, 1946) and Lily Bess Campbell {Shakespeare’s Histories, Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy, 1947), and since have preoccupied quite un-Tillyardian modes of politicohistorical thought, from Jan Kott’s political nihilism {Shakespeare Our Contemporary, 1964) to Stephen Greenblatt’s subverted heroism (“Invisible Bullets,” 1985, in Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield’s Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism).

The originating assumption, it would seem to us after our common labors for the seminar and this volume, is a valid one. Though every one of us can point to admirable essays on form and/or genre in Shakespeare’s histories since Tillyard’s time, it is the ideational dimension of the histories that has dominated criticism. If . . .

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