Shakespeare's Audience

Shakespeare's Audience

Shakespeare's Audience

Shakespeare's Audience

Excerpt

In the following pages I have collected and tried to interpret justly the evidence on the size, social composition, behavior, and the aesthetic and intellectual capacity of Shakespeare's audience. I have been as objective as it is possible for me to be, realizing that in a reconstruction from fragmentary materials the greatest hazard to the truth lies in the bias of the workman. My desire to avoid distortion explains the infrequency with which I have quoted the plays of Shakespeare himself: they are stimulating texts, and I feared that in a sermon upon men and manners based thereon I might only amaze myself with my own fertility. The plays, by the way, depict audiences--witty and gracious, credulous and passionate, brusque and preoccupied, as the case may be--and, since audiences may be any of these things, it is tempting to derive our conception of Shakespeare's from one he depicts. But Shakespeare's plays were performed in an actual London, not in a dramatically ideal palace of Theseus, forum of Rome, or banquet hall of Elsinore.

Only a brief note on method will be necessary. In quoting from Elizabethan works, I have retained the old spelling except in the few cases where I have expanded abbre-

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