Misrepresentations: Shakespeare and the Materialists

By Graham Bradshaw | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO Dramatic Intentions: Two-Timing in Shakespeare's Venice

Jessica's Lie

Like Homer, Shakespeare nods. Sometimes, his lapses provide oblique but instructive glimpses of his workshop: to borrow a metaphor from Arnold Schoenberg, we see the artist responding to the evolutionary needs of an embryonic conception. 1 For some distinguished modern editors, the most spectacular example of Shakespeare's getting himself into and then out of a potentially "ruinous" difficulty is provided by the "double-time" scheme in Othello. 2 If we agree that the difficulty exists, getting into it took some trouble, since it isn't present in Giraldi Cinthio's Italian story and Shakespeare could have avoided it altogether by keeping closer to the original story: he chose not to. And since the difficulty in question results from his drastic compression of the loose and indeterminate time scheme in Cinthio's novella, it cannot profitably be discussed without a more fundamental and ranging consideration of the dramatic reasons for that compression. Something is wrong with any reading that "makes sense" of a Shakespeare play in ways that do not and cannot accord with a plausible account of what Shakespeare was working toward in evidently purposeful departures from his source materials.

For another example, we could recall that moment in Measure for Measure--another play that draws on, but transforms, a story in Cin

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Misrepresentations: Shakespeare and the Materialists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • A Note on the Text xi
  • Prologue - Is Shakespeare Evil? 1
  • Chapter One - Being Oneself: New Historicists, Cultural Materialists, and Henry V 34
  • Chapter Two - Dramatic Intentions: Two-Timing in Shakespeare's Venice 125
  • Epilogue - The New Historicist as Iago 223
  • Appendix 258
  • Notes 283
  • Index 315
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