7
Shakespeare, Early and Late

That she is living,
Were it but told you, should be hooted at
Like an old tale. But it appears she lives,
Though yet she speak not.

(The Winter's Tale, 5.3.116–19)

As was explored in an earlier chapter, Shakespeare sharpens his audience's sense of what the word 'appears' may offer. This story is incredible to the ear, but as a visual spectacle it transcends seeming and overcomes objections. In this chapter the focus shifts away from the technique and value of representation and towards the 'old tales' that are being re-presented. Pericles is based on the story of Apollonius of Tyre as retold in Lawrence Twyne's Pattern of Painful Adventures, originally published in 1576 and reprinted in 1607. The Winter's Tale has as its main source Robert Greene's Pandosto (1588, reprinted several times in the next two decades). So Shakespeare is working with the material of 'old tales' of the 1570s and 1580s, and he is capitalizing on more recent revivals. It is worth remembering that Pericles incorporates a further layer of oldness in its tale by using the medieval poet Gower as a chorus. In contrast, The Tempest has no source as such but is often connected with the narrative of a New World shipwreck in 1609.1 Nevertheless it is notable that in the late plays innovation is based on recapitulation. In particular, this chapter will centre on the ways in which Shakespeare revisits and revises the interests of his earlier works in his final plays. When thematic affinities are evident it is often clear that Shakespeare is not repeating himself on the same terms. The focus of his drama has shifted, with the effect that the things

-138-

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Shakespeare's Late Work
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford Shakespeare Topics - General Editors: Peter Holland and Stanley Wells Shakespeare S Late Work iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1: The Late Shakespearian Canon 1
  • 2: Seeing is Believing 30
  • 3: Faith and Revelation 55
  • 4: Family Romances 81
  • 5: Conservative Endings 99
  • 6: Shakespeare, Middleton, and Fletcher 116
  • 7: Shakespeare, Early and Late 138
  • Further Reading 156
  • Notes 160
  • Index 171
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