The Backgrounds of Shakespeare's Plays

By Karl J. Holzknecht | Go to book overview

2
SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLAND

How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!

-- The Tempest, V, i, 182 ff.

The fear of external dangers causeth forces at home to be more united; it is to all sorts a kind of bridle, it maketh virtuous minds watchful, it holdeth contrary dispositions in suspense, and it settleth those wits on work in better things which would else be employed on worse.

-- Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity,

Dedication to Book V ( 1597).

THE NATURE OF OUR NATION IS FREE, STOUT, HAULT, PRODigal of life and blood," remarked Sir Thomas Smith, Queen Elizabeth's ambassador to France and Secretary of State ( De Republica Anglorum [ 1583], Book II, ch. 24). No formula will explain the Elizabethan Englishman, but many times in these pages the words of this scholar-statesman will come to mind.


THE SPIRIT OF TUDOR ENGLAND

The age that produced Shakespeare was an era of change and restlessness. Everywhere -- in religion, in philosophy, in politics, in science, in literature -- new ideas were springing into life and coming into conflict with the established order of things. It is possible to paint a brutal picture of Renaissance England by telling nothing that is not true. And by the same selective method it is just as possible to idealize the period as possessing all human virtues. Equally striking are the age's search for the "knowledge of causes and secret motions of things" and its adolescent flippancy and swaggering; its newly awakened sense of a world to be won and its love of glittering toys; its spirit of adventure and its warlike turmoil; its wonder at natural phenomena and its superstition; its concern for the souls of men and its mockery of holy things; its lusty enjoyment of the whole of life and its depravity and moral blunt-

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The Backgrounds of Shakespeare's Plays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vii
  • 1 - Shakespeare's Life in Fact and Tradition 1
  • Suggested References 32
  • 2 - Shakespeare's England 33
  • Suggested References 61
  • 3 - The Drama Before Shakespeare 63
  • Suggested References 89
  • 4 - Elizabethan Theatrical Companies 92
  • Suggested References 114
  • 5 - The Elizabethan Public Playhouse 115
  • Suggested References 144
  • 6 - The Influence of Theatrical Conditions on Shakespeare 146
  • Suggested References 166
  • 7 - Shakespeare's Audience 167
  • Suggested References 185
  • 8 - Shakespeare's English 186
  • Suggested References 219
  • 9 - The Sources of Shakespeare's Play 220
  • Suggested References 245
  • 10 - Some General Aspects Of Shakespeare's Dramatic Art 247
  • Suggested References 265
  • 11 - Shakespearean Comedy 268
  • Suggested References 291
  • 12 - Shakespeare's History Plays 293
  • Suggested References 320
  • 13 - Shakespearean Tragedy 322
  • Suggested References 341
  • 14 - Shakespeare in Print 343
  • Suggested References 371
  • 15 - Shakespeare's Reputation 374
  • Suggested References 404
  • 16 - Shakespeare on the Stage 407
  • Suggested References 437
  • 17 - Shakespearean Scenes and Characters 439
  • Index 471
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