This Stage-Play World: Texts and Contexts, 1580-1625

By Julia Briggs | Go to book overview

Preface to the Revised Edition

This Stage-Play World was originally written to introduce students of Renaissance literature to its social, political, and cultural context, and to introduce history students to a literature that gives thrilling and powerful expression to thought and life in early modern England. My chief difficulty, then and now, lay in the substantial differences between the two subjects and their different methodologies, between 'two different kinds of categorization of human experience . . . unhomologous systematic constructions put upon interpenetrating subject-matters'. 1 Since this book was first published in 1983, a great deal of critical attention has focused upon Renaissance texts and the conditions that produced them: in what follows, I have tried to give some impression of the main lines of argument.

To read Renaissance literature in the aftermath of New Criticism was to rediscover the importance of historical context, and the kind of insight it could give into the production and operation of literary texts. History offered political ideas and an engagement that had been exiled from critical practice: the radical sympathies of Christopher Hill, or the Cambridge history of ideas and political thought opened new perspectives on Shakespeare and Jacobean drama. At the same time, the history of early modern England was itself transformed in the 1970s by a series of invigorating new accounts, notably Peter Burke on popular culture ( 1978), Margaret Spufford on Protestantism and the reading public ( 1974, 1981), Quentin Skinner on political thought ( 1978), Lawrence Stone on education, the aristocracy and the family ( 1964, 1977), Sir Keith Thomas on religion and popular belief ( 1971), Keith Wrightson on social history ( 1982), and Penry Williams's overview of the Tudor regime ( 1979)--this list is by no means inclusive. 2 While these books reflected a range of political attitudes, they shared a sense of the period as one of dynamic change working at a variety of levels within society,

-v-

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This Stage-Play World: Texts and Contexts, 1580-1625
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • An Opus Book This Stage-Play World i
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface to the Revised Edition v
  • Contents xv
  • 1 - Change and Continuity 1
  • 2 - Order and Society 19
  • 3 - Women and the Family 47
  • 4 - Other Peoples, Other Lands 79
  • 5 - The Natural World 108
  • 6 - Religion 136
  • 8 - The Court and Its Arts 203
  • 9 - The Theatre 250
  • Conclusion the Music of Division 292
  • Chronology 301
  • References 310
  • Further Reading 322
  • Index 340
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