By G. K. Hunter
Shakespeare is generally set except his contemporaries, in variety at the least caliber. This publication, the long-awaited ultimate quantity within the Oxford background of English Literature, sees Elizabethan drama as drawn jointly through a shared have to take care of contradictory pressures from heterogeneous audiences, censorious professionals, revenue pushed managers, and authors trying to find vintage prestige and social esteem. Hunter follows the compromises and contradictions of the Elizabethan repertory, analyzing how Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists have been capable of movement simply from vulgar realism to poetic transcendence.
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Extra info for English Drama 1586-1642: The Age of Shakespeare
Contemporary witnesses are agreed that the purpose of acting is to represent nature. But what the actor represents by art can never be the same as the nature that exists 'naturally'. An actor brings to life a stock character by finding a naturalistic means to flesh out a role that is 'formal'; his air of spontaneity is a consequence of his painstaking preparation. In Ben Jonson The Devil is an Asswe are told of an intention to hire a boy actor to impersonate a great Spanish lady; he is praised for the force of his representation: To see him behave it, And lay the law, and carve and drink unto 'hem And then talk bawdy, and send frolics.
LEWIS. The Oxford History of English Literature. JOY. Sixteenth century. You got the easy one. LEWIS. You think so? William Nicholson, Shadowlands ( 1989) Act I, pp. 32-3 Of the difficulties that lie in the way of an editor [of Elizabethan dramatic records] -- at least if he regards his work as historical rather than romantic -- not the least is to avoid writing a general history of the Elizabethan stage. There is no such thing as a clearly defined historical field; facts are linked to other facts in all directions, and investigation merely leads to further and further questions.
The late-arriving genre of Tragicomedy (drawing on both satire and pastoral), which has its own chapter, points up the danger of too absolute a distinction; and I emphasize the point that Elizabethan plays are continually pushing against the limits of genre, not ignoring them but treating them with familiar ____________________14I have assumed without argument in several places that plays become effective in both production and reading by their capacity to hold together divergent or even incompatible readings of the same material, so that alternative simplifications become available to audiences and critics in both space and time.