Metaphysical Hamlet

Andre Gide wrote: “Has anyone, in explaining Hamlet’s character, made full use of the fact that he has returned from a German university? He brings back to his native country the germs of a foreign philosophy; he has plunged int a metaphysics whose remarkable fruit seems to me ‘To . . . . Continue Reading »

The Politics of Playing

Plays might be promoted as a kind of opiate of the masses: Mass entertainment that keeps them from more violent entertainments like rioting and pillaging. This could be problematic, if the entertainments were too heady for most people to follow. Thomas Heywood (1612) suggested that playwrights . . . . Continue Reading »

Shakespeare regulated

How regulated was Shakespeare’s own theater? And for what reasons? Patterson highlights various reasons for closing or permitting theaters: audience composition, including the fear that a large collection of workers might be distruptive; public health; economic concerns; religious and moral . . . . Continue Reading »

American Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s fortunes in the US were, understandably, different from in England. Initially, Shakespeare was America’s most popular playwright, appealing to a wide sector of the American populace. Patterson notes that “by the end of the nineteenth century ‘Shakespeare’ . . . . Continue Reading »

Popular Shakespeare

Annabel Patterson notes ( Shakespeare and the Popular Voice ) that contemporary critics, whatever their own political outlook, assume that Shakespeare was an advocate of Elizabethan hierarchy. This view, however, is a product of the 19th century. Dryden, Johnson, and others criticize Shakespeare . . . . Continue Reading »

Courtly Shakespeare, IV

By the 18th century, acting styles also invested Shakespeare with “courtly” virtues of control, dignity, stateliness. Dobson writes, “Shakespearian acting . . . in the decades following Betterton’s death in 1710, seems to have settled into a grandiloquent vein of static . . . . Continue Reading »

Courtly Shakespeare, III

Dobson again: “after Charles II’s death in 1685 England would never again have another monarch with such an informed interest in the drama (or, mercifully, such a lascivious one), and deprived of royal patronage and protection the playhouses came under renewed attack from the moralists . . . . Continue Reading »

Courtly Shakespeare, II

To one of his servant, Shakespeare’s Macbeth says, “The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!” Davenant’s says, “Now, Friend, what means thy change of Countenance?” And for the wonderful surging lines in Macbeth 2.2.58-61 (including “the . . . . Continue Reading »

Courtly Shakespeare

Michael Dobson notes ( Shakespeare: An Illustrated Stage History ) that the restoration of drama in 1660 was not really a restoration but a re-creation, involving “a transformation of the London theatre, carried out by royal warrant” tht “forever altered the relationship between . . . . Continue Reading »

Elegant dress

In his Theory of the Leisure Class , Thorstein Veblen notes that it is good if it shows that “the wearer can afford to consumer freely and uneconomically,” but beyond that should “make plain to all observers that the wearer is not engaged in any kind of productive labor.” . . . . Continue Reading »