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Shakespeare's Possible Worlds


  • Date Published: June 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107649255

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About the Authors
  • New methods are needed to do justice to Shakespeare. His work exceeds conventional models, past and present, for understanding playworlds. In this book, Simon Palfrey goes right to the heart of early modern popular drama, revealing both how it works and why it matters. Unlike his contemporaries, Shakespeare gives independent life to all his instruments, and to every fraction and fragment of the plays. Palfrey terms these particles 'formactions' - theatre-specific forms that move with their own action and passion. Palfrey's book is critically daring in both substance and format. Its unique mix of imaginative gusto, thought experiments, and virtuosic technique generates piercing close readings of the plays. There is far more to playlife than meets the eye. Influenced by Leibniz's visionary original model of possible worlds, Palfrey opens up the multiple worlds of Shakespeare's language, scenes, and characters as never before.

    • Offers a new, groundbreaking model for discovering the life in Shakespeare's plays
    • Presents an entirely new way of understanding the physics and metaphysics of theatre
    • Compares Shakespeare with his fellow early modern playwrights to reveal exactly what makes his work so unique
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Shakespeare's Possible Worlds establishes Simon Palfrey as one of the great Shakespeare scholars of our age. On every page, Palfrey marshals his command of Renaissance theatrical technique and Baroque philosophy in order to float inventive readings that demonstrate the plenitude and plasticity of Shakespeare's dramatic imagining. Crafting both a philosophy of close reading and a dramaturgy of metaphor, Palfrey discovers a hermeneutics indigenous to theater. As Palfrey summons us to witness Shakespeare knitting shapes from the deep, we rediscover ourselves in the concatenation of worlds that drama assembles.' Julia Reinhard Lupton, University of California, Irvine, and author of Thinking with Shakespeare: Essays on Politics and Life

    '… unlike any other monograph in Shakespeare criticism published recently … The intellectual labour that went into [this book] is dazzling. Ideas from literature, literary criticism, art history, fine arts, film, science, religion, rhetoric, philosophy, and new media abound, plunging the reader into an unexpected reading experience.' Goran Stanivukovic, Saint Mary's University, Nova Scotia

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107649255
    • length: 394 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 151 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I:
    1. Where is the life?
    2. Purposes
    3. Embryologies
    4. Shakespeare the impossible
    5. Popular theatre and possibility
    6. Shakespeare v. actor
    7. Formactions
    8. Playing to the plot
    9. Middleton
    10. Jacobean comi-tragedy
    11. Everyman tyrant
    Part II:
    12. The monadic playworld
    13. The truth of anachronism
    14. Possible history: Henry IV
    15. Anti-rhetoric
    16. Falstaff
    17. Scenes within scenes
    18. Strange mimesis
    19. How close should we get?
    20. Metaphysics and playworlds
    21. Pyramids of possible worlds
    Part III:
    22. Perdita's possible lives
    23. A life in scenes
    24. Scene as joke: Much Ado
    25. Buried lives: Macbeth
    26. The rape of Marina
    27. Life at the end of the line: Macbeth
    28. Dying for life: Desdemona
    Epilogue: life on the line.

  • Author

    Simon Palfrey, University of Oxford
    Simon Palfrey is Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. He is the joint founding editor of Shakespeare Now! His books include Late Shakespeare: A New World of Words (1997), Doing Shakespeare (2004, 2011 - named a Times Literary Supplement International Book of the Year), Shakespeare in Parts (with Tiffany Stern, 2007 - winner of an Arts and Humanities Research Council Innovations Award and the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society David Bevington Award for best new book on Medieval and Renaissance drama), and Poor Tom: Living 'King Lear' (2014).

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