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  • Cited by 10
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    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Schalkwyk, David 2005. Shakespeare's Ghosts. Shakespeare, Vol. 1, Issue. 1-2, p. 219.

    Fernie, Ewan 2006. Terrible Action: Recent Criticism and Questions of Agency1. Shakespeare, Vol. 2, Issue. 1, p. 95.

    Dipietro, Cary 2007. Sex, Lies and Videotape: Representing the Past inShakespeare in Love, Mapping a Future for Presentism*. Shakespeare, Vol. 3, Issue. 1, p. 40.

    Grady, Hugh 2009. Presentism, Walter Benjamin, and the Search for Meaning inKing Lear. Shakespeare, Vol. 5, Issue. 2, p. 145.

    Gajowski, Evelyn 2010. Beyond Historicism: Presentism, Subjectivity, Politics. Literature Compass, Vol. 7, Issue. 8, p. 674.

    Munro, Lucy 2011. Shakespeare and the uses of the past: Critical approaches and current debates. Shakespeare, Vol. 7, Issue. 1, p. 102.

    Trull, Mary 2012. Frances E. Dolan, Marriage and Violence: The Early Modern LegacyMarriage and Violence: The Early Modern Legacy. Frances E. Dolan. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. Pp. 235.. Modern Philology, Vol. 110, Issue. 1, p. E24.

    DiPietro, Cary and Grady, Hugh 2012. Presentism, Anachronism and the Case ofTitus Andronicus. Shakespeare, Vol. 8, Issue. 1, p. 44.

    Sager, Jenny 2013. The Aesthetics of Spectacle in Early Modern Drama and Modern Cinema. p. 1.

    De Barros, Eric 2013. (Ig)noble Lies: Personal Historicism and Richard Mulcaster’s Positions Concerning the Bringing Up of Children (1581). Changing English, Vol. 20, Issue. 3, p. 317.

  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: March 2007

Shakespeare and the Prospect of Presentism


This essay argues for the crucial importance of Shakespeare now. It reflects on presentism: a strategy of interpreting texts in relation to current affairs which challenges the dominant fashion of reading Shakespeare historically. Where new historicism emphasizes historical difference, presentism proceeds by reading the literature of the past in terms of what most ‘ringingly chimes’ with ‘the modern world’. This does not of course compel a choice between antiquarian irrelevance and self-repeating complacency. As we shall see, established new historicism is a complex practice and so – already – is presentism. But a deliberate synthesis of presentism’s commitment to ‘the now’ and historicism’s orientation to what is ‘other’ might reveal a way forward: an alternative presentism focused on, and concerned to maximize, the difference literature makes to the present. With respect to new historicism, the singularity of literature includes but also exceeds historical difference. Hamlet stands apart from its conditions of production. It also stands provocatively apart in the present. In his remarkable meditation on the play, Jacques Derrida characterizes ‘a masterpiece’ in terms of endless uncanny and effective otherness:

A masterpiece always moves, by definition, in the manner of a ghost. The thing haunts, for example, it causes, it inhabits without residing, without ever confining itself to the numerous versions of this passage, ‘The time is out of joint’.

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Shakespeare Survey
  • Online ISBN: 9781139052771
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