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Shakespeare's Early Readers
A Cultural History from 1590 to 1800


  • Author: Jean-Christophe Mayer, French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier
  • Date Published: September 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107138339


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About the Authors
  • Who were Shakespeare's first readers and what did they think of his works? Offering the first dedicated account of the ways in which Shakespeare's texts were read in the centuries during which they were originally produced, Jean-Christophe Mayer reconsiders the role of readers in the history of Shakespeare's rise to fame and in the history of canon formation. Addressing an essential formative 'moment' when Shakespeare became a literary dramatist, this book explores six crucial fields: literacy; reading and life-writing; editing Shakespeare's text; marking Shakespeare for the theatre; commonplacing; and passing judgement. Through close examination of rare material, some of which has never been published before, and covering both the marks left by readers in their books and early manuscript extracts of Shakespeare, Mayer demonstrates how the worlds of print and performance overlapped at a time when Shakespeare offered a communal text, the ownership of which was essentially undecided.

    • The first dedicated study of the reading reception of Shakespeare's texts in the two centuries after they were produced
    • Explores rare, often previously unpublished, material to reconsider the role of readers in the history of Shakespeare's rise to fame and in the history of canon formation
    • Presents thirty images, allowing readers to see for themselves the engagements made by readers of Shakespeare's texts
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a rich, considered, intelligent and engaging study, supported by meticulous and wide-ranging research … I commend Professor Mayer on what he has achieved here. His own readers will thank him for the work he has done and I wish his book a long shelf life (with many readers scribbling merrily in its margins).' Andrew Murphy, University of St Andrews, Scotland

    '… immensely scholarly and wide ranging … As well as drawing on the work of pervious scholars, he [Mayer] has personally examined or reports of 'several hundred books' and numerous documents in libraries and other collections worldwide …' Stanley Wells, The Times Literary Supplement

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107138339
    • length: 272 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Literacy and the circulation of plays
    2. Life in the archives: shaping early modern selfhood
    3. Readers and editors – a concordia discors
    4. Early modern theatrical annotators and transcribers
    5. Commonplacing: the myth and the empirical impulse
    6. Passing judgement – parts 1 and 2

  • Author

    Jean-Christophe Mayer, French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier
    Jean-Christophe Mayer is a Research Professor at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and a member of the Institute for Research on the Renaissance, the Neo-classical Age and the Enlightenment (IRCL) at Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier. He is the author of Shakespeare's Hybrid Faith (2006) and of Shakespeare et la postmodernité (2012).

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