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Shakespeare's Theory of Drama

Shakespeare's Theory of Drama


  • Date Published: July 1998
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521633581

£ 35.99

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About the Authors
  • Why did Shakespeare write drama? Did he have specific reasons for his choice of this art form? Did he have clearly defined aesthetic aims in what he wanted drama to do - and why? Pauline Kiernan opens up a new area of debate for Shakespearean criticism in showing that a radical, complex defence of drama which challenged the Renaissance orthodox view of poetry, history and art can be traced in Shakespeare's plays and poems. This study, first published in 1996, examines different stages in the canon to show that far from being restricted by the 'limitations' of drama, Shakespeare consciously exploits its capacity to accommodate temporality and change, and its reliance on the physical presence of the actor. This lively, readable book offers an original and scholarly insight into what Shakespeare wanted his drama to do and why.

    • Original and scholarly insight into Shakespeare's theory of drama
    • Uses less obvious texts to prove her ideas
    • New area of debate in Shakespeare criticism
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a groundbreaking book, the kind it is hard to believe hasn't already been written. Kiernan identifies a curious reluctance on the part of critics to explore the possibility that Shakespeare might have developed a theory of drama … this deceptively simple argument results in some stunning rereadings of both poems and plays.' Shakespeare Survey

    'We have been told countless times that Shakespeare's plays were meant to be performed. Here then, apart from the 'magic of the theatre', is a reasoned and lucid explanation why the plays need and depend on performance … Shakespeare's Theory of Drama is provocative, lucid, learned and carefully argued. It is an important book that deserves the attention of all students of Shakespeare, his plays, their performances, and their texts.' Modern Language Review

    'Kiernan's argument in this well-structured book is that Shakespeare had a conscious and deliberate theory of drama, as distinct from poetry, and that in his poems and plays he set about a 'refutation of Renaissance aesthetics' … Much is provocative. We are directed to thoughtful, detailed consideration of many germane passages, not all of them obvious.' The Use of English

    'Kiernan is a lively reader and has a vigorous argumentative style.' Studies in English Literature

    'This is a radical and original book which robustly contests the familiar image of the 'natural' poet with no central aesthetic purpose.' Year's Work in English Studies

    ' … an intellectually stimulating book which will provoke a good deal of thought and controversy'. The Review of English Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 1998
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521633581
    • length: 232 pages
    • dimensions: 216 x 139 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.27kg
    • contains: 24 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Shakespeare and Sidney. Two worlds: the brazen and the golden
    3. Shakespeare and Ovid: 'What strainèd touches rhetoric can lend': poetry metamorphosed in Venus and Adonis and the Sonnets
    4. 'In scorn of nature, art gave lifeless life': exposing art's sterility. The Rape of Lucrece, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest
    5. 'O'er-wrested seeming': dramatic illusion and the repudiation of mimesis: Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet
    6. 'Thy registers and thee I both defy': history challenged: Richard III, Henry VIII, Henry V and Richard II
    7. Antony and Cleopatra as 'A defence of drama'.

  • Author

    Pauline Kiernan, University of Reading and The Globe, Bankside

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