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Introduction to English 15: Early Shakespeare

Introduction to English 15: Early Shakespeare

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Introduction to English 15: Early Shakespeare

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  1. Introduction to English 15: Early Shakespeare

  2. A) Almost nothing. We can only make guesses. B) Some significant details (birth?, marriage, death, major events, some business details). We can make educated guesses about some personal details. C) Most details. Some argument over identity of figures in his poetry, but the details of Shakespeare's life are clear. D) Almost everything. Some scholars debate identity of figures in his poetry, but most scholars agree on all details of his life. How much do we know about Shakespeare's life?

  3. The Bare-Bones of Shakespeare's Life, Stratford • born in Stratford; baptized 26 April 1564 • traditionally given birthdate of 23 April (died 23 April) • married Anne Hathaway 27 November 1582 • had 3 children • between 1585 and 1592 he leaves his family and Stratford for London

  4. The Bare-Bones of Shakespeare's Life, London • by 1592, he had both acted in and written plays • in 1594 a charter member of the theatrical company the Chamberlain's Men; in 1603 it became the royal company, the King's Men • from 1599, his company acted primarily at the Globe theater, in which Shakespeare held a 1/10th interest • in 1597, he bought New Place (the second-largest house in Stratford)

  5. The Bare-Bones of Shakespeare's Life, Stratford Redux • about 1610-11, he retired to Stratford • on April 23, 1616 he died.

  6. Imagining Shakespeare • Extant Portraits of Shakespeare • (images 1-3) • Which portrait do you like best? • 1 (A) • 2 (B) • 3 (C)

  7. In Sum: • Each of the three extant portraits shows us an • image of a different Shakespeare, and so • each lends itself to a different way of thinking • About Shakespeare.

  8. Not of an Age but For All Time:The First Folio, 1623 • Dominance of First Folio image (#1) and verses (image 4) • distinct from other title pages (e.g., images 5-6), even from earlier printings of Shakespeare's plays. • transcendent and universal Art: the "True Original" • Anti-Stratfordians propose other more "true" authors (images 7-11) • history falls out of the picture • formalist readings dominate

  9. The New Political Shakespeare • Promulgated since 1980s on two fronts: • British cultural materialism • American new historicism • texts localized in complex and shifting matrix of history • multiple interpretations and even multiple textual variations acknowledged • embrace other images of Shakespeare (see Images 2-3)

  10. Framing the Shrew • Who is Sly? • a) a servant • b) a drunk • c) a suitor • d) a gentleman • e) an actor

  11. A Shrew • In 1594, a play called A Pleasant Conceited Historie, called The taming of a Shrew was entered in the Stationers’ Register and printed. • The play is listed as anonymous, although it has also been dismissed as • a) a defective copy of The Shrew • b) a later play -more recently, often seen as an earlier version also written by Shakespeare • There are some significant differences with the induction/framing in the two plays

  12. A Shrew • Sly asks male tapster for more ale, then falls asleep • Lord takes Sly home to trick him into thinking he is a Lord • A servant announces the arrival of the players to the lord • The players speak roughly • Sly is returned to the tavern and wakes thinking he has had a dream that has taught him how to tame his own wife: Ile to my/Wife presently and tame her too/ And if she anger me. • The Shrew • Sly argues with alewife for his legal rights and "noble" bloodline, then falls asleep • Lord takes Sly home to trick him into thinking he is a Lord • The Lord hears the players' horn, originally mistaking them for another noble out hunting • The players speak eloquently • The play ends without returning to the Sly plot (complicating staging the Induction for many directors – so much so that many productions omit the induction entirely)

  13. Introducing the Taming of the Shrews • The Taming of the Shrew beside The Taming of A Shrew and embedded in cultural history offers new visions. Three fantasies triggered in the Induction: • Dream fantasy of Sly taming the overpowering alewife in the plot of Petruchio taming (transforming) Kate • Fantasy of Lord taming/transforming his own idleness and containing the potentially threatening idleness of the displaced vagrant, Sly • Fantasy of Shakespeare taming/transforming his lowlife status of vagrant player and achieving "gentleman" status

  14. What is the effect of not reinstating the frame at the end of The Shrew as at the end of A Shrew? • Fantasies lose prominence and power. • Fantasies become more "real" and powerful. • Shakespeare shown to be a bad writer of conclusions, whether promoting fantasy or not.