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Late Shakespeare

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Late Shakespeare

A New World of Words



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Late Shakespeare by Simon Palfrey
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Shakespeare's late plays are usually seen in terms of courtliness and escapism. But the critical tradition has been too decorous. Neither neo-Christian pieties nor high-political allegory can account for the works' audacity and surprise, or the popular investment in both their form and meaning. Post-structuralist and historicist approaches show the indeterminacy and materiality of language, but rarely identify how particular figures (words and characters) capture and energise contested history. Recent criticism tends to put a pre-emptive 'master-paradigm' above all else; a more sinuous, minutely attentive critical vocabulary is needed to apprehend Shakespeare's turbulent, precise, teeming metaphorical discourse. Late Shakespeare: A New World of Words reappraises the origins of authority, language, and decorum, and the prospects for each. Through his portrayal of 'popular' desire-in his rustics, clowns, rogues, slaves, women-Shakespeare presents worlds which explore the meaning of the 'subject', and the potential for effective transformatory agency. Rather than a Jonsonian (or perhaps earlier Shakespearian) verisimilitude, with each person discrete and verifiable, Shakespeare's characters embody metaphor-in-process; like the revamped romance genre itself, they 'take on' surrounding turbulence. The plays show the stormy consequences of hegemonic violence. The subsequent exile to wilderness allows for contingent novelty: new liberties are tested amid the wreckage or recapitulation of old forms. The plays pit possible sources of regeneration (romantic pastoral, semi-populist humanism) against more primal violence and rebelliousness. Finally, the book argues against a conventional sense of the plays' movement towards divinely sanctioned closure; mischief, irony, polysemy remain; romance's political problems are competitive, multiple, and tumescently unpredictable.

Author Biography

Simon Palfrey is Lecturer in English and the History of Ideas at the University of Melbourne.
Release date NZ
January 1st, 1998
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
Clarendon Press
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