Revisionist Shakespeare appropriates revisionist history in order to both criticize traditional transitional interpretations of Shakespearean drama and to offer a new methodology for understanding representations of social conflict in Shakespeare's play and in Early Modern English culture. Rather than argue that Shakespearean drama allegorizes historical transitions and ideological polarization, Revisionist Shakespeare argues that Shakespeare's plays explore the nature of internally contradictory Early Modern institutions and belief-systems that are only indirectly related to competing political and class ideologies. Such institutions and belief-systems include Elizabethan strategies for the management of vagrancy, the nature of Jacobean statecraft, objective and subjective theories of economic value, Protestant ethical theory, and Augustinian notions of sinful habituation. The book looks at five of Shakespeare's plays: The Tempest, Coriolanus, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Hamlet.
Paul Cefalu is Assistant Professor of English, Lafayette College.