1st Edition

Crowd and Rumour in Shakespeare

ISBN 9781138252578
Published October 10, 2016 by Routledge
228 Pages

USD $59.95

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Book Description

In this study, the author offers new interpretations of Shakespeare's works in the context of two major contemporary notions of collectivity: the crowd and rumour. The plays illustrate that rumour and crowd are mutually dependent; they also betray a fascination with the fact that crowd and rumour make individuality disappear. Shakespeare dramatizes these mechanisms, relating the crowd to class conflict, to rhetoric, to the theatre and to the organization of the state; and linking rumour to fear, to fame and to philosophical doubt. Paying attention to all levels of collectivity, Wiegandt emphasizes the close relationship between the crowd onstage and the Elizabethan audience. He argues that there was a significant - and sometimes precarious - metatheatrical blurring between the crowd on the stage and the crowd around the stage in performances of crowd scenes. The book's focus on crowd and rumour provides fresh insights on the central problems of some of Shakespeare's most contentiously debated plays, and offers an alternative to the dominant tradition of celebrating Shakespeare as the origin of modern individualism.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part 1 Body: ’The greatest and most savage beast in the whole world’: the idea of the crowd in Shakespeare’s time; Theories of the crowd; Class conflict and crowd psychology: the Second Part of Henry VI; The metatheatricality of the crowd: Julius Caesar; From the ’body politic’ to the ’many-headed monster’: Coriolanus; Part 2 Voice: ’Falsehoods mingled with the truth’: early modern concepts of rumour; Rumour theory; The circulation of fear: Richard III; Rumour, fame and sound: the Second Part of Henry IV; Rumour and scepticism: Othello; Conclusion: Shakespeare's drama of collectivity; Appendices; Works cited; Index.

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Kai Wiegandt is assistant professor of English Literature at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.


'Through careful and persuasive readings, Wiegandt demonstrates the importance of attending to the collective and plural, rather than the individual and singular, in Shakespeare's plays. Theoretically sophisticated and insightful in its analysis, this study makes an important contribution to our understanding of Shakespearean multiplicity.' Ian Munro, University of California - Irvine, USA 'Jettisoning individual psychology and focusing instead on networks of shared allegiance, Kai Wiegandt explores Shakespeare’s interest in crowds and the forms of truth they incline towards.' Times Literary Supplement '... an excellent addition to Ashgate’s admirable Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama series and, in its unashamed concentration on the collective, a useful and timely intervention in the field.' Renaissance Quarterly 'Crowd and Rumour in Shakespeare ably argues that Shakespeare’s works are not merely drama[s] of individuality (p. 1), but also testaments to the playwright’s concern with man as an essentially collective being (p. 2).' Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 ’...Offers fresh insights...[Wiegandt’s] argument is especially fascinating and genuinely innovative where it touches upon the metatheatrical aspects of Shakespearean crowds.’ Shakespeare Jahrbuch