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Impressive Shakespeare
Identity, Authority and the Imprint in Shakespearean Drama





ISBN 9780367731854
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
216 Pages

 
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Book Description

Impressive Shakespeare reassesses Shakespeare’s relationship with "print culture" in light of his plays’ engagement with the language and material culture of three interrelated "impressing technologies": wax sealing, coining, and typographic printing. It analyses the material and rhetorical forms through which drama was thought to "imprint" early modern audiences and readers with ideas, morals and memories, and—looking to our own cultural moment—shows how Shakespeare has been historically constructed as an "impressive" dramatist. Through material readings of four plays—Coriolanus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure and The Winter’s Tale—Harry Newman argues that Shakespeare deploys the imprint as a self-reflexive trope in order to advertise the value of his plays to audiences and readers, and that in turn the language of impression has shaped, and continues to shape, Shakespeare’s critical afterlife. The book pushes the boundaries of what we understand by "print culture", and challenges assumptions about the emergence of concepts now central to Shakespeare’s perceived canonical value, such as penetrating characterisation, poetic transformation, and literary fatherhood.



 



Harry Newman’s suggestive analysis of techniques and tropes of sealing, coining and printing produces a revelatory account of Shakespearean creative poetics. It’s sustainedly startling in its rereading of familiar lines - but the chapter I found most original is on Measure for Measure: Newman is the first critic to attempt to interpret the play’s authorial status as part of its own thematic and linguistic interrogation of illegitimacy and counterfeiting. He makes authorship matter in a literary and creative, rather than a quantitative and statistical, sense. Impressive Shakespeare is a brilliant scholarly debut.



- Emma Smith



Editor, Shakespeare Survey



Professor of Shakespeare Studies, Hertford College, Oxford



 

Table of Contents

List of Figures



Acknowledgements



A Note on the Text



List of Abbreviations





Introduction: The Stamp of the Bard



‘My dear Keats’: Impressions of ‘WS’



Metaphors and Material Readings



The Structure of this Book





1. Technology, Language, Physiology



Sealing, Coining, Printing: Interrelated Technologies



The Language of Impression and Early Modern Metaphor Theory



Early Modern Physiology: Imprinting and Imprinted Subjects





2. ‘[T]he stamp of Martius’: Commoditised Character and the Technology of Theatrical Impression in Coriolanus



Valuing the Imprint of ‘Character’: Theatre, Charactery, Criticism



Translating Plutarch, Coining Coriolanus



Metatheatrical Impressions: Burbage’s ‘Painting’ and the Technology of Wounds



Sealing Knowledge: The Theatrical Contract and the Imprint of Silence





3. ‘[A] form in wax, / By him imprinted’: Sealing and Poetics in A Midsummer Night’s Dream



Shakespeare’s ‘special impress’: Materialising and Gendering Dream’s Poetry



Seals in Early Modern Material Culture, Rhetoric and Drama



The ‘transfigured’ Audience: Signs and Seals of Poetic Transformation in Dream





4. ‘[S]tamps that are forbid’: Measure for Measure, Counterfeit Coinage, and the Politics of Value



Counterfeiting in the Name of the King: Jacobean Coinage and the King’s Men



Metatheatrical Counterfeiting: The Duke’s Economy of Value



Adapting ‘old-coined gold’: Canonical Value and the Stamp of Thomas Middleton





5. The Printer’s Tale: Books, Children, and the Prefatory Construction of Shakespearean Authorship



The Infant-Text and the Prefatory ‘Shake-scene’



Dramatic Paratexts, Theatricality and the ‘paper stage’



[T]he fathers face’: Prefacing Shakespeare’s Book, 1623



The Printer’s Tale Retold: Paternal Likeness in The Winter’s Tale and the Preliminaries of the First Folio





Conclusion



Impressions Past, Present and Future: Shakespearean Drama in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction



Shakespeare and the ‘print of goodness’: The Ethics of the Imprint





Works Cited



Index



...
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Author(s)

Biography

Harry Newman is Lecturer in Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Reviews

Harry Newman’s suggestive analysis of techniques and tropes of sealing, coining and printing produces a revelatory account of Shakespearean creative poetics. It’s sustainedly startling in its rereading of familiar lines - but the chapter I found most original is on Measure for Measure: Newman is the first critic to attempt to interpret the play’s authorial status as part of its own thematic and linguistic interrogation of illegitimacy and counterfeiting. He makes authorship matter in a literary and creative, rather than a quantitative and statistical, sense. Impressive Shakespeare is a brilliant scholarly debut.

- Emma Smith

Editor, Shakespeare Survey

Professor of Shakespeare Studies, Hertford College, Oxford