Impressive Shakespeare : Identity, Authority and the Imprint in Shakespearean Drama book cover
1st Edition

Impressive Shakespeare
Identity, Authority and the Imprint in Shakespearean Drama





ISBN 9781472465320
Published January 29, 2019 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

-Shortlisted and awarded an honourable mention for the University English Book Prize, 2020

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 and Professor of Shakespeare Studies, Hertford College, Oxford

"Harry Newman delves into the deep material bedrock behind the notion of Shakespeare’s ability to impress himself upon our imaginations. … The study of gender is … a deeply considered and researched element of [Newman’s] understanding of literary affect and its designs upon our own memorial desires. … Newman’s Shakespeare is a deeply ruminative writer, one seized by particular metaphorical conceits and returning to them over the course of a writing experience in order to explore various angles and implications of the figure. … Our continuing engagement with this most canonical of authors is, Newman argues, deeply cued, almost in a Pavlovian sense, by his linguistic textures." 

-Claire McEachern (Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles), in Early Theatre 

"[Impressive Shakespeare achieves a] sophisticated interweaving of material culture, rhetorical theory, book history, medical humanities, theatre history, genre, and authorship studies … Newman maps Shakespeare’s lexicon of impressing on to centuries of critical reception … a complex and compelling investigation … an important and imaginative book" 

-Laurie Maguire (Professor of English Literature, Magdalen College, University of Oxford), in Renaissance Quarterly 

"Impressive Shakespeare is meticulously researched, and its findings are often new and original. It will undoubtedly make its own mark on the ongoing scholarly conversation about the overlapping early modern histories of print, materiality and embodiment. … The conclusion … makes a promising turn to the ethics of textual reproduction in the wake of the digital revolution which has changed forever our experience of Shakespeare’s reproducibility." 

-Katharine A. Craik (Professor in Early Modern Literature, Oxford Brookes University), in Shakespeare Studies 

"Newman’s important book investigates intertwined technologies, rhetorics, and theories of ‘impression’: practices that impose pattern on malleable substrates, from wax to metal to paper to bodies to ideologies. … The book is meticulously researched, … reveals new aspects of well-studied texts and his discussions of critical history and practice will have lasting significance. … The fine grain of th[e] materially informed reading characterizes Newman’s interpretive accomplishments throughout the book." 

-Lauren Shohet (Professor of English, Villanova University), in Shakespeare Quarterly 

"At the heart of this excellent study are the symbolic uses to which Shakespeare puts three overlapping technologies: printing, coining, and sealing. All of these made impressions on surfaces - paper, metal, and wax - altering the surface in the process. Early modern physiology understood audiences to be similarly impressed. In his most ambitious moments, Newman argues that considering the relationships between metaphor and materiality helps us to see what makes a Shakespeare play Shakespearean. … The most significant, and potentially controversial, pole of Newman’s position is that Shakespeare’s language of impression informs not only critical discourse about the playwright, but fundamental critical categories that go beyond early modern drama: character; the transformative power of poetry; counterfeiting and canonical value; Shakespeare’s casting as an immortal literary father. … For future scholarship, … this remarkable work should be a reference point. Not only is it able to broaden our understanding of that fraught term, "print culture," but it delineates impressively the throughline that connects Shakespeare’s plays, his audiences, and his critical readers." 

-Rachel Stenner (Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Sussex), in Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 

"Impressive Shakespeare … gathers power and becomes more provocative as it proceeds. … Newman’s readings of his four chosen plays are at once meticulous and suggestive" 

-Juliet Fleming (Professor of English, New York University), in Journal of the Northern Renaissance 

"This is a book about Shakespeare, but it also creatively encourages us to think about other early modern drama, with frequent gestures also to some of the other printed texts that may well have made a significant impression in the minds of Shakespeare’s first and subsequent audiences and readers. It helpfully articulates some of the continuities and contiguities between text technologies and other technologies of mediation and reproduction, from the classical world to the present, and their imaginative force for Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and his critics." 

-Lucy Razzall (author of Boxes and Books in Early Modern England: Materiality, Metaphor, Containment), in Review of English Studies 

"an insightful work that provides an innovative approach to thinking about Shakespeare and the early modern period. Newman’s lucid and engaging account shows an impressive ability to foster connections between the areas of his study." 

-Ian Calvert (Lecturer in English Literature and Classics, University of Bristol), in Cahiers Élisabéthains