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Shakespeare and the Middle Ages brings together a distinguished, multidisciplinary group of scholars to rethink the medieval origins of modernity. Shakespeare provides them with the perfect focus, since his works turn back to the Middle Ages as decisively as they anticipate the modern world:almost all of the histories depict events during the Hundred Years War, and King John glances even further back to the thirteenth-century Angevins; several of the comedies, tragedies, and romances rest on medieval sources; and there are important medieval antecedents for some of the poetic modes inwhich he worked as well. Several of the essays reread Shakespeare by recovering aspects of his works that are derived from medieval traditions and whose significance has been obscured by the desire to read Shakespeare as the origin of the modern. These essays, taken cumulatively, challenge the idea of any decisive breakbetween the medieval period and early modernity by demonstrating continuities of form and imagination that clearly bridge the gap. Other essays explore the ways in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries constructed or imagined relationships between past and present. Attending to the way thesewriters thought about their relationship to the past makes it possible, in turn, to read against the grain of our own teleological investment in the idea of early modernity. A third group of essays reads texts by Shakespeare and his contemporaries as documents participating in social-culturaltransformation from within. This means attending to the way they themselves grapples with the problem of change, attempting to respond to new conditions and pressures while holding onto customary habits of thought and imagination. Taken together, the essays in this volume revisit the very idea oftransition in a refreshingly non-teleological way.
Curtis Perry is Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. In addition to numerous articles on early modern English literature and culture he is the author of The Making of Jacobean Culture: James I and the Renegotiation of Elizabethan Literary Practice (1997) and Literature and Favoritism in Early Modern England (2006), and the editor of Material Culture and Cultural Materialisms in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (2001) and of Eros and Power in English Renaissance Drama: Five Plays by Marlowe, Davenant, Massinger, Ford, and Shakespeare (2008). John Watkins is Professor of English, Medieval Studies, and Italian Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of The Specter of Dido: Spenser and the Virgilian Epic Tradition (1995) and Representing Elizabeth in Stuart England: Literature, History, Sovereignty (2002). With Carole Levin, he is the author of Shakespeare's Foreign Worlds: National and Transnational Identities in the Elizabethan Age (2009). He is currently Associate Editor of The Journal of British Studies.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Abbreviations and Texts
Notes on the Contributors
Texts in Transition
Shakespeare's Fickle Fee-Simple: A Lover's Complaint, Nostalgia, and the Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism
Towards a History of Performativity: Sacrament, Social Contract, and The Merchant of Venice
Losing France and Becoming England: Shakespeare's King John and the Emergence of State-Based Diplomacy
Medievalism in Shakespearean England
The Voice of the Author in 'The Phoenix and Turtle': Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser
Recursive Origins: Print History and Shakespeare's 2 Henry VI
Chantry, Chronicle, Cockpit: Henry V and the Forms of History
'For They Are Englishmen': National Identities and the Early Modern Drama of Medieval Conquest
Shakespeare and the Resources of Medieval Culture
King Lear and the Summons of Death
Marvels and Counterfeits: False Resurrections in the Chester Antichrist and 1 Henry IV
Shakespeare's Medieval Morality: The Merchant of Venice and the Gesta Romanorum
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