Cities in late Shakespeare

Hansen, Adam (2012) Cities in late Shakespeare. In: Late Shakespeare, 1608-1613. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 187-208. ISBN 9781107016194, 9781139060189

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No walls are set about this city … Introduction It might seem difficult or unusual to try to understand Shakespeare's later plays in relation to cities. True, the period 1608 to 1613 is bookended by dramas staging cities in fascinating ways: Coriolanus and Henry VIII. But as we navigate the landscapes of Shakespeare's works and collaborations in this period, these appear exceptional. Because, of course, the landscapes of most of those works and collaborations look to be that of romance: often pastoral or maritime (or both), and a long way from cities. For innovative and robust takes on life in London under James I, perhaps other dramatists are more useful. In 1609, audiences could compare The Winter's Tale with Ben Jonson's Epicene, a play busy with the sounds and sites of the city, where London itself becomes a figure who has 'stained … burnt … dropped' and 'dashed' characters' clothes and possessions (3.2.58-67). By 1614, the distinctions were obvious enough for Jonson to use Bartholomew Fair to lambast Shakespeare's 'Tales, Tempests, and such like drolleries', as opposed to his own formally proper, vivid and vital cityscapes (Induction, 115-16). The differences Jonson identified made sense, even before these later plays. Shakespeare's cities were always dislocated in time and space from the contemporary urban context that he and his peers occupied. As genres like city comedy burgeoned, such differences appeared more obvious. With their topographical precision, dense intrigues, materialistic urges and witty youths, city comedies excluded 'material appropriate to romance, fairy-tale, sentimental legend'. Despite the popularity of Shakespeare's later plays, perhaps he had no place in this new, urban theatrical order. In other words, Shakespeare was out-of-date (or just 'late', perhaps), because he did not follow the fashion for urban realism based on classical models.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Q200 Comparative Literary studies
Q300 English studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
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Depositing User: Ay Okpokam
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2013 13:31
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2021 15:52

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