Chapter

Shakespeare's Roman Letters

Stewart Alan

in Shakespeare's Letters

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780199549276
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191701504 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549276.003.0003
Shakespeare's Roman Letters

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The setting of the Roman plays, distanced by time, geography, and language from early modern England, presents particular problems for the representation of material practices that had fallen into disuse, or evolved beyond recognition. Humanist scholarship insisted on, indeed relied upon, the immediacy of its key Roman authors whose works constituted the basic diet of 16th-century grammar-school boys. In the negotiations made between a classical source and the demands of the contemporary stage, this chapter argues that letters provide a telling case study for the ways in which William Shakespeare repeatedly turned to the contemporary over the historical, the emotionally compelling over the historically accurate: a striking Elizabethan clock and a thrown Elizabethan libel resonate far more effectively with Shakespeare's audience than it would with their Roman counterparts.

Keywords: Roman; plays; England; letters; William Shakespeare; contemporary

Chapter.  13497 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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