Early Readers

Sonia Massai

in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199566105
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Early Readers

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Reading in the early modern period involved engaging in a range of activities that are no longer commonly associated with the private and mostly silent consumption of books among modern readers. Shakespeare's elevation to the status of ‘national poet’ dates back to the eighteenth rather than the seventeenth century. Shakespeare's works started to circulate as manuscript and printed artifacts, as individual editions and short extracts in literary anthologies or private miscellanies at a time when vernacular literature and English drama were in the process of being elevated to the status of classical texts. By focusing on the intellectual and material activities on both sides of the early modern printing press, on those who transformed Shakespeare's works into reading texts and those who read them, this article considers how these texts were presented to their first readers and how some of these early readers responded to them.

Keywords: early modern readers; printing press; Shakespeare's works; English drama

Article.  10736 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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