James Kearney

in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature


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The first part of this article comments on Shakespeare's biographical record, noting that the careers of both John and William Shakespeare situate the Shakespeare family within a particular social milieu. For large portions of their lives, Shakespeare and his father could describe themselves as being of the ‘better sort’, but not of the gentry. The second part looks at some of the more charged depictions of status on the Shakespearean stage. It notes that there are certain plays in which the playwright seems to apply pressure to conventional notions of state and degree, plays in which he seems particularly interested in prodding and interrogating notions of status from a variety of angles. It considers four such plays: Henry VI, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and The Tempest.

Keywords: William Shakespeare; John Shakespeare; playwright; Merchant of Venice; King Lear

Article.  10538 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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