Brian Gibbons

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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This article begins by noting Shakespeare's readiness to ‘mingle’ different generic and stylistic elements in his plays. But the dramaturgy of the Elizabethans, the general Elizabethan idea of theatre, did not survive beyond the third quarter of the seventeenth century. The non-Shakespearean Elizabethan plays' thin performance history shows how deep was the disruption that separated Elizabethan dramaturgy from what has come afterwards. The discussion then notes an obvious multiplicity in Shakespeare, that concerning plot, and next considers the rhetorical tradition of dialectic informing the plays, laying bare the complex nature of the case. It also examines further senses of multiplicity more closely woven in the language, both verbal and theatrical, expressive of ambivalence and multivalence.

Keywords: multiple plots; Elizabethan dramaturgy; Shakespearean multiplicity; Elizabethan plays; Shakespearean plays

Article.  9048 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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