“Prophetic Fury”: The Language of Theatical Potentiality and the Economy of Shakespearean Reception

Joel B. Altman

in The Improbability of Othello

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780226016108
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226016122 | DOI:
“Prophetic Fury”: The Language of Theatical Potentiality and the Economy of Shakespearean Reception

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Shakespeare habitually engaged the capacities of the language of theatrical potentiality in his scripts and problematized it for his audiences. He deployed the psychagogic force of scattered words—their power to marshal the intellectual and emotional energies that produce coherence—yet also deconstructed that coherence, and thematized its deconstruction. He made the factitiousness of such language a principle of the composition and a condition of the reception of his plays. This chapter explores the essentialist impulses urged into action by this inessential medium, and Shakespeare's exploitation of those impulses in audiences both real and staged. It further suggests that the interior collocation of speech fragments in an auditor adumbrates his own experience of composition. Finally, the chapter proposes that Shakespeare recognized dramatic performance and reception as the exemplary model of the communicative factitiousness that governs lives outside the theater.

Keywords: Shakespeare; theatrical potentiality; speech fragments; collocation; reception; audiences

Chapter.  10207 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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