The Author Sacrificed

Jeffrey Knapp

in Shakespeare Only

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226445717
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226445731 | DOI:
The Author Sacrificed

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This chapter focuses on Shakespeare's sense of the losses that an author incurred by his theatricalization: the loss of dignity to a profane and degenerate popular medium; the loss of authority to the autonomous forces of actors and audiences. In certain plays, notably Julius Caesar and Henry V, Shakespeare tried to embrace these losses by thinking about them in christological terms, as sacrifices. The chapter begins by underscoring the connection between Shakespeare's cycle of history plays and the cycles of medieval plays on the life of Christ that Elizabethan authorities had suppressed. Scholars have generally assumed that Shakespeare meant to secularize the medieval cycles, but the theory of secularization that underwrites this assumption exaggerates the difference between sacred and profane in his plays.

Keywords: theatricalization; sacrifices; Shakespeare; history plays; medieval plays; secularization

Chapter.  7736 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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