The re-imagined text: Shakespeare, adaptation, & eighteenth-century literary theory
Shakespeare's plays were not always the inviolable texts they are almost universally considered to be today. The Restoration and eighteenth century committed what many critics view as one of the most subversive acts in literary history - the rewriting and restructuring of Shakespeare's plays. Many of us are familiar with Nahum Tate's "audacious" adaptation of King Lear with its resoundingly happy ending, but Tate was only one of a score of playwrights who adapted Shakespeare's plays. Between 1660 and 1777, more than fifty adaptations appeared in print and on the stage, works in which playwrights augmented, substantially cut, or completely rewrote the original plays. The plays were staged with new characters, new scenes, new endings, and, underlying all this novelty, new words. Why did this happen? And why, in the later eighteenth century, did it stop? These questions have serious implications regarding both the aesthetics of the literary text and its treatment, for the adaptations manifest the period's perceptions of Shakespeare. As such, they demonstrate an important evolution in the definition of poetic language, and in the idea of what constitutes a literary work. In The Re-Imagined Text, Jean I. Marsden examines both the adaptations and the network of literary theory that surrounds them thereby exploring the problems of textual sanctity and of the author's relationship to the text. As she demonstrates, Shakespeare's works, and English literature in general, came to be defined by their words rather than by the plots and morality on which the older aesthetic theory focused - a clear step toward our modern concern for the word and its varying levels of signification.
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The Beginnings of Shakespeare Criticism
Criticism at MidCentury
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acts Adaptations of Shakespeare appeared attack attempt audience becomes changes character Cibber Colley Cibber Colman comedy contemporaries Cordelia Cressida Cumberland's D'Avenant daughter David Garrick Dennis diction drama Dryden Edgar edition emotional emphasis English Essay Evanthe example fable Falstaff father faults figurative language focus focuses Garrick's Gerard Guthrie Hamlet John John Dryden Johnson King Lear Lady later eighteenth century Leontes Lewis Theobald literary literature Macbeth metaphor mid-century critics moral Morgann Nahum Tate nature passages passion Perdita performed Petruchio play's playwrights plot poet poetic justice poetry political popular praise Preface Restoration adaptations Restoration and early reverence rewriting Richard Richard III role Romeo and Juliet rules Rymer Samuel Johnson scene sentiments Shake Shakespeare's genius Shakespeare's language Shakespeare's plays Shakespeare's text speare speare's stage sublime taste Tate's King Lear textual theater Theobald Theophilus Cibber theory Thomas Timon of Athens tion tragedy Troilus and Cressida Univ virtue Whiter's William women writing