In her "Introduction" to Shakespeare After All, Garber brings up the idea
that "Every age creates its own Shakespeare." She
introduces this concept as a way of weaving together various avenues of literary
theory, like historical, new critical, and reader-response approaches, to come
to eclectic interpretations of the works throughout her book. She provides
a general introduction to the Renaissance culture that produces Shakespeare, and
she briefly outlines what Shakespeare's contemporary audience found brilliant in
several of his plays. Likewise, she mentions some of the conventions and
expectations facing a playwright in that culture, things that certainly
influenced how the plays were written.
In "The Stage and the Page," she explains that, much like the gospels of the New
Testament about the life of Jesus or the teachings of Mohammed contained in the
Koran, these works were compiled by others after the death of their author. As
such, decisions were made by the compilers that privileged certain versions of
the plays over others, and, indeed, one can read different versions of the plays
from different early sources. Additionally, Garber points out that copyright
laws had yet to be written, so booksellers, rather than authors, profited from
the works and that these works were immensely popular and so were circulated
like pirated-Chinese DVDs or swapped music files today. In terms of the
criticism of these works, she explains that they were considered very good but
that they really did not reach the levels of 'Literature,' as "sermons and
poems" (12) were considered to be by educated English people of the time; they
were diversions, entertainments--such as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code or
the Star Wars film saga might be embraced by readers or viewers today.
The compilers of the First Folio, she explains, were concerned with profiting
from the works and correcting the imperfections being preserved in the 'bootleg'
copies being circulated, and as such, they edited the works to make them
"absolute in their numbers," (8) in other words, perfecting their metrical
patterns and rhymes--ostensibly the way their colleague, William Shakespeare,
originally wrote them. In fact, modern editing did not really evolve until
the 18th century, Garber notes, and many changes made by editors to
Shakespeare's works in that period are still present in the versions of texts we
read today. Further complicating the understanding of Shakespeare is the
fact that those editors often 'improved' the text, based on their moral or
literary perspectives, and that readers and audiences since Shakespeare's time
have embraced the texts for what they, themselves, prefer in relation to
their own perspectives, perspectives which have shifted so much over time that
different plays are popular at different times and for different reasons. As
Garber says, "Shakespeare's plays are living works of art. Their meanings grow
and change as they encounter vivid critical and theatrical imaginations" (18).
In "Biography and Authorship,"
Garber tackles the question of who Shakespeare really was and introduces the
debate about whether the historic, genetic William Shakespeare is actually the
author of the plays and sonnets attributed to him, or if he was merely the
author of record, representing an individual or a group of people from a more
elite sector of society who were, as such, less free to meddle in 'working,'
'theater,' or 'philosophical and political criticism,' such as appear in the
plays. Garber mentions that Shakespeare likely had only the equivalent of a
small-town, public school education, where, he did not have much exposure to
foreign language, even Latin and Greek, which most more highly-placed English
people, especially men, would have had at the time. Shakespeare wrote from
sources (sometimes not in English) most of the time, although he did not always
keep plot lines, character names, or themes unchanged. The authorship
debate is fuelled further by the fact that other than his will, he did not seem
to leave any personal letters, diaries, journals, or books behind. The
writer's knowledge of words and writing conventions also seems difficult for
some to attribute to a single person, especially one of very little formal
education. Garber concludes that the debate concerning the authorship is
somewhat irrelevant, as well, as the process of playwriting at the time was
certainly collaborative, much like the screenplays for today's' sitcoms, soap
operas, and movies, but she does conclude, for herself, at least, that "there
seems no significant reason to doubt that Shakespeare of Stratford was the
author of the plays" (22).
In "The Theater in Renaissance
England" Garber reminds us that even before there were playhouses along the
River Thames, the people had experienced pageantry and 'theatricality' in their
Expected Student Outcomes
Expected Student Behaviors
||Students will read/view texts with understanding and appreciation, reacting to and analyzing what he or she has
read/seen, by the date(s)
they are to be discussed.
Students will participate actively
in lectures and discussions, asking/submitting questions for clarification on ideas or issues, if
||Students will integrate and cite accurately information of other
writers, critics, or scholars, using those other opinions, beliefs, and/or
observations to support his or her own opinions, beliefs, and/or observations.
||Students will synthesize lecture, discussion, and text materials to come to a more solid world view on the impact
the Bard has and has had upon history, society, and the artistic world, and
Students will respect each other's personal beliefs and be committed to helping each other learn more about the course information
and themselves. Students will help each other become more confident in his or her own unique personal voice and see the authority in
his or her own personal experience.
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Contact Kimberly M. Radek, the instructor of Introduction to Shakespeare I, at Kimberly_Radek@ivcc.edu .
This page was last updated on
21 June 2009. Copyright Kimberly M. Radek,