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Shakespeare After All
by Marjorie Garber

 

An Introduction to Garber's "Introduction"

         

      

 

   

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 lives. 

Expected Student Outcomes

Students will be able to understand and appreciate the important themes and concerns of Shakespeare's works.

Students will demonstrate an understanding of and an appreciation for the literary elements and conventions, especially as Shakespeare uses them to communicate meaning. 

Students will gain an understanding of the impact that society,  history, politics, and technology have and have had upon literature. 
Students will appreciate how literature has had and continues to have an influence upon society,  history, politics, and technology.
Students will learn various techniques for approaching texts critically, including the debate on the identity of authorship of the Bard.  
Students will further develop their abilities to write about writing, specifically as they write about the works of Shakespeare.


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
needed.
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 vice versa.
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, 2008.