Writing on the Renaissance Stage: Written Words, Printed Pages, Metaphoric Books
This study of the written and printed word on the stage of Shakespeare and his contemporaries begins by considering the significance of writing and printing in Renaissance culture. Winner of the University of Delaware Press Shakespeare Studies Award, it focuses on the work of Erasmus and Luther, who shaped attitudes toward the written word, encouraged the growth of literacy, fostered the founding of schools, and invested the written and printed word with a new and enhanced status. It also treats the invention of the printing press and the steady infiltration of books into people's lives, from their place of work to their place of worship.
Author Frederick Kiefer goes on to examine the English accommodation of the forces that Erasmus and Luther helped set in motion, particularly the implications for the theater. Within a culture in which writing and printing were achieving unprecedented ascendancy, English playwrights used books, letters, and documents as props. Written materials and printed books became important to the dramatization of religious controversy, social conflict, and spiritual psychomachia. Playwrights also made extraordinary use of metaphors involving the written and printed word to describe the workings of the mind and the interaction of people.
As people turned increasingly to the written and printed word for instruction and inspiration, they spoke of their lives in language generated by the print shop, library, and study. Conceiving of their experience in terms of writing and printing, they employed metaphoric books when they envisioned abstractions. They spoke, for example, of the books of conscience, nature, and fate. Such metaphors allowed people to organize conceptually the diversity and unruliness' of everyday life.
Metaphoric books are the focus of this study's final section. Particular attention is given to the book of conscience in Thomas Heywood's A Woman Killed with Kindness and George Chapman's Bussy D'Ambois; the book of nature in Shakespeare's As You Like It and Pericles; and the book of fate in Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi.
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Written Words and Printed Books
Ideology Printing Press and Stage
Writing and Print as Figurative Language
The Book of Conscience
Conscience on the Stage
Fate on the Stage
Written and Printed Words on the Stage
The Pragmatic Value of Property Letters
Books and Written Materials as Symbols
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