Shakespeare and the Interpretive Tradition
Shakespeare has never been more ubiquitous, not only on the stage and in academic writing, but in film, video and the populuar press. On television, he advertises everything from cars to fast food; his imagined love life was declared the best movie of 1998; his birthplace, the tiny Warwickshire village of Stratford-Upon-Avon, has been transformed into a theme park of staggering commercialism, and the New globe, in its second season, is already a far bigger business than the old Globe could have ever hoped to be. If popular culture cannot do without Shakespeare, continually reinventing him and reimaging his drama and his life, neither can the critical and scholarly world, for which Shakespeare has, for more than two centuries, served as the central text for analysis and explication, the foundation of the western literary cannon, and the measure of literary excellence.
The canonical Shakespeare is a product of publication, commentary, editorial intervention, elucidation, and criticism. The essays collected in these volumes reveal is fully as multifarious as the Shakespeare of theme parks, movies and television, and indeed, is part of the continuing reinvention of Shakespeare. The essays are drawn for the most part from work done in the past three decades, though a few essential, enabling essays from an earlier period have been included; and they not only chart the directions taken by Shakespeare studies in the recent past, but they serve to indicate the enormous and continuing vitality of the enterprise, and the extent to which Shakespeare has become a metonym for literary and artistic endeavor generally.
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