English 9173

Making Shakespeare

Professor James Purkis.
Summer 2019, Full year equivalent.


The first half will explore how Shakespeare’s texts were made. This means understanding how playwrights wrote for the theatre (often in collaboration), how their texts were revised for use in the theatre both for first productions and revivals. Then we’ll look at how printed texts either present themselves as surrogates for theatrical performances – often not naming authors but instead identifying theatre companies on their title pages – or offer a ‘literary’, authorial alternative to the stage’s fare. Such discussion will extend to the publication of the First Folio. Classes will thus cover issues such as textual property, revision and collaboration, and the marketplace of print.

The second half will examine how Shakespeare was ‘made’ after the publication of the First Folio. We’ll spend a few weeks on the Fourth Folio (1685), which offers a wonderful chance to use the library’s newly-acquired copy. The Fourth Folio sees seven plays added to the plays printed in the First Folio, and also shows evidence of the beginning of an editorial impulse towards perfecting the text. Nahum Tate and John Dryden have both been connected with the revision of the Fourth Folio, and the course will look at how Shakespeare was made fit in the later seventeenth century by reading Restoration adaptations by Tate and Dryden. Classes will then focus on eighteenth-century Shakespeare and the great editions by Pope and Johnson before moving on to the early twentieth and the New Bibliography, perhaps with a detour to consider what else was being written in Bloomsbury about Shakespeare at the time. We’ll end with current developments in attribution studies that are finding Shakespeare’s hand beyond the traditional canon and question what this means for the canon through recent editions. Throughout, the historical study will be focused on individual texts allowing students to enjoy a broad spectrum of Shakespeare’s plays and some of those of his contemporaries.