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12 - Shakespeare's ancient Rome: difference and identity

from PART 2 - THE PLAYS

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2006

Michael Hattaway
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
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Summary

John Heminges and Henry Condell, Shakespeare’s fellow actors and the compilers of the first collection of his plays in the First Folio (1623), would have been surprised at critical reaction to their organisation of the volume. Gathering plays about England under the rubric of History and plays about Rome under the rubric of Tragedy, they could have intended no serious generic distinction. In the parlance of the time the terms overlapped and interpenetrated. Both histories and tragedies related stories of past ‘contentions’ as well as the lives and deaths of famous figures. The 1594 Quarto of 2 Henry VI featured the ‘Contention’ between the houses of York and Lancaster as well as the ‘tragical end of the proud Cardinal of Winchester’; similarly, the Quartos of Richard II (1597) and Richard III (1597) both offered ‘Tragedy’ to their readers on the title-pages. Titus Andronicus appeared in the Stationers’ Register, the official record book of the London company of Stationers (booksellers and printers), as ‘a Noble Roman History’; the 1594 Quarto, however, advertised the play as The Most Lamentable Roman Tragedy of Titus Andronicus.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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