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Sir William Davenant’s version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606) was written in 1663-4 and published in 1674 after his death in 1668. His play used to be contrasted damningly with its original. Davenant’s adaptation of the play has traditionally been judged as clumsily stripping its original’s subtle characterisation, and offering a crude reduction of psychological and thematic complexity into mere popular spectacle. By contrast, more recent scholarship has illuminatingly reconsidered Davenant’s play in terms of its historical contexts. This chapter address’s his adaptation’s soliloquies, showing how they refocus Macbeth within a new political context. Within what seems a broadly Hobbesian framework of thought, Davenant focuses on the effects of an individual’s disrupting and then distorting the stable social and political order that exists precariously within civil society. Davenant achieves this by obliquely recapitulating recent history: condemning the regicide, likewise denigrating Cromwell’s assumption of rule during his Protectorate, and ultimately celebrating restoration of the Stuart monarchy.
When Hamlet first appears alone on stage, his self-directed speech is immediately recognizable as a soliloquy. Francis Bacon’s Of Truth presents an address by a solitary speaker to an audience: an expository monologue, it equates to a soliloquy of another kind (one familiar in English plays from medieval times onwards). Moreover, both discourses are concerned with truth. Hamlet seeks to establish—to his own satisfaction—the truth of his newly and radically defamiliarized circumstances. Bacon’s speaker seeks to establish his position and potentially to re-position his readers within a world described as admiring truth but loving and delighting in falsehood. Each disingenuously uses a technique at the heart of Humanist pedagogy, the deployment of classical or otherwise ancient authority, to do so and thereby emphasizes how malleable and equivocal that technique is. To explore the affinities between these texts is to appreciate more clearly how each is a self-conscious exercise in fiction-making, for each insistently re-interprets its world and, in doing so, fables it anew.
Encompassing nearly a century of drama, this is the first book to provide students and scholars with a truly comprehensive guide to the early modern soliloquy. Considering the antecedents of the form in Roman, late fifteenth and mid-sixteenth century drama, it analyses its diversity, its theatrical functions and its socio-political significances. Containing detailed case-studies of the plays of Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Ford, Middleton and Davenant, this collection will equip students in their own close-readings of texts, providing them with an indepth knowledge of the verbal and dramaturgical aspects of the form. Informed by rich theatrical and historical understanding, the essays reveal the larger connections between Shakespeare's use of the soliloquy and its deployment by his fellow dramatists.
In a world of conflicting nationalist claims, mass displacements and asylum-seeking, a great many people are looking for 'home' or struggling to establish the 'nation'. These were also important preoccupations between the English and the French revolutions: a period when Britain was first at war within itself, then achieved a confident if precarious equilibrium, and finally seemed to have come once more to the edge of overthrow. In the century and a half between revolution experienced and revolution observed, the impulse to identify or implicitly appropriate home and nation was elemental to British literature. This wide-ranging study by international scholars provides an innovative and thorough account of writings that vigorously contested notions and images of the nation and of private domestic space within it, tracing the larger patterns of debate, while at the same time exploring how particular writers situated themselves within it and gave it shape.