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Explores imaginative connections between boxes and selves, especially bodies. In George Herbert’s poem ‘Ungratefulness’, humanity’s relationship with God is figured by some of the many bodily boxes that strew The Temple, with their associations of intimacy, and interrogation of openness and closure. Herbert hints at the material similarities between the boxes of the household and those ‘of bone’. The noun ‘chest’ can refer to both, and as early modern poets recognised, there is a striking physical resemblance between the anatomy of a human chest with its enclosing ribcage, and that of a wooden chest framed by iron bars. The chapter offers close readings of sermons by John Donne, poems by George Herbert, and Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Drawing together the pervasive material and imaginative interactions between boxes and bodies, these texts show how thinking inside the box is rooted in the materiality of bodily experience. Boxes of all kinds become transformative objects to think with, but writers reveal that although boxes point towards order, and the neatness of containment, they also constantly push at their own boundaries.
In the first section of this chapter, I focus on the romance intertexts of two of Shakespeare’s late plays, Cymbeline and The Tempest, in order to prompt reconsideration of how they relate to other dramatic offerings of the period. Subsequently, I revisit the series of plays performed at court in 1612–1613 by Shakespeare’s company and others, paying particular attention to what this season looks like if we reassess the dramatic output of the repertory companies without privileging the distorting effect that Shakespeare exerts on our perception of the theatrical marketplace. ‘Cardenio’ necessarily plays a significant part in this discussion. Almost all of the scholarship on this lost play is fixated on attempts to recover the play-text itself; Rather than adding to this abundance of critical energy devoted to recovering or reanimating the play-text, I ask a different question about ‘Cardenio’: How did this play relate to other commercial plays being performed in London? By attempting to answer this, and by understanding ‘Cardenio’ in relation to the other plays performed in repertory with it at court, I clarify the picture of the company’s commercial offerings during the final phase of Shakespeare’s career.
What is confusion? And what does confusion have to do with emotion? This chapter argues that Shakespeare’s depictions of confusion elucidate the care with which he ties affective states and bodily conditions together with rational and intellectual processes. Confusion is a state that grips Shakespeare’s characters in their entirety. Deeper still, Shakespeare’s representations of confusion reveal one of the baseline assumptions in his understanding of human emotional life: no affect, passion, or emotion can ever appear on its own, in isolation. In Shakespeare’s view, feeling always involves mixture and mingling – that is, some degree of confusion. Tracing the contours of a philosophical tradition that illuminates the limitations and affordances of confusion, this chapter explores Shakespeare’s depiction of confusion in such plays as Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and Winter’s Tale, but focuses on Cymbeline, a play in which the lived, felt state of confusion takes centre stage.
Chapter Six looks at three plays by William Shakespeare which explores the merry world broadside ballad as a mode of consumption, probing the nature of audience complicity that it invites. It begins with The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610), which interrogates the status of old tales and of happy endings, and the idea – explicitly articulated in Cymbeline (c. 1610–11) – that to be ‘put into rhyme’ is to suffer aesthetic and emotional impoverishment. It then contrasts As You Like It (c. 1598–99) with King Lear (c. 1605–06) as rival disguised-king stories, in which the failure of ballad tropes to reflect reality is played first as farce and then as tragedy.